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. If you send in an application for every scholarship opportunity you can find, you increase your chances, right? Wrong. Applications that don’t meet the eligibility criteria end up in the ‘disqualified’ pile and usually don’t get a second look. You’ve worked hard on your application, so why bother sending it if it won’t be considered? Need help finding more scholarships? Ask your school counselor to 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 your 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. If you’re filling out a paper application instead of an online application, neatness often counts. 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!
- Write a great essay. Believe it or not, you don’t have to be a great writer to earn a scholarship. However, you will have to put in a little work if writing does not come naturally to you. Regardless of your writing skill, 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.
- Be careful 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. When I was a senior, I had my guidance 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.