2011 graduates give tips on how to win scholarships
by: Jim Clark Kevin Krautscheid sits in front of some of the scholastic awards he has received over the years. He has been awarded more than $100,000 in scholarships and will attend Santa Clara University.

Kevin Krautscheid has finished a job he estimates paid him about $2,500 per hour - and he just graduated from Centennial High School.

'I think that when it comes down to it, I didn't do anything spectacular or extraordinary,' he says. 'I simply put in a substantial amount of work.'

He didn't flip burgers or mow lawns; he filled out college scholarship applications and then proceeded to win 17, including one from Executive Women International as well as one from the Daughters of the American Revolution.

At first, the Future Business Leader of America wasn't sure he should apply for help from the two women's groups, but then found out his gender was no barrier.

'While I have been the butt of many jokes for winning these scholarships, I always seem to be the last one laughing when I tell them that these scholarships entailed over $11,000 worth of funds for my further education,' he says.

In fact, Krautscheid has earned $41,425 in scholarships from such groups as the Gresham Elks and the Knights of Columbus. He's also won $77,600 from Santa Clara University in California, which named him a dean's scholar.

In other words, he's already paid for two years' worth of college.

All told, it took him about 15 hours in researching and discovering scholarships, with an additional 25 to 30 hours worth of filling out applications, writing essays and sitting for interviews.

Readers should note if you spent the same amount of time working at a minimum-wage job, you would have made a whopping $382.50.

Scholarship secrets

Krautscheid, no doubt, has some advantages over many other students. For example, not every teenager is going to finish high school with a 4.0 grade-point average - but even his grades weren't a given, he stresses.

'Much of my success came from my persistence in the classroom to ensure that I had satisfactory grades, getting involved in as many extracurricular activities as is humanly possible, and from working especially hard on developing strong writing skills and gaining confidence in my speaking and interviewing skills,' he says.

Meanwhile, lots of high school students, even those who are more 'B' and even 'C' than 'A' students, could profit from his advice.

'First you need to start researching as soon as possible, especially in your senior year of high school, because many of the scholarships have early deadlines,' he says.

'Second, don't limit yourself to local scholarships, because many times they are some of the most competitive and often receive the most applications for smaller sums of money,' though he encourages students to apply for them as well.

Indeed, he won scholarships from such local groups as the Gresham Elks, as well as the faculty at Centennial.

He encourages his peers to go to, which keeps scholarship lists and matches scholarships to student attributes. Zinch gave Krautscheid $12,000 because he won scholarships through the site, which matched.

'Lastly, I would advise students to be proactive and not wait until the day or week before an application is due to get it finished because, guaranteed, some applications won't get finished and most won't display your best quality work,' he says.

Opportunity knocks

Scholarship winners in East County share one trait: When they heard opportunity knock, they quickly opened the door.

Take Antonio Pineda, a Reynolds Learning Academy graduate who won a $500 Scholar Award from the E² Foundation, which he plans to use for tuition at Mt. Hood Community College. Pineda says he applied for a couple scholarships and when he won the award, 'It was a good feeling to be able to have money toward college.

'I'd say to fill out as many scholarship things as you can,' Pineda adds. 'Do as many essays as you can get done and get them done before the deadlines. Put yourself in the right places.'

One of those right places is a high school guidance office or career center, according to Christa Collmer, a Barlow graduate who won a $2,000 Dale Krueger scholarship, as well as $1,500 from the Rotary Club and $500 from the Powell Valley Garden Club.

Mt. Hood also is covering her tuition for one term because she runs cross country and track.

Collmer credits Barlow's Patty Neuenschwander, who coordinates the high school's career and counseling center, for helping her.

'I was pretty much in the career center where Patty was - a lot,' Collmer says with a chuckle.

Her persistence paid off, she says, noting Neuenschwander tipped her off to the Garden Club scholarship, which dovetailed with Collmer's interest in the environment.

Like her scholarship-winning peers, Collmer says work hard, especially on your application essays.

'Write things about yourself that are unique and truthful,' she says. 'Be honest in your essays. Put in as much information about who you are that you can, how good you are.'

Gresham grad becomes Millennial Scholar

Trista Benitez, a graduate of Gresham High School, is a testament to the value of a great essay. She wrote eight essays throughout the application process for a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Millennial Scholar grant, which targets college-bound minority students.

Her reward: She's been named one of the country's 1,000 Gates Millennial Scholars in 2011, which means any costs - tuition, transportation and books - her financial aid won't cover, the foundation will over the next four years of college and possibly in graduate school. Benitez says Kendra Maddox, Gresham's scholarship coordinator, tipped her off about the award.

Benitez plans to attend the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and study biology or biochemistry. A former math tutor who works part time at McDonald's, the Puerto Rican woman says she got one 'B' in an otherwise straight-A academic career, but didn't let that keep her from going for the Gates grant.

'Take the time to do it,' she advises other students. 'There's so much money out there.'

And, she notes, organizations are often more interested in your character than your grades, a point that her grandmother, Judy Bird, with whom Benitez lives, agrees. The two women get a little teary when talking about how Bird and other relatives showed up at McDonald's to let Benitez know she had won.

'I was just so honored to be her grandmother because I know how hard she has worked and the goals she has set for herself,' Bird says, adding Benitez's co-workers and even customers shared in her joy.

'The whole place was crying.'

Counselor's tips to winning scholarships

Interested in obtaining scholarships for college? Here are a few tips from Patty Neuenschwander, who coordinates Barlow High School's College and Career Center.

• Put together an 'All About Me' binder, which includes awards and transcripts; letters of recommendation from a teacher and at least one person in the community; photos documenting activities; SAT and ACT scores; and a detailed résumé, including community service hours and locations.

Use this binder to quickly and efficiently create a scholarship application.

Use a folder with three holes to hold plastic sleeve covers to protect your scholarship application.

• Include pictures of yourself involved in whatever you do. For example, if you help serve meals to the homeless, have someone take a picture of you doing so. You also can scan photos, put them on a thumb drive and do a collage of photos of various activities.

• Throwing together a few pieces of paper without any photos and documentation will just get an application tossed out, even if the grades and test scores are good. When students present a colorful, interesting package, the reviewers will spend time looking it over. If not, it's history.

• When writing an essay for a scholarship, tell a story. Give details about some event or memory that has lasted for you. Essays should not be broad and lacking details. Think about entertaining a reader.

• For younger students, get started now on doing community service and getting involved outside your own little world. Keep track of these activities and put together a résumé of all your high school activities.

• Do not assume that your grades and test scores will be enough. You really need to sell yourself a bit.

• Double and triple check everything. Make sure someone else is proofing the application. Have some fresh eyes read your application.

• Do not wait until the last moment to fill out an application.

• Make copies of the essays you write. You can often use the same essay for a different application.

• Make copies of all your important documents beforehand, and then putting together the next application will take less time.

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