It was finally here! I clicked on the e-mail from my admissions counselor and waited while the message loaded. I'd applied for a $5,000 leadership scholarship from the college I'd chosen, and I was expecting to hear good news.
My high school years had been devoted to church ministry and school leadership positions, and I was pretty confident that my hard work and dedication would literally pay off.
The message appeared, but it wasn't what I expected: "Thank you for applying for our leadership scholarship. Unfortunately, you were not among those chosen."
"What?" I shouted, feeling tears rush to my eyes. "This must be a mistake!"
As I read the e-mail through, I felt even worse. I wasn't rejected because I lacked any qualification. The real reason was that I'd just barely made the application deadline. Students who qualified and sent in their applications earliest were the ones selected.
At first, I was angry about not winning: Who are these people who won the scholarship over me? I thought.
But I knew I was directing my hurt and angry feelings toward the wrong people. I really only had myself to blame for losing out on this opportunity.
The scholarship application packet had come early in the summer, and the first page had "Time Sensitive Issue" at the top in bold print. But I didn't make finishing the application a priority. At the time, I had three months left, so I didn't feel like I needed to write the application essays right away.
To be honest, I'd just crammed too many activities into my schedule. Every time I sat down to work on the essays, or even thought about them, there was something more urgent to do.
Day after day, the application packet traveled to and from school in my backpack. Weeks and then months passed, and eventually, it was the night before the deadline. I cranked out final drafts of my essays as quickly as I could, e-mailed them to my admissions counselor, and convinced my dad to let me FedEx the application the next day. But as I discovered, I'd already waited too long.
It wasn't easy to tell people who cared about me that I didn't receive the scholarship, mostly because my pride was wounded. It was hardest, though, to tell my parents the reason I hadn't gotten the scholarship. They weren't angry. But I felt bad because weeks before the application was due they'd gently reminded me to complete the essays. That scholarship would have helped a lot, but I hadn't managed my time well enough to earn it.
Still, God has provided for me. I feel blessed that my parents work so hard to pay tuition, and I also work part-time jobs to help. I pray about my financial needs, search the Internet for scholarships and work hard to keep my grades up so I can qualify for other scholarships.
I learned an expensive lesson when I procrastinated, and I've taken it to heart. Now, when I search for scholarships or need to turn in financial aid paperwork, I build the time into my schedule. Earning scholarships is important to me, and I'm learning how to balance my activities and manage my time so I can make it a priority. After all, I don't want to make that expensive mistake more than once!