More than five years ago, Shay Spivey of Indianapolis juggled two young children and a low-paying job with very little opportunity to advance.
She desired to return to college to earn a bachelor’s degree after failing to complete her program several years ago following high school. However, every employment position she desired required a college degree, which Spivey knew she couldn’t afford at the time.
After countless hours of research she was awarded over $100,000 in scholarships to continue her education. Today Spivey holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree and works as a mental health and addictions counselor.
Recently, she released her book, “How to Submit A Winning Scholarship Application – Secret Techniques I used to Win $100,000 in College Scholarships” and the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper got a chance to chat with her about her scholarship journey.
What was your initial purpose of seeking scholarships? Were you in a financially unstable situation or were you simply looking for alternative ways to pay for your higher education?
For me it was no money, no college. Honestly, my situation was being a single parent and working at a low income job. I really wanted to get my degree. I felt stagnant, going nowhere with no opportunities.
How did your search process begin?
With two kids and finance issues, I knew paying out of pocket wasn’t an option so I started researching. I used to spend my lunch break at the library and I always had a book in my hand. As I started reading I realized I truly didn’t know much about scholarships. I started a year in advance and said I was going to give it my all.
Did you believe you would be rewarded more than $100,000?
No, I had no idea and was awarded the money over a course of time. I always encourage people to not skip over the small scholarships. The smaller ones are worth it too and add up. Most people look at those and think they aren’t worth their time so as a result; many people aren’t applying for them. I had quite a few $500 scholarships but a secret I talk about in the book is maintaining a relationship with scholarship organizations. Some key organizations gave me money year after year.
What type of effort and time did it take?
I treated it like a part-time job in the evenings. Eventually I had to map out time because I was in school but needed to begin preparing for the following year. As I got going it was an hour in the evening five days a week. A lot of my scholarships were community service scholarships and many were based off of philanthropy and giving back.
What are some of the misconceptions of applying for scholarships?
The biggest complaint is writing an essay. The way I encourage individuals is by telling them “The essay is about you and nobody can tell your story better than you. It’s your thoughts, your hopes and your dreams.” You need to be able to explain to someone in writing what’s in your head and your heart and why you want to go to school. It’s encouraging and motivating. That writing piece is how they get to know you.
Throughout your research process you’ve gained money to further your education, how do you plan to give that back to the community?
My goal is to help families and individuals go to school without acquiring serious student loan debt. The challenge is, many aren’t taught anything about scholarships and if parents didn’t attend college, it’s hard to teach their kids about scholarships. I read an article that said there is 9 billion in state money for students to go to college. I want to connect people with that money. Education is the key out of poverty.
When did the idea for a book develop and what should readers expect?
I started a scholarship advisor program in 2009 that started off as a blog. The book came because I was giving people one-on-one attention but I wanted to reach a broader audience. I want my community to have access to that 9 billion dollars and learn how to navigate the scholarship system. My goal is to not only help young students but those like me who have children. I knew for the first time in my life I was on the right path because everything fell into place and it wasn’t hard.
For more information about Shay Spivey and her book “How to Submit a Winning Scholarship Application,” visit amazon.com or follow her on Twitter @ShayMSpivey.