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It’s no secret that furthering your education can cause financial stress, but there are plenty of scholarship opportunities to consider as you begin your application process. Kristina Ellis, author of Confessions of a Scholarship Winner, uses her experience to dish on helpful hints on acquiring a few of your own!

If you could only give one piece of advice to a high school student, what would it be?

You’re never too young to make a difference and start pursuing your goals. When I was 15, I developed my first international volunteer project after hearing that people in Third World countries were dying from parasites that were entering their bodies through their feet. I collected shoes that people no longer wanted and sent them overseas. Each shoe collected was a potential lifesaver. That’s where I first learned not to be afraid to set goals and go after them.

If you could do high school over, what would you do differently?

Personally: I wouldn’t have worried so much about what other people thought of me. I was often a target of the “mean girls” and I constantly stressed about their perceptions. In hindsight, I realize that their opinions really didn’t matter, and now I wish I wouldn’t have wasted so much time being concerned about them.

Academically: I would have worked harder on my grades and standardized test scores. While I still got into a Top 20 university and won over $500,000 in college scholarships, my standardized testing scores were the weakest link in my college application. I thought I was taking the tests seriously at the time, but I didn’t realize what steps were necessary to prepare for the tests and increase my scores. After consulting with Jay Rosner, Admissions Test Expert and Executive Director of The Princeton Review Foundation, I discovered key insights into preparing for standardized testing, which I share in my new book Confessions of a Scholarship Winner.