Scholarship committees look at dozens of applications (if not hundreds) when they are selecting recipients. All scholarships have a limit on dollars available, so scholarship committees are looking for applications that stand head and shoulders above the rest. While this may sound intimidating, preparing a great scholarship application is not that difficult. And surprisingly, it won’t eat up all your time, either. Here are some tips to submitting a standout scholarship application.
- Only apply for scholarships you qualify for-Simple, right? Unfortunately, many students don’t want to follow this advice. I get it. College is expensive. You’re not sure if you qualify for enough scholarships. If you send in an application for every scholarship opportunity you can find, you increase your chances, right? Wrong. Do you know where your application goes if you don’t qualify for the scholarship? The ‘disqualified’ pile. Or the trash. Most scholarship committees won’t look at your application further if you don’t qualify. You’ve worked hard on your application, so why bother sending it if it won’t be considered? Need help finding more scholarships? Talk to a teacher or school counselor. They can point you in the right direction.
- Follow the directions (all of them)-Yes, you’ve heard this from every teacher you’ve had since kindergarten, but it applies here, too. With scholarships, this means filling out the ENTIRE application (leave no blanks unless the instructions specifically say to do so) and including ALL supporting documents. This is why you need to read, read, READ the application. Do you have to submit a Student Aid Report? Transcript? Letter of Recommendation? Essay? Then submit it. Incomplete applications end up in the same place as the disqualified applications. If you don’t understand exactly what you need to submit, ask a teacher, school counselor, or knowledgeable adult to help you. You can even call the scholarship provider if they include contact information on the application.
- Be neat-Even if it’s not specifically mentioned, neatness often counts. This means be extra careful with your application. Try not to crumple it or spill anything on it. Only fold it when you’re putting it in the envelope. Better yet, get an envelope big enough so that you don’t have to fold it. Typing your application is a good idea, but writing neatly in blue or black ink is also acceptable. Remove any mistakes with white-out or by drawing a single line through it. No scribbles allowed! You may even find some applications that can be completed and submitted online. Then your application will automatically look awesome!
- Write a great essay-So you hate to write. That shouldn’t stop you from receiving scholarship money. However, you will have to put in a little work. It’s okay to write some sample essays that you can edit to suit different scholarship applications, but always make sure that you answer the question. And remember, it’s okay to brag about yourself as long as it’s relevant to the topic of the essay. Make sure that there aren’t any mistakes, either. ALWAYS have someone read through your application before you submit it. The best way to revise your essay is by giving it to a teacher to proofread. This would be a good time to get friendly with your English teacher. If they’re going to mark up your writing anyway, you might as well see if they can help you get some money out of it.
- Be careful with who you ask to recommend you-Asking someone to write a letter of recommendation can be intimidating, but it is one of the most important elements of a good scholarship application. It is important to find someone who has authority, who is able to be neat and follow directions, and who knows your strengths well. It is also important to ask someone who isn’t related to you. When I was a senior, I had my school counselor, my speech coach, my Spanish teacher, my science teacher, and my pastor write recommendations for me. My speech coach even saved a copy of her recommendation so that she could edit it and submit it for multiple applications. Needless to say, I asked her for a recommendation several times.
At this point, some of you may be thinking to yourself, Okay, what’s the catch? Where’s the hard part? Truthfully, there is no consistent ‘hard part’ of filling out scholarship applications. The most important thing to remember with scholarships is to be intentional about filling them out. Once that money starts coming in, you can relax and make the most out of your last months of high school.