How I Got a Perfect SAT Score and Won the Lottery
Posted on September 5, 2012, filed in: SAT
How did I do it? Well, it all started with my SAT score.
When I was in high school, I achieved what less than .02% of students have: a perfect 2400 SAT score.
While this was impressive, the scholarships didn’t just come knocking at my door after I got my score. There are plenty of students who get high test scores, but don’t use their achievements to their advantage. You have to be proactive if you are going to secure major scholarship money for college. No one is going to drop off a check at your doorstep.
When I achieved a perfect SAT score in high school, I knew that I had an ace in my pocket. And I’d be foolish not to use it. I received notification of my SAT score in the fall of my senior year. And because most scholarship applications are due in the winter/spring of senior year, I had to get ready.
So I began to research potential scholarships that I qualified for. I scoured scholarship books at the library, used search engines (i.e. Fastweb), and asked older students at my school who had received scholarships about the ones they had applied to.
I came up with a list of 100 targeted scholarships that I thought I had a reasonable shot at winning. I then wrote down the deadline for each scholarship in my planner (iCal wasn’t around back in the day).
So every week, I would have a couple of scholarships that I would need to put together the application for. It became part of my homework: filling out applications, writing scholarship essays, requesting high school transcripts from the high school registrar, asking high school teachers for recommendation letters, and visiting the post office to mail out my applications on time.
I probably spent more time working on scholarship applications than I did working on college applications. After I filled out the first few applications, I realized that a lot of the scholarship questions were asking about the same kinds of topics over and over: community service, professional goals, biggest adversity, etc. So I began to put together a compilation of all my essays so that if the same topic was covered in a future scholarship application question, I could just tweak my original essay slightly.
Don’t get me wrong, I did have to put in hours of work writing quality scholarship essays. But after a while, I built an arsenal of high-quality essays that I could recycle. So even though I applied for 100 scholarships during my senior year, I only wrote 27 essays.
By the time February rolled around, I was wondering if all of this time I had spent working on scholarship applications was worth it. But in March and April, the scholarship notification letters began to roll in. And I ended up receiving almost a quarter million dollars in merit-based scholarships from universities, private foundations, and corporations:
USC Trustee Scholar (Full Tuition) – $160,000+
Coca-Cola Scholar – $20,000
Toyota Community Scholar – $10,000
AXA Achievement Scholarship – $10,000
USC Abrams Attridge Scholarship – $10,000
Adelson Health Scholarship – $8,000
Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship – $6,000
National Merit Scholar Finalist – $2,500
Bill Endow Scholarship – $2,000
Best Buy Scholarship – $1,500
Ronald McDonald House Charities Scholarship – $1,000
Lowe’s Community Scholarship – $1,000
DECA National Scholarship – $1,000
Nevada Power Scholarship – $1,000
Project 21 Scholarship – $1,000
Judge Taylor Scholarship – $1,000
AMSAT Scholarship – $1,000
But…despite my perfect SAT score, valedictorian status, and solid extracurriculars, I still got rejected by most of the scholarship foundations I applied to. Sometimes, you are just not the right fit for a particular award. But don’t let that stop you. Keep applying.
Even though I got four rejection letters for every award letter, every time I opened a letter and began to read “Congratulations! It is a pleasure to inform you that you have been chosen to…”, it was definitely worth it.
Shaan Patel is the Director of SAT Programs at Veritas Prep and is the author of the best-selling book SAT 2400 in Just 7 Steps.