Scholarships: Apply, Receive, Thank, Repeat

The Keys to Academic Success

Long-time Jan's Tutoring House mentee Bria Washington is now mentoring students of her own.

Bria Washington, a senior at Friendship Collegiate Academy Public Charter Schooland a regular at Jan’s Tutoring Houseon the Hill for the last 11 years, is headed off to college in the fall on a DC Achievers Scholarship. The award could be worth up to $60,000.

Washington has learned so much at Jan’s that she’s now mentoring students there herself. And, she is eager to share scholarship application advice.

“Don’t try too hard to impress them by just telling them what they want to hear, because it’s not going to work, most of the time,” Washington tells younger students. “Write how you usually write.”

I’ve always said that no flaky student ever got a scholarship. Successful scholarship applicants are those who convince granters of two things. Firstly, they will make the best use of the awards. Secondly, the only thing preventing them from becoming wildly successful college graduates, who will transform their communities and make the granting organization proud, is this crucial bit of money.

Remembering to be Thankful

Four years ago, 17 of my students earned the prestigious Gilman International Scholarshipto study abroad. I’m pretty sure they appreciated my help, but I can’t prove it because I didn’t receive a single thank-you note.

No scholarship recipient who neglected to write a thank-you note ever got a second scholarship,  I now tell applicants. Scholarships are like jobs. First and foremost, the selection committee is looking to weed out applicants. Nothing says, “Don’t consider me for further opportunities,” faster than radio silence.

Washington’s mentors at Jan’s Tutoring House taught her to be thankful. “I’ve learned that if you show people that you’re thankful for what they do for you, they might want to do more, because a lot of people don’t really do that,” she says.

Scholarships Don't Replace Study Habits

Washington also knows that her scholarship applications are only as good her academic preparation. All the money in the world won’t get her through college unless she develops the time management and study habits required to maintain the good grades that her scholarship requires.

“In high school, you can go to your teacher, make up an excuse, and they’ll give you extra days. But they’re not going to do that in college,” Washington says. “In college, they’re trying to teach you how to work. In high school, they don’t care whether you work or not.”

Fortunately for Washington, the College Success Foundation, which awarded her the scholarship and serves several high schools east of the river, emphasizes college readiness.

“We have a mandatory six-week Summer Academic Enrichment Programand weekly college prep meetings and classes throughout the school year where we focus on building the skills necessary for college success,” says college preparatory adviser Brett Gotlib.

Opportunity favors the prepared (and thankful).

Paul Rivas is the founder of Smith Rivas Academic Coaching & Consulting. He can be contacted at