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Scholarship winner explains how to (legitimately) score high on the SAT and ACT

Natalie Mayrath

This story was originally published Jan. 22, 2019.

With the cost of a college education on the rise , and the recent college admissions scandal continuing to make headlines, all the fun of high school can be swallowed whole by constant pressure to score high on your standardized tests, get good grades and win scholarship money for big-name universities.

Students like Da’Yanah Smith say that while it takes a lot of effort, there’s a scholarship out there for everyone.

“There’s a scholarship for anything you could ever imagine,” she says. “You just have to work hard and go get it.”

She suggests using social media as much as possible to search for scholarships that aren’t all necessarily geared toward academics. There are scholarships out there which might be less “pen and paper,” and instead encourage a student’s creative side. “There are scholarships where they want you to do speeches, on camera, and then send it in. And whoever gets the most likes wins,” she explains. A simple online search can direct students to these kinds of scholarships .  

Smith was able to win about $50,000 in scholarship money, which is helping her attend Dillard University in Louisiana. She is not shy about the workload it entailed.

“It’s a lot,” she says. My grades were not what I wanted them to be. I thought I had to join every club so that’s what I did.” She says that taking the ACT or SAT as early as tenth grade can give students an honest head start on studying more and improving their score. “Most people don’t know you can take the tests early,” she says. 

Smith also recounts falling victim to procrastination habits when it comes to the application process and deadlines: “You don’t want to wait until the last minute, because it’s hectic,” she says.  

She also maintains that regardless of grades, focusing on your talents and skills will get you where you need to be. “At the end of the day you are not your GPA. You are what you bring to the table,” she says.  Students should be advised that money received through scholarships from an organization outside of the government or your college could affect the amount of need-based financial aid that your college might award you.  

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