I pay attention. I take detailed notes in class and I listen to what the instructor says. I’m not on my phone or shopping online during class. I don’t talk when someone else is talking, and I read the instructions before starting anything. Or at least, I think I do.

Last week, filled with relief, I mailed out a weighty letter stuffed with billing statements, receipts, and a letter peppered with thank-you’s that explained what had happened. The fiasco surrounding my scholarship was finally over.

And yes I really do mean fiasco.

Let me explain: When I was in high school, I was blessed enough to earn a fantastic scholarship (and I really do mean fantastic – I won’t say how much it’s for, but it lightens the burden of paying for college enough that I’m determined to keep it at all costs). Ironically enough, this scholarship application was the one I nearly didn’t fill out – which brings me to my first tidbit of advice – fill out every scholarship application you come across, even if you think you won’t get it.

Anyway, by the time this particular application was due, I was feeling immensely discouraged because I hadn’t gotten a single one of the $500 scholarships I’d already applied for. I’m talking borderline depression – after all, I’d worked hard all through high school to do well and to keep my nose clean, hoping to clear the tiniest of paths toward a successful college experience, and I didn’t even have anything to show for it.

So, feeling dejected, I filled out this last application, mailing it out without expecting to hear anything back. And I didn’t.

Unbeknownst to be, the scholarship was to be awarded at my high school’s awards night. A man I’d never seen before got up and addressed the students, all of whom were nearly comatose from listening to the dozen presenters before him. He told of the qualities his foundation was looking for, and I ticked off the people in my class I thought likely to receive the scholarship.

He finally finished. First, he called out a boy’s name. I wasn’t too surprised – he might not have been my first guess, but he was certainly in the top five. As the boy loped up to the front of the room, the man called out another name I didn’t hear too well. Mine.

My friends turned to look at me with gaping mouths and I turned my head in the same direction, wondering what the heck they were looking at.

“Go!” one of them hissed.


Yes, apparently that man up there really did mean me. I was so shocked. I’m pretty sure that if anyone took photos of me that night I probably looked more confused than Cormac McLaggen did at Keeper tryouts…

Numb, I shook the man’s hand and took the envelope from him. Walking back to my seat, I thought of how, earlier that night, I had told my exhausted parents that they really, really didn’t have to come to awards night because I was sure all I was getting was an attendance award.

So here I was, blessed with this beautiful, beautiful gift. The envelope I held in my hand that night was going to make everything possible. No, it still wouldn’t be easy. But I didn’t need easy – I still don’t – I just need possible.

And this year, I messed up. Big time.

Long story short, it had been a tough week at work, the tuition bill was due, and I wanted to get the check in the mail as soon as possible.

Which I did. I just didn’t read things through as carefully as I should’ve. I sent the scholarship check to the wrong address.

Now, it ended up being quite fixable, but when I realized my mistake, I felt instantly ill. My stomach was churning, my hands were clammy, and I was sure I was going to throw up.

At a loss, I called the Foundation and explained what happened, expecting to hear those terrible, awful words: your scholarship has been revoked.

When the woman answered the phone, I greeted her, told her who I was and what school I went to, and then stammered my apologies and explained what had happened.

“I fully accept responsibility for this, and I understand whatever actions the foundation has to take. I know I messed up.”

Those, it seems, were the magic words.

You see, I admitted that I made a mistake. I didn’t wait for the University to contact the Foundation, or vice versa. I called and fessed up.

Now, that really wasn’t an easy thing to do. In all truth, I did it because I just couldn’t sleep at night knowing that this was goofed up. I had to come clean. I wasn’t being noble or anything, I just knew that I had to tell the Foundation. So I did.

It was hard, but the woman from the Foundation was nothing but understanding and helpful. What’s more, she was even proud that I had owned up to making a mistake – not reading the instructions as carefully as I should’ve – and now was trying to fix it as best I could, if I could at all. She called it a learning experience.

Indeed, a learning experience it was. I thought I had ruined everything, that I might as well transfer all my dreams from the “possible” category into the “it ain’t gonna happen, sister” category and go home to milk cows. But in taking responsibility for what I did, I was able to divert a disaster.

I’m not saying that it will work every time, but admitting you just plain goofed up really does make a difference. It’s part of being an adult, of being a good person.

So, dear readers, I depart, leaving you with two important pieces of advice for life:

1)      ALWAYS read EVERYTHING thoroughly

2)      Take responsibility for your mistakes

For more information regarding financial aid, scholarships, and college, please visit http://www.colleges.inmyarea.com


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