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How to Partner with your Child for Scholarship Success

tips for scholarships

For most working folk, we've heard more than enough on the value of teamwork. But stick with me here, because I'm asking you to consider being part of one more team: the team of you and your child.

The reason I want you to form a team or a partnership (of sorts) is because high school, and especially when preparing for university in Grade 12, will place a lot of demands on your time, energy, and patience (not to mention your bank account!). And the best way to deal with these demands is to work as a team.

Now, I freely admit that while the idea of working as a team with your high school student sounds great, the reality can be something completely different.

That's why I'm giving you 7 tips to partner with your child for scholarship success.

The inspiration for the topic came from a great article called “A Parent’s Perspective: How We Helped Our Daughters Secure Scholarships”.

Some of my clients have used some of the strategies this family used in the article but, overall, the parents and child in the article demonstrated a really great team approach. So I’m going to use it as a case study.

I’ll break down the steps they took, and pull out the things I think they did really well. And while doing so, I hope you get some ideas you can implement with your son or daughter.


Watch as a video, or continue reading:


As it is with the majority of my clients, in this article, the Mom is doing most of the actual hands-on work with the 2 daughters. But overall, the scholarship process was a family team effort.

The article is written by the Mom. Here’s the first part of it, which I love:

“We implemented a “Scholarship Sunday” at our house. Once a month we spent a few hours working on scholarships and reviewing the ones with upcoming due dates. We made it fun, and always had snacks and something fun to do when we completed all our tasks.

These Sundays also gave us time to talk about many topics that were important to us with her leaving soon for college.”

Here are some things I think they did right in this part:

1. They made it a regular, scheduled event on the calendar.

She said they worked on scholarships for a few hours each month, on Sundays. This was a regularly scheduled event – both parent and child knew this time was in their calendar and what was expected of both of them – to show up and work on scholarships.

It was not done ad hoc, when they could find time. They didn’t waste time trying to schedule it on the fly and having arguments over it.

And that meant that the scholarships weren’t done by scrambling to throw something together at the last moment when tension is running high and everyone is stressed. That’s a recipe for disaster.

This was a pro-active, strategic approach, and it worked.

It also worked because the regular schedule held their daughter accountable. Anything that was on the “to do” list actually got done.

Do you know one of the main reasons why Weight Watchers is such a successful program?

The regular weigh ins. They hold the person ACCOUNTABLE.

Here’s what the WW website says about it:

“Fundamental to the Weight Watchers meeting experience is a weekly weigh-in to track members' progress. Many people find the accountability of being weighed by another person helpful to their weight-loss efforts, and the structure of going to a Weight Watchers meeting each week is a way to keep commitment strong.”

And it’s the same with executive coaching, and many different kinds of self-help programs, and with this family's Scholarship Sundays – it’s the regularity that helps to keep people on track, and moving towards their goal.

2. They made it fun & had a reward for doing the work.

Filling out scholarship applications is NOT fun. I get it. But there are ways you can make it less painful, namely by having some extra special snacks while working. We all know kids LOVE snacks.

Mom also had a small reward for her daughter when they finished work. She doesn’t say what the rewards were, but it could be making your child’s favourite dinner, or loaning them the car to go to the movies or to the mall.

3. They talked about things other than scholarships.

This Mom recognized that Grade 12 is a highly emotional time for both of them. Grade 12 is so fraught with emotions for both student and parent, and this regular time together also served as a check-in and provided an opportunity for important information and feelings to be discussed.

That doesn’t mean you should force the conversation, or take it as an opportunity to lecture, but rather let the conversations come up naturally if the situation presents itself. Depending on the nature of your child, this time together might mean something more to them than just working on scholarships. I hope it does.

4. They had “the talk”.

I was happy to read that the parents had a frank conversation with their children about finances & expectations. They explained their expectations -- for her to help finance her post-secondary education by applying for scholarships.

The Mom writes:

“My husband and I sat down and had an honest conversation with her in the fall of her senior year. We stated that we had a plan to apply for (several) scholarships within the next six months and that she would need to participate fully or we would not assist her in paying for college."

Now, I don’t 100% agree with that last part – withholding funds if she doesn’t participate is a bit harsh, plus if you make threats like that then you should be prepared to carry them out.

But I do think your child needs to know, and believe, you will not (and most of us cannot) pay for both university and all of the extras they enjoy now. They will need to be responsible to help pay for some of it. Part of the way they can help to put some "skin in the game" is to do their best to find and apply for scholarships.

I discuss the importance of having the financial expectations talk with your child in Step 1 of my scholarship mindset series. You can read/watch more on that topic here.

5. They got organized.

Mom says:

After our conversation, we created an electronic system where, each month, we would identify scholarships that we felt were a good fit for her qualifications. We noted due dates in bold and worked backwards in obtaining transcripts, letters of recommendation, or other resources.”

They helped her find scholarships and organize her applications. Then they held her accountable to actually do the work by scheduling the Scholarship Sundays.

6. They offered an incentive when motivation was low.

Mom says:

“We had some setbacks with rejection emails. At that point, I offered her another incentive to continue applying: if she continued applying for scholarships, I would pay for her books for her first year of school. Essentially, she had just won her first scholarship in my opinion. This worked well for us and we continued to perfect our methods of applying.”

There will be set-backs and motivation will wane. I’m not a big fan of a bribe to keep things moving but, hey, do what you must! Try to keep both the carrot and the stick to a minimum, but using them sparingly and strategically can be a big help sometimes.

7. The biggest part of their success overall : they made it a priority.

To do something that takes time and energy like this, especially on an on-going basis, it must be seen as a priority.

They determined the best use of their time--which remember, was only a few hours per month--was to prioritize getting money for university. Think about that. Only a few hours per month could significantly improve your child’s future – less debt, less stress, and more confidence.

And if you need any more convincing that investing time on scholarships is a good idea, I ask you this:

What else is your student doing with that 3 hours that's more important than potentially winning thousands of dollars in free money for university?


So what happened in the end?

Mom writes:

“In the end, she won over $15,000 in scholarships for her freshman year of college.”

And here’s the part I really like:

“She was thrilled to be asked by her peers what she was doing to be so successful on her scholarship journey.”

Not only did she win money, but she also took some pride in doing it, and I bet she gained some confidence too.

Mom says:

“Since then, we’ve tried the same strategies with our second daughter. She has now secured $9,125 in external scholarships (not including the scholarship money she has received from her university).”

This Mom says in the end, what made them successful was persistence, dedication, and good old-fashioned teamwork.

I agree. Teamwork really paid off for them, and it can for you too.

If you'd like me to help you plan your scholarship strategy, please see my services.

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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