Melissa Read Memorial Scholarship #4

Applicant: Emily  Risinger  

What is the worst financial decision you have made and what did you learn from it?


The worst financial decision I have ever made up to this point in my life was not so much an action that I took, but an inaction. As I entered my senior year of high school, I knew that it would be important to apply for as many scholarships as possible. Like many of my peers, I researched application requirements and spent many hours finding scholarships that matched my resume. So many scholarships, and so many criteria!

For high school seniors, the success of applying can mean the difference between attending college immediately or having to wait until funds are secured through a job or a loan. The idea of loans and graduating with large amounts of debt is something all college hopefuls try to avoid. I applied for what seemed like an abundance of scholarships…to my church, my bank, my school, and others. I was certain that I had exhausted the pool of scholarships, and patted myself on the back for what felt like a thorough amount of work.

My efforts were rewarded! I was very fortunate and received several wonderful scholarships. At the time, the scholarships I received were amazing, and I was (and continue to be) very grateful. It seemed, to my 12th-grade mind, as though I had it made. I was sure that I had done well and knew I had enough to go off to college, and I made plans to apply for more scholarships later. This was my critical financial mistake: not seeing that I stopped too soon in seeking scholarships.

My first year was covered, and as my freshman year ended, I looked forward to once again filling out applications for scholarships for the second year. It was with shock and dismay I found that, by and large, most scholarships are restricted to graduating high school seniors entering college. The number of scholarships available to students who are already IN college is much, much smaller than I anticipated or expected. I learned too late that I should have tripled my efforts in applying as a high school student for scholarships.

In hindsight, I know now that I should have concentrated much more on researching what would be available for the entire four years, not just the first year. I was dismayed by this mistake, but I know that I have learned some valuable lessons. My experience will be beneficial in two ways. First, I have learned that “planning ahead” means much more than just planning for the near future. It also means to look at long range possibilities- five to ten years from now.

For instance, when I buy a car one day, I need to look at the costs of the car not just for the immediate time (costs of gas and insurance) but also what the car’s cost is down the road. What are its repair costs and expected reliability? When I buy a house or rent an apartment, I need to not only consider the mortgage or rent costs, but also future costs such as taxes or property values. My lesson learned is never to stop looking ahead.

My second realization is that in addition to learning about planning ahead, I am also able to help my younger siblings know about this. I have a sister that will apply for colleges this next year, and she will learn from my experience to apply for even more scholarships than I did. It makes me happy to know that I will at least be able to pass this information on to my siblings.

All high school students are told about the value of scholarships, and we know how much their generosity can help us. However, I don’t think it’s made clear to the students that, for the most part, the scholarship process is basically a “one time shot.” A few scholarships, such as this one, are available to continuing students, and it is a thrill to be able to look at the requirements and see that I am eligible. I thank you very much for including the continuing students in your consideration!


[Tom: I’ve heard that there are scholarships that are only for upper classmen. I guess it depends on the school but you definitely have to keep applying if you are running out of money. My son and I were talking to the 4H sponsors near our home and they said that a lot of 4H scholarships go unclaimed that are only for upperclassmen. Maybe that is another area that students could look to for more help with college costs. 

I the book review College Secrets, the author said to approach scholarship application like a job and I think that makes a lot of sense. You are earning the money after all. Make it a business so to speak.]



Tom is a doctor, husband and father of five with a passion for parenting and finance. When he isn't skateboarding, riding BMX, or jumping on the trampoline with his kids, he is reading and writing about personal finance. He helps high income parents educate and mentor their kids to become financially, emotionally, and intellectually self sufficient.

19 Responses to “Melissa Read Memorial Scholarship #4

  • Beth Stone
    6 months ago

    So much truth. Excellent!

  • I was very grateful that a scholarship I received my freshman year, was able to be renewed all three years afterwards. I just had to maintain a certain GPA. I’ve tried to impress upon my kids how important scholarship applications are. You’re right, they’re much easier to find as a senior in high school. Although sometimes your university may have more scholarships once you get into your major. Best of luck with this one! 😉

  • What a valuable lesson to learn! It will serve you well in life for sure.

  • Amy Hamand
    6 months ago

    You have excellent insight Emily! I wish i had thought more about the long term effects of student loans when I was your age. Good luck to you!

  • As a high school senior 22 years ago, I fell into the group of those who did not apply for hardly any scholarships, and paid big time through lots of loan debt. This is great info for me to begin planing as our oldest gets closer and closer to graduating.

  • Very well written and thought out. As a parent of a high school student, I will keep this in mind when the time comes and she is looking at scholarships.

  • Well written & important topic!

  • Very wise and insightful. This young woman obviously learned financial savvy early on in adulthood.

  • Margaret Tipps
    6 months ago

    Emily presented her case in a concise, articulate manner. She not only recognizes her error but shows understanding of the advice adage to learn from your mistakes. A schlorship provided to Emily would be an investment that reaps great reward as she displays an eagerness to help others.

  • Ann Marie
    6 months ago

    Well written, informative essay. I, too, will take this information and pass it on to my teenagers as they finish their senior year in high school. I especially liked how you consider the impact on your younger siblings. Good luck!

  • LuCinda Miller
    6 months ago

    Very informative! I still have a few years before my children will need this information, but I’m glad to have it for when the time comes. Thank you! She did a great job with this essay.

  • Cindy Gunckel
    6 months ago

    Well written & thought out, Emily! I hope scholarships continue to fill your future!

  • Such excellent advice and experience to share. Well written, and best of luck in your endeavours!

  • Your essay was well written. I hope others learn from your oversight, like my boys. Welcome to the real world, you’re doing great.

  • Linda P.
    5 months ago

    I agree that high school seniors don’t realize scholarships are much more plentiful for high school seniors. It’s hard to plan that far ahead in that time in your life.

  • Stephanie
    5 months ago

    What great advice! I hope your siblings learn from you.

  • What a great realization, both for scholarships and for other aspects of life (the car costs for example!). Emily clearly learned a great lesson and will be prepared to factor in future costs of her decisions as she goes forward 🙂

    • I’m very proud of all the applicants. Some amazing lessons here.

      Tom @ HIP

  • No doubt if you had two left feet, a one-eyed dog that was born in Ecuador, and a father who worked for Willy Wonka you would qualify for several special scholarships. Unfortunately, smart kids from “average” backgrounds don’t seem to have much available. Lucky for you, you have a great head on your shoulders! Good luck in your continued efforts to finance your education wisely.

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