A recent experience with my friend, Rachelle, makes me think that maybe I should write an article on Scholarships and education.  This information may also apply to getting a job or being admitted to a school.  This could be considered a plan for living a successful life.

I don’t allow my students to take out those horrible student loans.  They can’t be discharged in bankruptcy, and they amount to an anchor in your life.  What reasonable person is happy to marry someone with an eighty thousand dollars student loan debt?

If you want an education, it is totally free, as several of the very best Ivy League schools post all classes online.  The best teacher in the history of the world has over 30 million students, Kahn Academy.  You can get a great education online for free, but not the diploma.

I think that too many students are going to college.  Not many will get out of it what they think they will.  First off, if an accredited degree is needed, it can be done for just over $4000 online.  Go to to learn more.

Less than half of those with a degree and over 40 are working in their field of college major.  Don’t believe me, make your own survey or go online and find it.  It is the piece of paper that counts, not the major for most students.

While living in Galt, I worked with a woman who had been elected to the city council.  Young people were her passion, and she formed a city-sponsored “Youth committee.”  She started by using $500 from her discretionary account to assist one student.  That would pay for books for one semester back then.  I thought it was a wonderful idea but wondered if we could do more.  I decided to step up and form an ongoing scholarship.  We named it after a local man who was always helping students.  We called it the John Moran Scholarship.

It was funded by a variety of fundraisers staffed by the students themselves.  Basically, they were raising money to give to themselves.  Applications from the committee weren’t the only ones considered, as any Galt High School student could and did apply.  The scholarship was to be awarded to a student on the basis of community service.  We ignored academic grades and athletic skills.  Of course, any student who gives his/her private time to help with fundraisers also has good grades.

The first year of fundraisers earned well over seven thousand dollars.  I remember one parent coming to me and commenting that his daughter was learning more skills in fundraising that would be useful in life than in what she was learning in school.  I hadn’t thought about it in those terms, but there is some truth to it.

These fundraisers were interesting, as it was common for a person to approach me and offer $100 towards our scholarship.  I would direct that person to approach one of the volunteer students and make that offer.  I suggested that they ask good questions about how the money was going to be spent, how applicants were judged, and anything that tested the knowledge of that student.  That helped build confidence in our students to be “tested” and offered a large sum instead of $2 for a bag of cookies.

That scholarship effort only lasted about ten years, and I think that it is now defunct.

While being involved in that scholarship, I became acquainted with people who worked with other scholarships.  I got quite an education, as it turned out that our experiences were similar.  It isn’t as easy to give money away as you might think.  Some of what you read below is from that time.

After the publication of this article, I invite you, my readers, to send me questions, comments, and suggestions that may be worthy of making additions and edits.

Regular scholarships.

These are the ones that a counselor may show you or that you find in a good list of scholarships.  Everybody and their dog will be applying for these scholarships, so your chances are almost zero.

There is one exception, however, and it must be mentioned.  If you can see that you want this scholarship at an early age, that will allow you to pattern your life in such a way as to be the “perfect person.”  I suggest that the 7th grade is the ideal time to start tailoring your life and activities, certainly not much later.

Special scholarships

I have one personal example of scholarships that aren’t published.  Years ago, I was mostly supporting a very good student at a small 4-year college.  While I was visiting her, one of the professors privately invited me to join her for lunch.  It was a meeting of several professors that had formed a group to assist the best students.  They had special knowledge of which students were worth helping.  These professors weren’t well paid but still were so devoted to their teaching that they would mutually donate to students.  “My” student was one that got some help, and it was anonymous.

Private scholarships funded by rich people

This group of teachers also had a local man that was very rich, and he liked to pay the expenses of one student.  He used this group of teachers to be his selection committee.  From the time that they gave a recommendation, he picked up all expenses.  His scholarships were anonymous, and at any one time, he might be paying for 2 to 4 students.  I had no clue about such people.

Social media

Social media can help but usually hurts far more people than it helps.  I am not personally involved with any social media but learned from a University admissions person how they used social media.  I will use Facebook as my example.  People using Facebook can have “friends,” and these friends have friends.  This admissions person would go as far as friends of friends.  If he saw underage drinking, smoking dope, or other inappropriate activity, he made the assumption that it might apply to the applicant he was checking.

This means that if a student wishes to use Facebook or other social media, they must do so very carefully.  Instead of thinking of it in a social way to keep in touch with friends, consider it your resume.  A good resume consists of one page.  However, with Facebook, there is no limit to the things that can be listed as part of your resume.

Here are the basic limits (rules) to using social media as your resume.

First, only volunteer for projects that the organizing group will put on their website.

Secondly, the organization should send a letter of thank you to the editor of the local newspaper that will include the names of volunteers.  Links to these praises can be added to the Facebook page.

Third, the student should have arranged for someone to take photos of the project to be posted on Facebook.

Forth, the organization should write a thank you letter to the student.

This process can be done many times during the high school years.  A reader will not only be sold on the student’s passion and dedication to helping the community but, more importantly, the organizational ability of the student.

I don’t recommend being involved in more than one social media because that is just a complete waste of time.

Teacher’s recommendations

A student should get as many recommendations from teachers as possible.  Since teachers don’t really have the time for such things, here is what works.  The student should write his own recommendation and submit the digital copy to the teacher.  Just say, “I know that you are busy, so this is my idea of a recommendation, and of course, I invite you to edit as you see fit.”  Few will.

I have more to add, but I just sent out an email that begs many of my friends to comment and suggest stuff about this first draft.

The first email just came in, and it is from an old family friend whom I have known since I was a teenager, about 60 years ago.  His parents were my “other” family with whom I could complain about my parents.  We have kept in touch all of these years.  I can assure you that Daryl knows about what he speaks.

The Best Scholarship is to reduce the cost of education:

As a parent of two college graduates, and a college instructor, I gave the same recommendations each semester.   Namely, the only reason to set foot in the college bookstore is to find out which books you need.  Then go directly to websites such as Amazon, campus, Chegg, and and look for a PREVIOUS edition of your book.  An example of the savings on this:  In my Anatomy & Physiology class, the bookstore price of a new book was about $250.  Online a used copy of the current edition would be about $150, but going back to one edition cut the price to about $20.  The old book is 99% the same as the new one.  The textbook companies always shuffle the page numbers a bit to make it a little inconvenient for you.  Here is the best part:  When you are finished with the book if you choose, you can go back online and sell it for nearly as much, reducing your net cost of textbooks to almost zero.  Do NOT rent books.  That costs as much as a used book, and if you lose or damage it, cost that much more.

A second recommendation:  Take your core curriculum classes, the 60 or so hours everyone has to take at the community college, and then transfer to the 4-year school.  The cost at a community college is as little as 10% of the cost of a concierge experience at a four-year school.  Always select your courses carefully, and review sites such as “rate my professors”  to find the classes that will actually enable you to learn the material so that you are learning and not just getting credits.   As a bonus, at the community college, your class is usually taught by a professor, not a graduate teaching assistant.  As a former graduate teaching assistant, I pity the students that suffered through me in those early days.

Finally, don’t overlook the college financial aid office.  They can provide grants or on-campus jobs.  At the institution I taught at, we never fully depleted the funds available for these each semester, but the students have to have the initiative and ASK for them.


Another comment from my network. Jim and I first met when I ran the NEXRAD field crew that audited potential radar sites, then again later through our mutual BMW hobby.

Buying older textbooks

At least in the earth sciences, I find that new editions of the texts are published fairly often and can be substantially different from the previous edition as the science changes. As you know, I teach meteorology and have found that students who have purchased an older version/edition of the text have problems keeping up with the classwork, which is always based on the latest edition.  Instead, I encourage my students to contact me to discuss whether or not they will be able to use an older version/edition.

Often a student can “rent” the latest edition from a source such as KNET Books and Cengage.  Online rental is often something like 80% cheaper than bookstores or Amazon. I have used Cengage extensively.

It also provides the students with practice exams that aren’t in the text and references to library resources. It offers thoughtful questions and steps the student through difficult concepts such as Entropy and 3D motions.


Updated 30 March 2023