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Johnson: Scholarship opportunities for students

I returned a blank stare the first time a counselor, friend or parent asked me about my college plans.

Eventually, I got to the point where I found a specific college and had a specific goal in mind. Many high school students are at that point. They have a specific goal for college in mind, but may not necessarily know how to get there. They may not know what it takes to apply for their college of choice, and they especially may not know how to afford it.

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This is where scholarships come into play. Scholarships are there to help achieve students’ goals, and they can often pay off big.

The common old English proverb states that “if there’s a will, there’s a way.”

The same theory can be applied to an academic institution of one’s choice. If you truly want to succeed and get into the college of your dreams, there is a way, and there is a path you can take to get there. It doesn’t matter if that college is a trade school, NCAA Division I, or even Ivy League, there will be a way to get there.

Scholarships can help achieve that goal, and help alleviate financial pressure for your college decision. College is getting more and more expensive every year. According to The College Board, the average in-state tuition cost of a four-year school for the 2012-13 school year was $8,660. This is a major increase even from 2005-06, where the average cost was $5,491, also according to The College Board.

College isn’t getting any cheaper and neither are scholarships.

Scholarships and financial aid are increasing, and students need to take advantage of this opportunity. On collegexpress.com, a leading site to help students with their future college plans, there are more than 20,000 scholarships available for students. These can range from specific majors, specific colleges and even specific hobbies, such as shooting sports or art.

Any major that you can imagine, there is a scholarship for it. These can differentiate between local, regional, state or even national scholarships. All have varying monetary amounts, ranging anywhere from $500 to more than $20,000.

Often, students don’t realize how many scholarships are out there. Any assistance students can get is beneficial, especially considering the rising cost of colleges, and the interest rates associated with student loans.

According to a study published in 2009 by CNN, the average student accumulates $29,032 of student debt upon graduation.

Average numbers were not available for North Dakota students. This increase in debt has risen 6 percent yearly from 2008-12, according to the same study.

In essence, tuition is getting more expensive and student loan debt is increasing. If you want to avoid that perfect storm of debt, it is wise to start early when applying and receiving scholarships.

A great example of this is Dickinson High junior Rachel Lantz, who was recently announced as a finalist for the Chevy Scholar program, sponsored by western North Dakota Chevy dealers. Lantz was chosen as one of 10 finalists from a pool of 177 applicants.

“I’m very honored that I was chosen out of all the applicants,” Lantz said. “It is a great honor and I would view it as a personal achievement.”

Lantz said that she stood out from the pool of applicants due to her strong essay and her “all-around qualities as a high school student.”

If Lantz is the winner, she will receive one of two $5,000 scholarships.

In order to win. Lantz needs to gain support from people by having them vote her in through a text or online vote. The top two vote-getters will be the winners.

If you would like to place your vote for Lantz for this scholarship, you can text “I vote 4 Rachel” to 27126. Lantz is the only finalist from Dickinson seeking the scholarship.

If Lantz is selected, the $5,000 would go toward her pursuit of a degree in criminal law from the University of North Dakota.

Lantz is also the vice president of the junior class, and will take over as president of the Dickinson High National Honor Society during her senior year.

Any student can receive financial aid in the form of scholarships. It is amazing how many are out there, and how just a small amount of time and sharing about your accomplishments could secure you money that will benefit you in the future. Scholarships can help you land the college of your dreams, and in turn, the career you could only imagine.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Take time to apply for scholarships. You may never know how significant that small investment of time is, and how it will pay off in your pursuit of higher education.

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