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PHOENIXVILLE — Think scholarships don’t matter? Then you should meet Ben Kaplan, a man who went to Harvard after receiving $90,000 in scholarships.
Kaplan will be hosting a scholarship workshop at 7 p.m. on Sept. 27 at Phoenixville Area Middle School where he will be sharing his expertise on strategies for applying for scholarships and how to win scholarships.
He takes nominations of places he should go to present the workshops and Phoenixville was one of the areas that was suggested. John Lennon at College Planning Center nominated Phoenixville and is sponsoring the workshop. The event is free to the community. Attendees must register at http://events.benkaplan.com/pa.
Kaplan said it won’t be a boring lecture for attendees. He will be making it interactive and teach students how to do a “rain dance” to celebrate getting a scholarship.
“It’s fun. We’ll play some music, do some dancing and will hear real world stories (about people receiving scholarships),” he said.
Kaplan did a rain dance after finding out he was receiving his first scholarship and performed rain dances for good luck when applying for other scholarships.
He turned to applying for scholarships his senior year of high school.
“I was a competitive tennis player and I always assumed go to college on a tennis scholarship,” Kaplan said.
After a back injury, he missed a lot of time for conditioning and staying competitive. He applied for scholarships because he knew the tennis scholarship was out of sight.
“(Receiving scholarships) changed my life,” Kaplan said. “I was able to go to college.”
He wrote a New York Times article about how he received scholarships that allowed him to go to college. Letters poured in his mailbox after the article was published with people asking him for advice on how to apply for scholarships. He had been writing so many letters that he had half of his material for his book, “How to Go to College Almost for Free” (HarperCollins Publishers).
Kaplan said he created a workshop that he wishes he would have had. He felt like applying for scholarships was very trial and error. What many people don’t realize is that they can reuse or recycle content they use in applications. Applicants can tweak the essays they already have to fit the needs of another application.
“The first one you ever do may be the hardest one you do,” he said. “The biggest mistake is to apply for one and stop.”
Kaplan said the key for scholarship applicants is believing in themselves and having that confidence show in the applications.
“It’s a great skill to rally support or something going on in your town,” he said, adding that it’s not a skill people are not born with, but comes in time.
“It’s not just about the money,” Kaplan said.“You learn how to persuasively communicate about yourself and that is useful your whole life.”
He said if he had to start all over again, he would start the process in seventh or eighth grade. There are ways to win savings bonds from science or other projects. Also, essays students write about what they want to be when they grow up can be reused for scholarship essays.
Kaplan encourages families to attend his scholarship workshop together.
“It shows younger kids college applications may not around the corner, but they have a vision of” how hard work can pay off and how they can achieve their dreams, he said.