Hitting the Scholarship Jackpot: Many Students Become Discouraged When Looking for Ways to Finance College. (Special Report: Recruitment & Retention)

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON

Jessica Johnson, 20, was on the hunt for scholarships from the ninth grade. She was involved in various community services, created a local radio talk show, started a weekly column in a local newspaper and formed an African dance troupe at the local Boys and Girls Club. Johnson says all of these activities contributed to being selected as a journalist for "Oxygen Media," a nationally syndicated television show, and earning scholarships. This strategy--which Johnson calls "resume building"--is what helped her to find scholarships, she says.

With college-tuitions increasing across the nation, many prospective college students and their parents are becoming discouraged when looking for ways to finance their education.

Johnson, CEO of the Minority Scholarship Quest Program, says people automatically assume there is no money out there.

A sophomore public relations student at Howard University, Johnson says that starting early when looking for scholarships is the key, which is exactly how she came to amass $100,000 in scholarships.

"It was always understood that I was going to college," Johnson says. "My father is a professor at Jackson State Community College. And my mom told me that if I didn't get any scholarships, then I would `have to go to work with my Dad.' That visualization was enough for me."

A native of Jackson, Tenn., Johnson says that when she told people how much she received in scholarship money, the word spread fast--and far.

"They all wanted to know how I got it. I was helping friends, family and people at church. I was even calling people giving personal consultations over the phone," Johnson says. "It got to be an everyday thing ... so I said wait a minute, `there's a necessity for this.'"

Johnson's big break came as she was seeking to work with larger groups and turn her consultation services into a business. …