Sunday, November 19th, 2017

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Scholarship Success Story: Winning Big with Hard Work

Bernadette Williams is proof that hard work pays off. This University of Southern Maine undergraduate received five scholarships last year alone, totaling over $30,000. After going the extra mile in her high school career and her scholarship search, Bernadette is reaping big rewards.

Search and You Shall Find

Bernadette’s winning efforts began with a search for scholarships that would help her pay her way. Even though there are hundreds of thousands of scholarships out there, Bernadette knew they wouldn’t just fall into her lap. So she began to look for information in her school and her community. She also did a scholarship search on FastWeb, where she learned about two scholarships that she eventually won: the Tylenol Scholarship and the MBNA Maine Scholarship.

Out of Class

Though she can boast a great grade point average, Bernadette won most of her scholarships for her work outside of the classroom. Throughout high school, she was heavily involved in community service organizations such as the National Honors Society, where she raised money for breast cancer and tutored fellow high school students. Totaling over 500 hours of community service with her peer leadership group, Bernadette mentored elementary school children and participated in a red ribbon campaign for the D.A.R.E. program.

That’s the kind of volunteer involvement that won Bernadette the Sam Walton Community Involvement Scholarship. "We’re looking for students who have a strong academic background and participate in extracurricular activities, but it’s important that they’re focused on community involvement," said Brad Fisher, community project manager of the Wal-Mart Foundation.

Write to the Top

But Bernadette knew that her grades and community service alone wouldn’t win scholarships. Most of the scholarships she was applying for required essays on topics ranging from "Tell us about yourself" to "If you could change something in your community what would it be and why?"

To help her put together the best applications possible, Bernadette attended special scholarship application sessions held by her school’s financial aid office. She also asked teachers to edit her essays and offer ideas on how she could improve them.

Preparing for the Interview

Once she moved to the semifinals, Bernadette found many of the providers wanted an interview as well. But she wasn’t intimidated. "I had practiced doing interviews before. I set up mock interviews with teachers so that I would know how to answer certain questions and get used to answering on the spot."

Her practice paid off. After cruising through her interview with the MBNA Maine Scholars Review Committee, Bernadette was awarded a scholarship that was renewable for up to four years. "The MBNA Scholarship awards students who have done well in high school and want to go on in college. We determine who receives the award after reviewing each semifinalists credentials and their interview evaluation," said Alex Giacco, director of media relations for MBNA.

As Bernadette shows, finding scholarships can be easy, but winning them takes more work. Thanks to that work ethic, Bernadette Williams doesn’t have to work as hard to pay her tuition.


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