Kristina Ellis was awarded a full scholarship through her PhD. How she managed to get that kind of a scholarship offer is revealed in this book. Raised by a single mother, Kristina appeared to have everything stacked against her – years of living below the poverty level, imperfect grades and sub-par SAT scores. Yet Kristina discovered the secrets to effectively presenting herself as a unique and desirable scholarship candidate. And she’s sharing her secrets for scholarship success with students (and their parents) so that they too can obtain money for college.
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About the Author
Kristina’s father lost his battle with cancer when she was seven years old. After his death, her family fell below poverty level and struggled through years of emotional and financial turmoil. On the first day of high school, Kristina’s mom informed her that she could not financially support her after graduation; she needed to find her own way to pay for college. As a student with decent grades and average test scores, Kristina realized that she was going to have to sell herself to scholarship committees if she wanted to stand out. That’s when she devised the plan that led to her receiving several of the most selective and prestigious scholarships and grants that paid for 100% of her education at a Top 20 university.
Read an Excerpt
Confessions of a Scholarship Winner
The Secrets That Helped Me Win $500,000 in Free Money for College
By Kristina Ellis
WORTHY PUBLISHINGCopyright © 2013 Kristina Ellis
All rights reserved.
I CONFESS ...
The Imperfect Life of a Scholar
The pounding on the front door echoed throughout our house, and I instantly knew I was in trouble. The towering figure in the window looked very angry. Tears began streaming down my face as I hid in the coat closet, fearful of my impending punishment. As a third grader, breaking my neighbor's swing set felt like an epic disaster. I was terrified, knowing she had come to my house to make sure I paid dearly for it. I pressed my ear to the door as hard as I could but still couldn't hear anything. Mustering up every ounce of courage I had, I slipped out of the closet and tiptoed over to peek through the open front door.
I was surprised and confused to see tears streaming down my mother's face. I had never seen my mom cry—not even after my dad's death just a few months earlier.
I'll never forget the haunting words my neighbor sarcastically said to my mom: "Go back where you came from! There's no way you can survive in the United States without your husband! Just take your kids back to Venezuela with you. At least there, they'd have a chance of living a normal life."
Thankfully, "normal" wasn't good enough for my mom. She took those searing words from an angry neighbor and turned them into ... motivation. Instead of being paralyzed by obstacles or defeated by circumstances, my mother accepted them as challenges. And in her mind, challenges are meant to be overcome.
Finding the Way Through
My life has had plenty of struggles, doubts, and moments of feeling I wasn't good enough to reach my dreams. Yet somehow I stand here today, realizing I am good enough and my dreams have come true.
On the surface, some people might call my story "luck" because, despite the odds against me, I beat them. People have wondered if maybe I was always in the right place at the right time. Oftentimes I was, but how did I get there? Did I stumble my way into success? Did I aimlessly wander until I had "arrived"? Absolutely not!
I learned from my mom that with hard work and the right strategy, you can achieve success no matter what obstacles are standing in your way. When difficulties arise, there is always a way through. Sometimes, you just have to keep trying different paths until the next step becomes clear.
My mom's determination and positive outlook helped shape my attitude and influenced how I handled difficult situations. She laid the foundation for me to be able to overcome the obstacles I faced growing up. Now I get to pass on to you not only the secrets to scholarship success that I discovered on my road to college but also some encouragement for whatever difficulties you might be up against. I can do this because by the time I graduated from high school, I'd battled and overcome some of the most significant challenges any young person can endure.
The very beginning of my story, though, was nearly perfect.
I was born into a wonderful, happy family. My dad was a small-town man from Vincennes, Indiana, who loved music and built guitars. My mother moved to the United States from Venezuela to go to college. My parents met at our local college—Vincennes University—and quickly fell in love and got married. A few years later, they had my brother, and then two and a half years later, I came along.
Though our family didn't have a ton of money, we were comfortable and happy.
Then, just as my parents were hoping to add a third child to our family, our storybook beginning took a terrible turn. My mom was awakened in the middle of the night by my dad convulsing in the bed next to her. In a state of sheer panic, she frantically dialed 911. Moments later, the paramedics swarmed into our home and rushed him to the hospital.
My dad had no prior health issues, so both my parents were completely blindsided when the doctors diagnosed him with a cancerous brain tumor. That night began a journey that no family ever plans on taking.
I was three at the time, but I still remember so many painful details. Dad's symptoms revealed themselves very slowly at first, but soon seizures and chemotherapy became part of our everyday routine. By age five, I was accustomed to holding my dad's head as his body shook uncontrollably in pain. Every week, we were in and out of hospitals, traveling to Indianapolis, Chicago and anywhere else that gave us hope for a cure.
It wasn't long before the cancer spread and he began to lose feeling in his left hand ... then his arm ... his left leg ... his face ... until half of his body no longer functioned and he was permanently bedridden. Ultimately, the doctors said it was only a matter of time, so my mom had him moved from the hospital to our home so we could spend his final few months together. We watched him slowly and painfully fight a battle that captured control of his body, diminished his mind, and eventually took his life. In his final moments on earth, I lay in his bed comforting him before watching him slip off to heaven.
At seven years old, I had already experienced life and death in a way many adults never do.
A New "Normal"
After my dad died, my mom, brother, and I were left to face the sobering reality of life without him. We were all emotionally distraught by the fact that he was actually gone forever. For years, so much of our family's energies had been centered on the fight to keep my dad alive. We'd been able to hide our feelings behind the many distractions his care provided. Suddenly, we each had a world of emotions to confront, with nothing to distract us.
That haunting memory of my mother crying on the porch as my neighbor declared, "Go back where you came from," happened in the midst of this low point in our lives. Unfortunately, our neighbor wasn't the only one suggesting we leave the country. Several other people had told my mom the odds were against us and we'd be better off if she'd just take us back to Venezuela and start over.
Despite these comments, my mom decided to stay in the United States and fight to keep our family afloat. Though moving back to Venezuela would have made life easier on her, she refused to pull my brother and me out of the only life we had ever known right after the tragedy of losing our dad.
That loving and courageous decision came with a difficult downside: my mom needed to work a lot harder to keep our family financially afloat now that my dad's income was gone.
My mother spoke very broken English at the time, which severely limited her work options. The only jobs she could get required long, laborious hours. Mom was often exhausted from working such long hours and trying to deal with the pain of losing the love of her life. My brother, who was just starting middle school, was also trying to navigate becoming man of the house—all while being heartbroken and missing my dad. With two hurting people trying to lead our home, I was caught somewhere in the middle.
We were in turmoil as we struggled to figure out our new life. Explosive arguments were common in our home. My mother and brother fought through their emotions, expressing them loudly and vocally. Meanwhile, I quietly tried to hold my feelings in. But emotions always express themselves somehow, and at some point in middle school, I started hating everything about my life. It all felt so out of control, like there was nothing I could do to fix it. So I started taking out all my pain and frustration on the one thing I knew I could control: my body.
Before I knew it, I had become self-destructive.
For years, I struggled through fits of anorexia, bulimia, and cutting. I learned how to mask my feelings and emotions in front of others, knowing I would soon be able to release the pain once I was alone. I would also sneak out of the house late at night and go walking through the scariest parts of town, convinced that if I could become strong enough to ignore the fear of dark places, I would be strong enough to ignore the pain of what we were going through.
Though I was probably clinically depressed at the time, I was never diagnosed or treated because I didn't talk to anyone about it. Finally, after countless tear-soaked pillows and family blowups, I convinced myself that the world would be better off without me. One night after my mom and brother got into a huge fight and stormed out of the house, I was left by myself. The hurt and pain felt like too much to bear. So I came up with what I believed would be the easiest way to take my own life.
I tightly gripped the bottle of pills in my hand and began to unscrew the lid. I said a quick prayer: "Sorry, God; I can't do this anymore. Please forgive me ..." And I began the final assault on my body.
Seconds before I reached the point of no return ... the phone started ringing.
I ignored the phone the first time, but it just kept ringing. I had no idea why anyone would be calling so incessantly at eleven o'clock on a school night, so I got up to check the Caller ID. It was my Aunt Tonna.
Worried that something had happened to my mom or brother, I answered the phone. Turns out she had called simply to talk and see how I was doing. She is someone I'd always looked up to, and since the two of us hadn't talked for a while, I decided to chat with her for a few minutes. I figured it would be my final good-bye.
Determined to complete my plan, I didn't tell her what was going on with me; I just tried to stick to small talk with her. Before I knew it, though, we were laughing and making plans for the next time we would see each other.
Somehow she drew me out of the dark place I was in. We talked for two hours that night about absolutely nothing—and yet in that moment, it was everything. By the time I got off the phone, I had completely backed off the emotional ledge I'd been standing on. I did want to go on with my life.
The next day I woke up to the sun shining in my window, feeling happy about my conversation with Tonna and imagining how much fun we'd have the next time we hung out. Suddenly, like a punch to the stomach, I was gripped with fear as the enormity of what I had almost done came rushing back. I was terrified by just how crazy I had let myself get and the finality of the decision I'd almost made. I was barely a teenager, and I had nearly thrown everything away in one dark moment.
Waking up and realizing how far I had gone—and what my aunt had unknowingly rescued me from—scared me straight.
From that point on, I chose to fundamentally change my thinking. Suddenly I understood that if I'd followed through on my decision the night before, I not only would have taken my own life but also would have destroyed the lives of the people who loved me. I started realizing how many blessings I had and all the things I had to live for. I even allowed myself to believe that maybe God had a plan for my life after all.
I decided to abandon my patterns of self-abuse and begin replacing them with positive ones. Instead of trying to hide from or numb my pain, I started journaling and confronting it head on. Instead of focusing on how bad I felt, I began helping other people who were struggling. Instead of walking through dark places to confront my fears, I signed up for sports and activities that challenged me to be genuinely fearless. Anytime I felt tempted to fall back into the patterns of self-destruction, I would fight to channel that energy into a positive activity. The change wasn't immediate or perfect, but slowly and surely I began setting the stage for a brighter future.
In the meantime, my mom realized that my brother and I had been seriously struggling. Convinced that our family wasn't recovering from our loss—and believing she could not help us if she was never around—she put in her two weeks' notice and quit her job. She then took her life savings and used them to turn our living room into a hair salon.
It really changed everything. We started learning to live and work together as a family again. Our home again became a place of happiness rather than a battleground. My mom became my brother's and my biggest cheerleader, encouraging and supporting us in finding things we loved to do. Most importantly, we began to heal emotionally and move through the loss of my father.
The one negative effect of my mom's decision to work from home, however, was that we soon fell below the poverty line. By the end of middle school, my brother and I were both working to help pay our family's expenses. We found full-time summer jobs working in the farmers' fields near our town. Though the work was hard, hot, and monotonous, we met really great people and found ways to make it fun. And even though finances were tight, things really started looking up. I can't say that life was easy, but for the first time since my dad died, I felt genuinely happy.
Figuring Out the Future
After my first day of high school, I came home and ecstatically told my mom every detail. We sat on the back porch, laughing about how I got lost after fifth period and barely made it to class on time. I talked about how excited I was about the next four years and all the fun things I wanted to do. Soon, though, Mom's expression changed, and her tone grew more serious.
"There's something I've been wanting to talk to you about," she began. Concerned, I sat up in my chair, listening intently. "It's about college," she said. "You have four years to figure out what you're going to do with your life because you're on your own financially after graduation."
Caught off guard by her bluntness, I sat back with a confused look on my face. I thought, Why is she telling me this? To worry me? What can I do about it?
As I was about to snap back, she said, "Kristina, I'm telling you this because I love you, and I believe in you. You are not meant to live in poverty your whole life, and I know that if you work hard, you can go to a great college and start fresh. The choices you make right now will impact you for the rest of your life."
Mom went on to tell me what little she knew about the steps I could take to qualify for scholarships. We started brainstorming different ways I could get involved and begin building my qualifications as a scholarship applicant. A lot of her ideas seemed outlandish—like going to an expensive private school for free—but she had such faith in me that I started believing in the possibilities myself.
We talked about ideas for volunteering, how I could get better grades, and what to do to become a leader. When we ended that conversation, I felt incredibly motivated and ready to start moving!
That day was one of the most significant days of my life, because it was the first day I really began to believe I could accomplish big goals and do something meaningful with my life. My mom broke it down very simply for me: "If you work hard enough now to prove you are worthy of a scholarship, you can go to college for free." That simple but powerful statement stuck with me. As hard as my life had felt up until then, that conversation gave me hope and set a goal I could work toward.
Not Just for Top Students
I had always thought of a scholarship winner as someone who was supersmart and got perfect grades. As a student with only decent grades and average test scores, I had assumed that scholarships weren't for me. But after the conversation with my mom, I did a little research and discovered this was not the case—there were many ways to prove myself "scholarship worthy." I realized I could appeal to scholarship committees outside of academics and still have a chance of standing out. So I set out to find activities I could excel in.
At first, I wasn't successful in a lot of the things I tried. In fact, I fell on my face more times than I can count. I lost competitions I had prepared months for, was coldly rejected for positions I wanted very badly, and I learned I was very awkward in any sport that involved a ball. Each time I failed, however, I'd evaluate what I could do to improve my chances of succeeding the next time.
I also soon realized that while some of my peers had more natural talent than I did, I was willing to work harder and longer than most. On an average school day, I'd leave the house at 5:45 a.m. for a morning run and then get to school early for tutoring with my teachers. I'd return home around 9 p.m. after a sports practice, club meeting, and/or my job. After many late nights and hard work, I started to see some success: I won two Junior Olympics gold medals for gymnastics, raised enough money to travel to Haiti for missions work, and became one of the fastest runners in my high school.
Excerpted from Confessions of a Scholarship Winner by Kristina Ellis. Copyright © 2013 Kristina Ellis. Excerpted by permission of WORTHY PUBLISHING.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsA NOTE TO STUDENTS,
A NOTE TO PARENTS,
1. I CONFESS ... The Imperfect Life of a Scholar,
2. THE FOUNDATION Better You = Better Application,
3. SHOW ME THE MONEY Understanding College Financing,
4. SCHOLARSHIP SNAPSHOT An Overview of the Basics,
5. STANDING OUT Creating Your Own Formula for Success,
6. SCHOLAR QUALITIES The Makings of a Winner,
7. TELLING YOUR STORY Painting a Picture with Words,
8. PARTS AND PIECES The Often-Overlooked Elements That Make or Break Applications,
9. FINDING YOUR VOICE Succeeding in the Scholarship Interview,
10. SWEAT THE DETAILS Unleashing Your Inner Perfectionist,
CONCLUSION No Holding Back,
RESOURCES Extra Stuff You'll Need,
CONTACT THE AUTHOR,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It would have been more of a challenge if the author was from a two parent home, with average household income, and decent grades to win that much scholarship money.
This book was a life saver for me. I went to the library with $140 in fines and promised the librarian that i'll find a way to pay off my fines to get this book a long with 12 others and this one was the only one I began reading while in the library and I fell in love with it realizing it was a new book and so easy to relate to or understand. This book made me cry laugh and write some hard core notes, putting post-it notes all over my room. This book isn't over whelming and the font is very compatible with my eyes. It went even further when I got in contact with Kristina Ellis because she leaves her twitter at the end of the book. I added her on twitter and on facebook and we became friends having a full fledged convo. She is very kind and motivates you. I recommend reading her book.
I am a sophomore in high school and hadn't thought a whole lot about college up until a month ago. I didn't think I had a shot at going cause my family isn't too well off. I do debate team though and my advisor suggested that I check this book out. I'm not much into reading but we had been talking about law school. My advisor said I would make a really good lawyer. So I guess he kind of got me interested and I figured why not. The book was AWESOME! I think I might actually have a shot at school. Kristina and I have a lot of similarities, and if she can do it, why can't I? This book has given me confidence in my story and has taught me a lot about the scholarship process. I know I have a long way to go, but this book will be SO helpful during the next couple years. I'm so glad that she wrote it and I hope it can help a lot of kids. I know it's helped me!
For many youth, going to college may seem too lofty of a goal to set given the startling costs of attending a college/university. For those who may find themselves (or know of others) in this particular situation, CONFESSIONS is the book to purchase. Give every child the knowledge and tips needed to finance their college educations. Kristina is such a candid writer and person who only wants the best for tomorrow's leaders, as do we all. Prepare for the future by purchasing a copy for loved ones and for a student who could use one. You won't regret it!
Great book! Highly recommend!
Love this book!
Such an inspiring book! Made me excited about college :D
This book is something that every high school student and their family should read about preparing themselves for the college costs. You can't start too early for funding your higher education. This young lady has wonderful information on how to go about getting a college degree without graduating with a horrible debt hanging over the student's head.
As a public school teacher and a volunteer tutor for a GED program, I was ecstatic to discover Kristina Ellis's book, and it is now my go-to resource for students and parents I talk to who are preparing for college. I've already given one away, and I'll be ordering more so that I always have a copy available to pass along! Ms. Ellis's writing is personal and heartfelt as she shares her own story of struggle and success. In my classroom, I too often see students who think that dreams and success are for people who started out in life with more than they have, who think that hopes of college and careers are not for them. Ms. Ellis demonstrates with her own story that paying for even the most expensive and prestigious of colleges is possible, no matter where a person starts. My middle schoolers are often resistant to reading nonfiction ("It's boring!"), but Ms. Ellis's story captures attention from the beginning. The tips and strategies stuffed in her book are well-worth the read, but I know realistically how tough it can be for students to stick with a book, even when it can be helpful to them. I know that students will be much more likely to get the life-changing information this book has to offer because of the writer's engaging personality. Reading this book is like having a friend coaching you along in the process. There is a major myth that only students of minority or troubled backgrounds have the ability to attain scholarships. I know from my own college experience that that myth is NOT TRUE, and Ms. Ellis shows how EVERYONE can find the scholarships that are right for them. Ms. Ellis's story is extraordinary, but students do not have to have experienced personal tragedy or won Junior Olympic medals and pageant titles to find the success that she has. This book uncovers the secrets of the scholarship process for everyone, explaining how to find scholarships that are practically made for you and how to craft your essays and presentation of yourself in interviews to sell yourself as the perfect candidate. I would love to put a copy of this book in the hands of every freshman in high school. I know it would not only lead to achieving dreams of college success but also give inspiration for a truly rewarding and fulfilling high school career along the way! Anyone preparing for college, read this book! It will have you believing in yourself and your potential and will help you unlock it to realize your dreams.
Fantastic book! Very insightful!!!!
This book is a great blend of knowledge and inspiration to help any student reach the dream of higher education without drowning in loans.
This book is BY FAR the most helpful books when it comes to scholarships. I'm pretty sure I learned more about what to do my next two years of high school than what any teacher has ever told me. This would be a great gift for freshmen in high school! It'll start their high school years out right! Good job Kristina!
Who you want. MUST HAVE: Where your clan is, who you want, & your name. They will be at your clan from the day you post to the next day. Thanks!
Dark Hopes and Trials, LightBlood, LightClan's view, Table of Contents<p> TOC-Confessions of a Scholarship Winner...by Kristina Ellis(res 1)<br> Part 1-Helping me Help Myself by Beth Lisick(res 2)<br> Part 2-Help me Write Now! by Joyce Freese(res' 3/4)<br> Part 3-Help me Write Now! by Joyce Freese(res 3/4)<br> Part 4-Mother, Help me live (One Last Wish series #3) by Lorlene McDaniel(res 5)<br> Part 5-Please help me by Joan Davy(res 6)<br> Part 6-Help me find a proffession by D. Johnson(res 7)<br> Part 7-Help me learn music by Melody J. Smith(res 8)<br> Part 8-Out with it: How stuttering...by Katherine Preston(res 9)<br> Part 9-Help me please by Barbara D'Amato(res 10)<br> Part 10-Help me, Rhonda by Amy A. Corron(res 11)<br> Part 11-Help me, Mr. Mutt!: Expert... by Janet Stevans...(res 12)<p> Because the results tend to switch, this is a list of books showing the locations for each part. All are located at 'help me' for this view. Good luck reading! LightBlood.