How I Won a $700 Scholarship in 1.5 Hours

I opened my email today to find a congratulatory note from the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycling Professionals (APBP). I won a $700 scholarship to cover the registration fee for the Professional Development Seminar (PDS) this September in St. Louis. "Lucy, congratulations! This year's scholarship fundraising efforts have been successful and APBP would like to offer you the Susie Stephens Scholarship to attend the PDS." Excellent news! Especially considering that I only spent an hour and a half on the application. How did I do this, you ask? By following these simple steps.


1. Find the Right Match

I am a City and Regional Planner by profession, therefore I keep an eye out for conferences, scholarships, and opportunities related to my field. My specialty is cycling and trails, so the APBP conference is the perfect type of professional development forum for me. In poking around the conference website, I happened upon the scholarships information to cover the pricey registration fee. According to the guidelines, I am just the scholarship candidate they look for: young professional, aspiring to work in pedestrian and cycling, and in need of financial assistance. Check, check, check. 


2. Do the Research

Before actually starting the application, I read about APBP. Their mission, how long they've been around, and the purpose of this conference. Then I read about the scholarship in question. Named for a cycling advocate who was killed when a car hit her on her bike, the Susie Stephens Scholarship has helped young professionals continue her work since 2008. Finally, I read through the application questions: How can you demonstrate your financial need? How will you use the training gained at the conference? What are your professional accomplishments? What are your professional goals? and How are you active in transportation reform/How will you further Susie Stephens' legacy? I read over these questions a couple weeks before I sat down to write in order to formulate my response and be ready to write. 


3. Sit Down and Write

After doing the research and thinking about my responses, the application only took an hour and a half to write and revise. So maybe the leg-work took more than an hour and a half, but reading over the APBP website and the questions only took a couple of minutes in the weeks leading up to actually writing. I did this "research" while taking a break from my more pressing work, substituting some unnecessary FB time or online shopping with something productive. In my book, I call this my "Research Shopping Cart."


So that's it, a couple of hours of work for a $700 payoff. Very worth it. I find myself addicted to getting free money in the form of scholarships because it's a relatively small investment of my time. Has anyone else experienced the rush of getting a scholarship? Please share your own stories if you feel so inclined!