When is the best time to start researching and applying for scholarships?

Yesterday. And since that isn’t an option any more, today, right now, as soon as you finish reading this post.

In last Monday’s USA Today article, “Rising Tuition Forces Spending Cuts,” this quotation caught my attention, “Families are figuring out how to pay for college kind of one year at a time. But we’d like them to be a little smarter about planning and looking at the whole picture.”

Just imagine what it would feel like to have enough scholarship and aid BEFORE you begin college to pay for all four years. With determination diligence, and an early start it is possible. Trust me. I did it (with scholarship $ to spare). How early is too early? There are competitions and essay contests available for middle school aged students. Here are a few to check out:

With outstanding student loans topping $1 trillion dollars last year (yes that’s a T) and tuition increasing on average 15% between 2008 and 2010 at 4 year universities, scholarships are becoming crucial to paying for college for most students. You don’t have to be the top of your class to win scholarships. Many are based on community service, extra-curricular activities, and even physical attributes. For example, there is a scholarship for being left-handed and another for being tall (over 5’ 10” if you’re female and 6’ 2” if you’re male).

Certainly the earlier you start to search for scholarships the more you can apply for. However, if you find yourself reading this as a high school senior or already a college student, it isn’t too late for you!

What is the first step? Go to these websites: Fastweb, Scholarships and Embark and fill out the profiles. You will have to weed through the advertisements and promotional contests to get to the scholarships, but they are there! Be diligent and disciplined and you will find them!

If students can say and write the words pretty and little,

they can say and write the words beautiful and stunning, minuscule and diminutive. Even when they are five. Even when they are two grade levels behind. In fact, especially then.

This sample is of a kindergartener writing about not a big dragon, but a colossal dragon. Colossal is not a word the child knew 15 minutes before she wrote it, but because of the activities she just completed to learn the word: orally practicing the word in isolation and in sentences she created, adding kinesthetic motion to remember what the new word means, and matching images to understand the meaning, in 15 minutes, she was using the word with confidence and a deep understanding of its meaning and sophistication.

Growth and sophistication of students’ vocabularies is not only crucial to impressive writing performance, it is essential to overall academic success, and, I believe, life success.

One of my education heroines, Heidi Hayes Jacobs writes, “Language capacity is the root of all student performance” (Jacobs, 2006).  Language capacity is built by expanding vocabularies. Expanding vocabularies are built by exploring and using sophisticated synonyms.

Zzzzz No More Snooze Writing

When writing is assigned just to check off the requirement, mindful cultivation of skills isn’t fostered. In those instances, students who are strong writers find the task easy and those who haven’t found their voices as writers find even the shortest written response intimidating. In both cases, students are pressing the writing snooze button, sleeping through the opportunity to hone their skills and refine their writing. It is up to teachers to sound the alarm when it comes to the importance of hiqh quality  writing, whether it’s a 3 sentence short answer response, a blog post, or a term paper. It is up to teachers, as instructional leaders, to select specific writing skills to focus on and guide students to explore and incorporate within their writing. Great writing isn’t developed within one class hour one day. Rather, through systematic, designed skill instruction, high quality writing can be cultivated in every student from kindergarten through high school. Writing with Design’s Skill Focus Areas provide teachers the specific skills and activities to wake students up to the possibilities of sophisticated, impressive writing. The alarm is sounding don’t press the snooze.

Writing and thinking change lives. Forever.

Critical thinking and writing are exponentially growing in importance as Common Core Standards upgrade and refine the skill sets students are expected to develop.

Kindergarteners and AP English students will utilize the same skill sets to think, read, speak, and write. The only difference will be the task’s developmental level of complexity.

How has your school vertically aligned skill development not only for school achievement success, but also to give students the thinking and writing skill sets they need to be successful in life?

Indeed, it is an exciting time to be a part of education in this country as the paradigm shifts away from content-driven activities and assessments, to what educators have known for decades matters most: thinking, speaking, listening, and writing.



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