TikToker Carlynn Greene Wants To Help You Win A Scholarship
She’s helped students win millions (!) of dollars with her advice.
Take a look at the stats on the student loan crisis in the United States and you’ll see that millions of current and former students have amassed trillions of dollars in debt. And while President Joe Biden’s administration has made efforts to implement relief programs, there’s still more work needed to alleviate this financial burden. In the meantime, enter Carlynn Greene, the TikTok creator with more than 789,000 followers who just might have your temporary debt solution.
The 24-year-old from Dallas, Texas, is known as “The Scholarship Guru” and has helped tens of thousands of students win several million dollars in scholarships since 2017. Through her TikTok videos explaining the financial resources available to students and her in-depth online materials (like a scholarship strategy book, essay templates, and application guideline sheets), Greene’s business has made it possible for thousands to graduate with less debt or entirely debt-free.
Throughout high school and college, Greene became a self-taught expert in the financial aid space, earning more than 30 scholarships that totaled six figures. She’s since graduated essentially zero-cost from the University of North Texas with a degree in broadcast journalism and is now working toward her masters in public relations at the school. (Yep, still debt-free.)
“I definitely think we should get to a point where college is free, starting with the community colleges within each state,” Greene tells Elite Daily. But until then, she’s here to help students get as close to zero as humanly possible.
Here, Greene tells Elite Daily what sparked her interest in helping others find scholarships, students’ biggest concerns when applying, and the beauty of a killer essay.
Elite Daily: You’re obviously such a pro when it comes to navigating the scholarship space. What motivated you to start sharing your knowledge with others?
Carlynn Greene: My mother’s initial reaction to one of the first scholarships I won. She was very emotional and crying at my bedside. That’s when I realized that winning these scholarships isn’t just important for the students but also for their families, because oftentimes they have to bear the burden of taking out parent loans for the students to pay for their education as well.
ED: So many people can relate to wanting to ease the financial burden education puts on their parents. When did you turn your motivation into action by posting on TikTok, and when did your following finally take off?
CG: I had been on TikTok for years, and for the longest time it wasn’t making me much money or giving me many views. But in early February, I applied to the TikTok for Black Creatives incubator program, which propelled my content and changed my life. I was one of 100 creators who won, as well as one of 10 creators who were awarded a $50,000 grant from TikTok. With that exposure, my account grew from around 10,000 followers to over 788,000 followers. I now also have a group chat with other Black content creators, and we constantly share tips and tricks on how to keep on top of the ever-changing algorithm.
ED: It sounds like TikTok gave you the tools to share information with a lot more people. What is the most rewarding part of creating content that helps so many students?
CG: There are times where I get impostor syndrome, and I’ll think to myself “Do I really know how to win scholarships or am I just getting lucky?” Then I’ll get an email, comment, or DM saying “Your advice helped me win a scholarship.” For example, the other day, a current college student messaged me. She was previously homeless and had a 0.7 GPA her freshman year. She started following my advice and ended up winning over $100,000 in scholarships and was accepted for internships at Harvard, Berkeley, and Boston College.
ED: It must be awesome to receive feedback from people you’ve already helped. What does it feel like to read those messages?
CG: It’s motivating to see how much people’s lives can change by taking my advice because I’ve always been soft-spoken and stayed to myself. Growing up, I never shared my advice with anyone because I figured no one would listen to me. But social media and my business have shown me that everyone’s voice deserves to be heard.
ED: That’s incredible. When it comes to the students you help, what are their biggest financial concerns?
CG: A lot of students who come to me are those who didn’t get much from the FAFSA grants. I was in a similar situation my freshman year of college. I was Pell Grant eligible, but then the following year, because my dad got a significant raise at his job, I didn’t qualify for a lot of that anymore. I had to apply for even more scholarships because I couldn’t depend on the Pell Grant.
Other students ask if my advice works for a particular demographic — like international students, people from a specific ethnicity, and so forth. A lot of time students think they can’t win because they’re from a certain demographic or they’re studying something non-STEM related. But that’s not true, they can win. I’m living proof.
ED: It sounds like a lot of eligible students take themselves out of the running by not even trying to apply. That said, what’s your best advice when it comes to finding financial aid and scholarship opportunities?
CG: Focus on local, state, and school-funded scholarships, which you can find on websites like bold.org or scholarships.com. People often start off applying for scholarships that are really broad with eligibility and that just about anyone in the nation can apply for. They end up getting rejected time after time, which can be discouraging. Try not to be overly dependent on those. Your chances are less likely, as they are more competitive.
ED: Go local over national, got it. What are other misconceptions when it comes to scholarship applications?
CG: There’s this idea that the most important thing is your academic performance, and of course that does have a certain weight to it. But your essay is far more important because it allows you to stand out and to be seen as an individual.
There’s also a common misconception that the only way to win scholarships is by oversharing and sharing your trauma. If you’re not comfortable with speaking on those things, please do not feel obligated to do so. It’s not a necessary part of winning the scholarship.
ED: On top of essays, letters of recommendation can be an important part of the scholarship process. What would you say to students who feel like they don’t have any mentors or professors they can ask for a letter of recommendation?
CG: With the pandemic, a lot of students have messaged me saying they’ve not been as connected as they wanted to be with their professors. If you can, go to their office hours, whether that’s virtually or in person. Once they know your work ethic, you can follow up and ask if they would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation.
Letters of recommendation can also come from a friend or classmate. For example, one of the three letters I had as a college student was from my classmate in an eight-hour journalism class. She talked about my work ethic, and it really helped make my application stand out.
ED: It’s nice to know you can rely on your peers, too. Before we wrap up, do you have a broader message you’d like to put out there for students applying for scholarships right now?
CG: Continue applying for scholarships, and when you’re rejected, seek constructive criticism as to why. It’s similar to when you’re in a class and aren’t doing well on assignments. You go to office hours; you go to tutoring; you try and improve for the next time around. The same thing can be applied to scholarships.
I worked with a student who was a finalist for this $5,000 scholarship. She almost got it, but they ended up not choosing her. I told her to ask for constructive feedback from the committee, and they responded that in her application, she was mainly referring to things she did in high school, but she was applying to the scholarship as a current college student. They wanted more up-to-date information. After updating her application, she ended up winning a different scholarship worth the same amount.
It also helps to have accountability, so loop your parents and friends into the process if you can. You’re going to get distracted with other things in your life, so it can be hard to stay on track. But if you have someone who’s actively saying “Did you apply to this? Did you submit your letter of recommendation for this?” you’ll be more likely to see results.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.