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College Cash

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HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR MARIANNE (Angel) Ragins, 18, of Macon, Ga., figured that it would be to her advantage to apply for college scholarships early—and often. So she applied for one last summer. Then she applied for another. And another. “I wanted to make sure the bases were covered,” says Angel. They were. In all, Ragins applied for 33 scholarships. Now all that typing and stamp licking has paid off with one of the richest individual portfolios of nonathletic scholarship offers in the land, worth around $325,000.

The scholarship search wasn’t easy for Ragins, who is the fourth in a family of five children headed by her widowed mother, Laura, a seamstress. Angel spent more than 200 hours filling out forms and writing essays. Much of this was done late at night after she’d finished her homework and put in up to 30 hours a week as a cashier in a fast-food restaurant. “When Angel decides to pursue something,” says David L. Dillard, Ragins’s principal at Macon’s Northeast High, “she really puts her mind to it.”

In addition to a highly developed sense of purpose, Ragins has an impressive list of credentials: National Achievement Scholar, National Honor Society, 1190 combined SAT score, student council president and literary magazine editor. She has a 4.47 (out of a possible 5) cumulative grade-point average and expects to graduate third in her class of 216 this week.

Ragins won full scholarships to 13 colleges and universities, including, besides Furman University and the University of Alabama, a half dozen schools that invited her to apply after learning about her through the National Achievement Scholar program. In addition she has won 11 corporate or club-sponsored scholarships, including $20,000 from Coca-Cola. Precisely how much scholarship money she will wind up with is still to be determined, dependent in part on her final decision on which school to attend.

Angel is leaning toward accepting a $50,000 all-inclusive four-year package from the University of New Orleans (“I like the school, and I like the city,” she says) or a similar offer from Florida A&M. She hopes to major in communications. Before that Ragins thinks she might write a book. Subject: how to win a college scholarship.