Little Elm, TX

Ten Tips To Ten Million In Scholarship Money For Your Youth

Shelby Chiles

College Does Not Have To Be A Debt Sentence

Would you play a game with your child and her friends if it meant your child would be the recipient of over $10,000,000 in scholarships? One North Texas mom created the Scholarship Search Party game because she saw the disparity between what children believe it costs to attend college and reality. She wanted them to become more financially literate about their college expenses and within a couple of years, she developed some key strategies to assist students and their parents achieve their dreams of obtaining scholarships so students could graduate debt-free. When the pandemic occurred, they pivoted, went virtual with training events online, and their Zero Debt College Project Facebook group began to grow. In 2020, her daughter achieved the highest offers ever within their program, with 10.5M in merit-based scholarships, and was accepted to over 160 colleges.

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Letter from Little Elm High School acknowledging Tamia Thompson's accomplishments (cropped for size) -Photo courtesy of Dr. Monique Thompson

If you live in North Texas and you have not heard of Dr. Monique Thompson, DHA, LPC, LPC-S, who lives in Little Elm and serves on the Little Elm ISD’s Board of Trustees and you have a child, you do not know what you are missing. I am about to share some of the “secret sauce” that she and her eldest Tamia Thompson made when it was time for her to begin the college application process. It is amazing what they have accomplished and Tamia is admittedly not a perfect student. Their method is achievable and obtainable for every child who is willing to put forth the effort. It isn’t ever too early to start either.

They saw a need when Tamia was preparing for college which developed into a passion. I think it developed into a competitive game for Tamia to outdo herself. How can a typical American family send their child off to a college or university, while allowing them the freedom to graduate debt-free? In this era, it seems like a fantasy. If you are reading this, you have all of the tools you need.

They operate on the premise that the only scholarship that you cannot get is the one that you missed the deadline for. Here are some of the key ingredients to the secret sauce directly from Dr. Thompson’s recipe book along with some ingredients I added myself:

  1. Focus on being a good citizen and commit to community service - not just being a good student. They like to see students that are well-rounded and give back to the community.
  2. The best resource for success is someone who has accomplished your goal, ambition, or dream. Hitch your wagon to a star.
  3. No one likes to apply for scholarships until they start winning them, so keep applying.
  4. Start a Vita now. Keep a record of all of your activities and accomplishments. It will be imperative when you complete scholarship applications and if you go into education, you can even carry portions into your career. Keep it up to date in college. Don’t forget grad school!
  5. Do your income taxes as soon as possible so that you can complete your FAFSA and turn it in at the end of January your Senior year and every January thereafter. Unfortunately, grant money runs out, but it isn’t ever too late. That is also how you apply for state grants, federal work programs, etc.
  6. Use online search tools like the U.S. Department of Labor’s FREE scholarship search tool.
  7. Check with any organization that the child or parents are involved in.
  8. Google is your best friend. This is when you use keywords and begin typing. You can be as broad or specific as you like. For example, a search could look like this for an Eagle Scout who is a business major that is attending UT Austin: (place “scholarships for” in front of each entry) boy scouts, eagle scout, eagle scout in Texas, eagle scout attending UT Austin, business majors, UT Austin, business majors at UT Austin, eagle scout business majors at UT Austin.
  9. If you find a scholarship that is so obscure that you think, “no one will meet these criteria”, thus you are not technically eligible, apply anyway. If no one that qualifies applies, they will likely pick the best candidate who did. It might as well be you.
  10. Join the Zero Debt College Project Facebook group!

Dr. Thompson and Tamia have me asking myself, “Do people like to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for their education before they have essentially set out on their own path and begun life?” It seems ridiculous when you think about it. Free is almost always better. I still received the exact same education as my peers although I never paid a dime for it. Ironically, when I was in a scholarship interview, the late Michael Oglesby told me that there are very few things in life that we can depend on keeping forever. He explained that you can lose money as easily as you can make it. People pass away. Homes burn down, but knowledge, wisdom, and the experience that comes with education are priceless. Unfortunately, the price tag on priceless is becoming larger every year.

He explained that you can lose money as easily as you can make it. People pass away. Homes burn down, but knowledge, wisdom, and the experience that comes with education are priceless. Unfortunately, the price tag on priceless is becoming larger every year.
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Tamia Thompson after she signed her Letter of Intent -Photo courtesy of Dr. Monique Thompson

Graduating college debt-free with the world as your oyster is quite empowering. It should not be a luxury only for the elite. I was blessed with a Cinderella story of sorts that paved my way, but you don’t need anything that sets you apart. Every child is special and unique. Everyone has something to contribute. I cannot tell you how many of my friends had to put their entire lives on hold because they had to pay for their education for decades. Tamia won’t have that issue and Dr. Thompson is working feverishly through their non-profit, Whatsoever Is Good, to ensure that no one else does either. You can join their journey in the Zero Debt College Project Facebook group and assist by contributing directly because you have to purchase ingredients to make the secret sauce.

They are planning on writing a book soon so their program, Zero Debt College Project, can be freely and easily shared with even more people. They are committed to making the program free to all students and their families. All of the proceeds from the book will go directly to their non-profit, Whatsoever Is Good.

If you have a hint or tip to share about locating scholarship money for free, please comment below.

About Tamia Thompson

Tamia is a Sophomore at HBCU Howard University where she is majoring in Political Science. She plans on finding ways to continue to make an impact on others’ lives and the community while raising awareness about accepting people for who they are instead of marginalizing them. Tamia was born with a tenacious spirit, arriving a week after her mother was induced. Then, at the tender age of three when her Teacher told the classroom to be quiet, she told her, “You can’t take our voices from us.” When she was ten, she even declared that she wanted a sister for Christmas and on December 20th, the stork delivered. She is called, “the rose that fights” which is fitting because she has a beautiful spirit, but I wouldn’t want to be tangled in Tamia’s thorns. She has already blazed a trail of activism and advocacy for herself. She is nineteen and has published a book titled Thirteen.

About Dr. Monique Thompson

Dr. Thompson is a woman with many roles. She essentially has two only children since her girls, Tamia and Aaliyah, are a decade apart. She has her Ph.D. in Health Administration and mentors at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology as well as teaching at the University of Phoenix where she was just nominated as Faculty of the Year. She is a Therapist with her own practice that services the Greater North Dallas Area of Texas, including Collin and Denton counties, from her office in Frisco. She has used her years of experience as a Licensed Professional Counselor to write the highly rated Infidelity Recovery Workbook for Couples: Tools and Exercises to Rebuild Your Relationship which can be found on Amazon and in all major book retailers. She works tirelessly as a student advocate through her non-profit as well as on the Little Elm ISD Board of Trustees. She has two additional books that are available for purchase on Amazon: Between Sessions Journal: A Guided Journal For Use While You Are In Psychotherapy and My Thoughts and Prayers: A 12 Month Guided Journal.

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Shelby has lived in DFW her entire life. She has various interests and professional experience. Shelby became a published Author for the first time over thirty years ago and she has not stopped writing since. askshelbyanything@gmail.com

Little Elm, TX
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