Written by FIRST guest blogger, Monica Matthews
FIRST Team members and their Parents get very excited when they learn of the thousands of scholarships available to students through the FIRST Scholarship Program. What happens, however, when the school that the student is hoping to attend does not make available Scholarships as part of the FIRST Scholarship Program, or the family needs additional scholarship funds to help pay for college?
FIRST Team members looking to win college scholarships have a huge advantage over other applicants if they to market themselves wisely. They can do this by referencing the many values and lessons that go hand-in-hand with being on a FIRST Team directly in their scholarship applications. As a parent of a FIRST student and a team sponsor, I have personally witnessed FIRST team members experience the following:
- Problem Solving
- Career planning
- First Aid
- Website design
- Computer Coding
Real-life experiences and details pertaining to future careers and aspirations that are written about in scholarship applications are extremely valued by scholarship reviewers. The essay is the heart of an application, and scholarship seeking FIRST students and Alumni need to share personal and specific details about how their lives have been impacted as a result of their FIRST participation in their writing.
For example, a future engineer can write about how learning to build a robot has cemented their decision to enter the engineering field, and give specific details about events that took place during the build season.
Students entering the business field should focus their essays on the leadership, organization, and strategy skills that were used and modeled by team leaders.
Future medical students can use the knowledge taught by the Safety Captains and discuss the importance of first aid the correct use of power tools when working on the robot.
Students who volunteer with their FIRST Teams have a unique opportunity to combine helping others with their love of STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) and can apply for more community service scholarships.
All FIRST team members can look back at the events that took place during the build season and at each competition and share what they learned when applying for scholarships. The powerful impact of Gracious Professionalism™ is a wonderful way to impress scholarship judges, so students need to be looking for concrete examples of how this concept has made them a better person. In my FIRST experience, I have witnessed gracious professionalism in the following ways:
- Our student team leader spent two hours on a Saturday morning (before spending six hours at our meeting) helping another FIRST Team who was having trouble with their robot, even though that team would eventually compete against ours.
- During a competition when another team (who we were about to face on the field) told us about a minor problem with our robot that might have gotten us a warning or disqualification.
- I felt gracious professionalism during matches when I sat in the stands and saw the intense excitement and encouragement that all the teams showed to EVERY team and not just their own.
- I heard true stories of gracious professionalism at competitions, when teams would offer to help other teams, go the extra mile in loaning out tools and robot parts, and expressed unwavering kindness and uplifting words to every team, regardless of where the team was from, language barriers, or their current standings in the game.
- I saw gracious professionalism in action when exhausted teams volunteered to stay after competitions were over to clean up the pit areas, playing fields, and stands.
In addition to writing about their experiences, scholarship seeking FIRST students can increase their chances of winning by starting the scholarship hunt early, applying for every scholarship in which they qualify, and learning how to submit memorable applications that stand out to the judges. Students who work hard and tie their FIRST experiences into their quest to win scholarships will have a huge advantage when it comes to winning money for college.
Monica Matthews is a FIRST Robotics parent and sponsor of Da MOOse FRC Team 5926. She is also the author of How to Win College Scholarships, a detailed guide sharing how she helped her son win over $100,000 in scholarships. She truly has “been there, done that” in regards to helping parents and students navigate the scholarship process. Ms. Matthews’ step-by-step scholarship guide has taught desperate parents to help their own students win thousands of scholarship dollars.