EARLY YEARS: Tips from new college graduate on avoiding student debt

Clemson University graduate says she used scholarships and grants to fund 100% of her undergraduate education
Published: May. 17, 2023 at 5:42 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Samantha Leach just recently graduated from Clemson University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Bio-engineering. And she’s leaving school debt-free.

Leach says she started applying for scholarships her senior year of high school.

“I took it on, kind of like another class, and started rolling applications. Deadlines would come up at the beginning of the month or at the end of the month, and just submitted stuff as I went through the years,” says Leach.

Leach says she applied to 50 to 60 scholarship organizations, and is a member of the National Society of High School Scholars. According to that organization, 1.7 million private scholarships and fellowships are available to students. That’s a total value of more than $7.4 billion dollars.

“As far as which ones to apply to, my philosophy is anything and everything. You really don’t know who or what’s going to accept you,” says Leach.

She says there are scholarships for pretty much everything... academics, special interests, background and even HEIGHT.

“I know there was a scholarship that everyone always talks about-- like if you’re taller than 6′5, you can apply for this scholarship for tall people,” says Leach.

With so many scholarships to choose from, it’s crucial to stay organized. Leach recommends having a spreadsheet with scholarship deadlines. Along with GPA and test scores, Leach says the essay is key.

WDBJ7 asked her what she wrote about.

“At this point, I think it had to do with my family background, in terms of difficulty getting through high school and kind of the family troubles that I had,” says Leach.

“That’s most of what those applications are, what drives you? What do you want to do for your future? What has made you the person you are today? And why does that matter?” she says.

The main takeaway here, when applying for scholarships, tell your true story, and be authentic.

“Because it’s not about some people going to Africa and saving children and doing really amazing work, but there’s still the rest of us that are doing our best under the circumstances that we have,” says Leach..