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Scholarship Mindset Series, Step 3: motivation

Word of warning for parents: when your child gets into Grade 12, he or she will likely have many reasons why they can’t find and /or apply for scholarships.

Here are 3 common reasons students give:

"I don’t qualify for scholarships."

"I can’t find any."

"I don’t have time."

Now, I admit, these all sound like legitimate excuses, but we all know that when our teen REALLY wants something, they usually find a way to get it. They are motivated by something to make it happen.

There are many roadblocks your student may put up to avoid finding and applying for scholarships but, in reality, they could all boil down to one thing: a mindset block. Mindset is the attitude we have about something, like a situation or a challenge. It can set the tone for a positive or a negative experience.

Having a positive mindset when going into the scholarship process can make a huge impact on your child's success with finding, applying for, and winning scholarships. But there can be struggles with it along the way.

One of those struggles is with motivation. Your child may want to give scholarships a go, but they could struggle with motivation to actually DO it. We parents can find all of the scholarships we want, and lay them at their feet, but if our child doesn't have some inner motivation, they won't want to participate in the process.


Want to watch this on video? Here's a video on this topic from Facebook Live:


So how can parents motive their teen to find and apply for scholarships?

Here’s the bad news -- you can't. Just like the old saying goes, "You can lead a teenager to water, but you cannot make him drink."

But wait, there’s good news too! You know your child better than anyone, and so you can help them to find the motivating factor(s) within themselves that could transform them from completely avoiding the topic, to completing one or several scholarship applications.

Motivation is a HUGE topic, and there are many experts out there with all kinds of advice, in fact, there's an entire industry built around motivation.

No time for that now, but here are 2 main things you need to know about motivation before we talk about ideas to help:

1. Motivation must come from your child. You cannot instill motivation into them, you cannot thrust your motivation onto them. It needs to come from them.

2. You cannot motivate – at least long term – using rewards or punishments. The carrot and the stick will only work short term, if they work at all.

And remember – your motivation might not be theirs, they may be motivated by something completely different. It’s much more effective for your child to change of their own free will because they see some value in it for themselves.


So let’s get into some ways to help your child find some motivation to find and apply for scholarships.

Idea #1. Ask yourself -- What motivates my child?

You know your child best and what’s going to resonate with them – use it.

Is financial gain a motivating factor? You could use the idea of if you win a scholarship (or two) you can pay less now, so you'll be less in debt later. If your child isn't financially savvy, you should EXPLAIN what that means, and put it in a way they understand, and see the value in it for them.

For example, "Do you know a $1000 scholarship is the equivalent of working 90 hours in a part-time minimum wage job. That’s 90 fewer hours you’d need to work during university, and you could be (playing sports/hanging with friends/whatever they like to do in spare time.)"

Or another example: when they graduate, do they want to get a car, get an apt/house/nice clothes? You can explain how having less debt means they can get those things faster.

Now, all of this information is not worth a rat’s rear end if they believe you’re going to bail them out when they want to buy something, and they don’t have the money. There is nothing wrong with our child knowing we’re here for them. and we’ll help them if it’s necessary, but they also must believe that if they want to buy something, they’ll need to find a way to pay for it themselves – within reason, of course.

Main idea in the tip is to find the WIIFM for your student -- the What's In It For Me?

Explain it in a way that it incorporates what they want, and what’s valuable to them.

Idea # 2. Help your student get a “quick win” that will spur them onto more action.

Another strategy of motivation is to just get started on something, and it will help you to get over the hump and start you on a path of action.

Sometimes what we want to do seems like so...much, that we never start it because it’s too overwhelming. If you can help your student start and finish something in a relatively short period of time, it may help them to want to do more. This is an especially good strategy for procrastinators.

So, for example, you could help them complete their activities list. Most scholarship applications will require a list of extra-curricular activities, meaning both school related and community ones. Usually the list requires information from Grade 10 – Grade 12 only.

What you can do is to set up a table, say on MS Word, and make columns for various pieces of information, such as: type of activity, grade & dates, description of your role or responsibilities

# of hours per week, name of a reference or someone who can verify your involvement.

Give the table to your student and have him/her fill it in. For tips on how to do so, see my blog post called “How to make your best activities list for a scholarship”.

The important thing is that this is a relatively short project that your child can start and finish in one sitting – perhaps an hour or 90 minutes. Then, once it’s done, it can be used over and over again for scholarships, because almost all will require the information I just mentioned. You may have to tweak it a bit but, basically, one piece of most scholarship applications is now DONE.

And, by the way, you can start the activities list in Grade 11 and have it mostly ready to go for Grade 12 – this is one of those things you can take off the plate of Grade 12 when it’s SUPER busy, and do in Grade 11 so it’s done, or almost done. Another great reason to do this in Grade 11 is so that your student can use it to give to referees when they ask for one in Grade 12. Here's how to get a great reference.

Idea #3. Get a different messenger.

As Josh Shipp, a/k/a The Teen Whisperer says, “You don’t need a different message; you need a different messenger.”

Have you ever felt like your teen doesn’t hear a word you say? Like it goes in one ear and out the other? Can I get an amen?! The good news is that this is very common. The bad news is, it could hold your child back from taking advantage of opportunities, like scholarships.

Perhaps you need a different messenger to carry your message.

Back when I was an Admissions Officer, I gave presentations to groups of parents and students on admissions requirements. There were several times when afterwards, a parent would take me aside and thank me for FINALLY getting it through to their student that they needed to work and get certain grades to get into certain programs. They’d say things like, “I’ve been telling him this for months but he didn’t believe it until you told him!”.

In fact, this is so common, sometimes parents hire me to work with their student simply because they won’t listen to them anymore.

I hold no judgement of parents in this regard, because I’m a parent and I get it. I will likely get another (or an additional) messenger when the time comes. Actually, I have a friend who is an award-winning career professional and executive coach, and who has a daughter the same age as my son, and we joke that we’re going to swap kids when it comes time for them to do all of the career and scholarship stuff!

So it may be a good idea to start to think about who, external to you, can help your student get motivated in this process. It might be a family friend, or an aunt or uncle, or it might be me. But whoever it is, it should be someone who has the time, and at least some knowledge, of how to help.


My last overall tip is to allow time for all of this to happen. This is not an overnight process and teens need time to mull it over in their heads. You might want to plant a seed, then check in a few days later, and say something like, “Have you given any thought to putting together that activities list?”

How about you – do you have any tips on how to motivate your child? I'd love to hear them! Please leave a comment, or send me a tweet at @mycampusGPS!

Want to learn more about how I can help you win scholarships? Please visit my services page.

Best wishes,

About the author

Janet MacDonald is a Scholarship Coach with mycampusGPS Education Consulting. She is a former Canadian university admissions officer. For seven years, she was the coordinator of a scholarship program at a major Canadian university. Janet has helped her student clients win hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships.

You can find her online at, and on LinkedIn.

Learn more about Janet MacDonald by visiting the About Page.

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