Most high school seniors and their parents start planning for college scholarships during the Senior year in high school; however, this is not the strategy to follow to successfully achieve the goal of receiving a merit based scholarship. In fact, the strategy to win a merit based scholarship starts the Freshman year in high school. Merit based scholarships are often based on the overall GPA (grade point average) achieved during the entire high school career. Given this knowledge, it is the wise high school student that understands the fact that grades achieved during the Freshman and Sophomore years are equally important as grades earned during the Junior and Senior years for scholarships that use a total high school GPA for qualification and eligibility.
This is easy to explain and understand but difficult to put into practice. Most fourteen year old high school students would find it hard to prioritize homework, study for tests, class projects, etc… over hanging out with friends, playing the latest Xbox game, or texting all evening long. Parents must take a role in helping the student prioritize academic work over fun time; however, we all require motivation to make tough decisions especially those that are for a goal that is three to four years away. Fortunately, there is some motivation available.
Let’s take an example to show what I mean. Assume a college merit based scholarship is worth $40,000 over a four-year period. This is a reasonable assumption for in state tuition. Merit based scholarships for private institutions may be much more. Let’s look at the $40,000 as future payment for work done today and the next few years in high school. If we assume that an average student takes five core academic classes a semester (ten per year or forty over four years), then each academic class has a dollar value of about $1000. Let’s look at the work load for the class. Assume each academic class has six tests and ten graded quizzes or other projects assigned. Allowing for the fact that tests will take more time than quizzes or homework, we will assign $500 for the test preparation and $500 for the quizzes. Looked at this way, each test is worth just over $83 and each quiz is worth about $50. Now, we have some ammunition to use to motivate the work required to gain a merit based scholarship. The student and the parent can look at the studying required for high achievement as being paid for by the merit based scholarship to come in the future.
Of course, this does not change the actual hard work involved and still requires actually making correct daily decisions to put off texting or hanging out for reading, doing math problems, and study. Students, and parents, must learn that academic merit is worth something and is worth the extra effort. It also teaches life lessons which the student will use not only for his/her high school career but also for college and the rest of his/her life.