Gratitude is a wonderful thing. The simple act of thanking people for any gesture that has contributed to your success, grand or small, immediately sets you apart from the majority of scholarship candidates. Let me explain.

In my book, I reveal the story of Mary K., a humble woman whose family income increased tremendously due to her husband’s rise in the financial industry. Over the years, her family became “wealthy” by most people’s standards and they began to offer scholarships to local public school students. I met Mary at a local diner to interview her for my book and we had a great conversation. What I will remember most, other than her true generosity, was the number of scholarship awardees who thanked her, compared to the number of scholarships she issued. I will never forget that, and it has forever impacted how I counsel students.

If a complete stranger approached you on the street and handed you $1,000, would you not thank him? If someone said, “I’m going to pay your next three car payments, rent payments, or mortgage payments,” would you offer gratitude? I would hope so.

I think part of the issue is that in the scholarship world, you don’t actually witness the actual cash transaction in the bursar’s office that reduces your tuition bill or cost of attendance. But, believe me, it is real. Scholarships represent free money to reduce your cost of attendance and reduce your reliance on student loans. Every dollar awarded to you is one less dollar you owe. People who feel entitled to scholarships due to their pedigree, lack of pedigree, academic achievements, income status, or any other personal trait have the wrong attitude about scholarships. Scholarships are an act of charity and an investment in the future.

In America, it is your responsibility to pay for your education. Whether that’s right or wrong, is not the issue here. What is the issue is the amazing opportunity that students have to build relationships, build champions, and build their networks by expressing gratitude to the people who helped them become who they are now and who they could be in the future.

Practically speaking, showing gratitude to your current network of supporters reinforces those bonds and may lead to more opportunities in the future. Gratitude is so rare in some circles that it is memorable.

I encourage you to send letters, emails, voicemails, chats, tweets or any other messages to the people who helped you along the way. If you received a scholarship of any kind, tuition reimbursement, or a book stipend, I urge you to thank the people who provided that. The people who offer those opportunities don’t really expect a big “thanks,” but I assure you that you will be remembered if you do.