John Pawloski’s career sounds like the beginning of a joke: What do you call a 52-year-old trial lawyer who quits to become a pastor? If there’s a punchline, here’s how Pawloski describes it…
My poker buddy said it best about my going to seminary: “you’ve been a lawyer for 25 years — you’re trying to save your soul!”
Pawloski is also trying to save money. His intriguing history and his lifelong frugality have made him the 11th winner of the Debt.com Scholarship for Aggressive Scholarship Applicants.
Two years ago, he enrolled at Eden Seminary in St. Louis. He’s still a lawyer, however.
“I do enough work to pay for my law licenses, and related office expenses, and some living expenses, so that I could attend seminary full time,” Pawloski says.
The St. Louis native is also applying for scholarships. The Debt.com scholarship is only the third he’s won, but the previous results have been profitable: a $1,500 scholarship last year, and a $5,000 scholarship this year.
Even though the Debt.com scholarship is for $500, he says he appreciates the simplicity of it.
“I have mixed feelings about applying for scholarships,” he says. “This one is creative and fun-loving and provides a means for creative folks to reveal their charm. Unfortunately, these opportunities are the exception.”
Palowski is irked by scholarships that “want you to spend hours filling out forms to justify a nominal award. At times, even if you are successful, it is the equivalent of working a minimum-wage job.”
He recalls one scholarship that posed nine essay questions requiring answers of at least 1,000 words. “It was easier to pass the bar exam in two states!” he laughs.
More insidious are scholarship offers that “were angling for free consulting advice,” Pawlowski says…
They exist to sell services to schools and then ask you what are the most pressing problems and how to solve them for students. It was exploitation of free labor in the guise of scholarships. Others were like think-tank organizations that were looking for deep thought they might be able to use.
Still, Pawlowski urges all students, young and old, to pursue free money.
“Apply for every scholarship possible, particularly those with essay questions,” he suggests. “I find those give you the best chance if you can write and have something interesting to say. Take chances. To win, you need to differentiate yourself from the throngs of others who are submitting an application because Aunt Beatrice emailed them a link.”
If you doubt Pawlowski’s frugality, listen to him talk about what he did as a lawyer…
I am a trial lawyer who represents individuals and small businesses. For years I represented big clients only to realize other lawyers would do and say anything to steal your business while the little guy was getting screwed over by corporate monoliths. I decided I would rather make less money representing real people with real problems. The deck is still stacked pretty high against the average Joe, but I’m trying. I do civil litigation mostly. I sue employers for discrimination, civil rights cases, sue insurance companies, and I even sue lawyers.
When he finally graduates next year, Pawlowski says, he wants to work for “a non-profit foundation (or perhaps form one myself) that advocates on behalf of homeless people.”
He adds, “In particular, I would like to work on food policy to make it easier for food retailers to donate food to homeless shelters and food banks.”
That’s no joke.