Student Story: Phuong Tran Nguyen - Scholarship America

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Student Story: Phuong Tran Nguyen

By Scholarship America

Growing up in a Minneapolis suburb, Phuong Tran (PT) Nguyen loved school and looked forward to going every single day. But as she got older and became a teenager her relationship with school changed. It became far more challenging, juggling her activities, extracurriculars, interests, friends, studies, work and college applications.

But education was always a priority for PT. “I recognize that [education] is such a pivotal piece to upward and intergenerational mobility for families that look like mine,” she said. She chose to attend the University of North Dakota for her undergraduate degree and earned thousands of dollars in scholarship awards that helped her pay for her education there. 

Watch the video and/or read on to learn PT’s specific tips for getting through the scholarship application process.

Why You Should Apply to Scholarships

Higher education can oftentimes be much pricier than you think. The fees add up between tuition, room and board, and so many other hidden costs. That’s why applying to scholarships is a great opportunity for students who could really use extra financial help. Here’s how PT had the idea to apply for scholarships:

“I got the idea of applying to scholarships when I was taking a look at FAFSA and our university’s financial aid account. I saw that there were a lot of tuition dollars that we just couldn’t cover out of pocket and that’s where the idea stemmed from. If we can’t afford it out of pocket, let’s give it our best shot to apply for scholarships.”

– Phuong Tran Nguyen

Student Tip: College is expensive. It never hurts to try to earn scholarships.

When to Apply to Scholarships

Don’t put those scholarship applications off. Read the age and graduating class requirements for each opportunity and then get to work ASAP. Here’s what PT says about getting those scholarship applications out the door:

“I recommend that students should apply as soon as they are eligible. Make sure you read the criteria on the websites or on the portals of the scholarships you are applying to. Some have age restrictions and some have depending on your specific undergraduate class, like freshman, sophomore, junior senior – you are eligible for different things. So always make sure you read for those things and apply as soon as you can.”

– Phuong Tran Nguyen

Student Tip: Apply as soon as you are eligible.

Overcoming Failures

PT knows the feeling of being rejected for scholarships. But she also knows the feeling of receiving many others. Here’s her advice on how to reframe disappointing news:

“I believe that the hardest part about applying to scholarships is to not internalize a rejection as a failure or personal failure. And a lot of students struggle with this because they spend a lot of time and effort and they tell their whole life story for a committee that might have rejected that story. What you need to understand is it’s not a rejection, it’s a redirection. You may not have been the best fit candidate for that scholarship and that’s ok. You will find an opportunity that’s a better fit for you and you’re going to be much happier with the next opportunity that comes up.”

– Phuong Tran Nguyen

Student Tip: Scholarship rejections are not personal failures. Think of a rejection as just a redirection.

Prioritizing Time Management

What’s the best way to keep track of all your scholarship application to-dos and deadlines? Is it using a spreadsheet of some kind? Fancy project management software? An old-school planner?  PT went old-school with her time management strategy:

“I used a planner and a calendar to keep track of my deadlines and what opportunities I had open. Know that you can squeeze time in to apply for scholarships. Sometimes it might just be on a Friday night and that’s not what people want to hear, but that’s how I was able to do it. Sometimes I would do it on the breaks that I would get off from school. I would carve in time to do these things. So it is possible, it just takes a little bit of discipline to figure out where and when it works best in your schedule. But you’ll figure it out as long as you craft a plan that works for you.”

– Phuong Tran Nguyen

Student Tip: Carve out time for the process and craft a plan that works for you.

Browse Scholarship America’s full list of available scholarships.