If you are a current or incoming college student, chances are you plan to apply for college scholarships. As more and more students try to avoid significant student loan debt, competition for winning these college scholarship opportunities continues to increase. When it comes to acing that scholarship essay and making your application stand-out from the pack, there are a number of strategies you can employ. Here are ten tips for making your scholarship application a winning one.
MEET THE SCHOLARSHIP DEADLINES
The number one rule for a successful scholarship application is to make sure you meet every single application deadline. In almost all cases, applications that are received after the scholarship deadline will not even be considered. Pay close attention to deadlines, and make yourself a calendar to track all of the important dates. Make sure you leave yourself with a big enough window of time to write an exceptional scholarship essay as well as plenty of time for those writing your scholarship recommendations to get their portion of the work done.
MAKE SURE YOU ARE ELIGIBLE FOR THE SCHOLARSHIP
Scholarships can be extremely particular in their eligibility requirements of their scholarship applicants. As scholarship applications take up so much time and energy, be positive that you meet every single eligibility guideline before doing all of the work on the application. Additionally, it would be extremely unfair for you to ask teachers and guidance counselors to take the time to write a recommendation letter for a scholarship for which you are not even eligible. Do thorough research before deciding which scholarships are the best fit for you.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT PEOPLE FOR YOUR RECOMMENDATION LETTERS
Recommendation letters carry a significant amount of weight for many scholarship competitions. When considering what teacher, coach, or advisor you would like to write a recommendation letter for you, make sure you are intentionally selecting those who can speak to your work ethic, academic and extracurricular success, and the specific attributes that make you deserving of winning a scholarship. It is also a smart idea to have a discussion with those writing your recommendation letter. Ask them if they feel that they have positive things to say about you and work, and explain your reasoning for asking them to write a recommendation later rather than someone else.
FOLLOW THE APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS CLOSELY
With the amount of time and energy you will contribute to completing a scholarship application, it is so important that you pay close attention to all of the instructions. It would truly be a shame to have your application be disqualified because you missed an important part of the instructions or accidentally skipped an essay question. As scholarships receive so many applicants, those who seem to not be able to follow the instructions will almost certainly fail to be considered.
DO NOT USE A GENERIC ESSAY
Although many scholarship applications call for essays that have similar topics or themes, it is a wise choice to write a new essay for every scholarship. This will take more time and energy, but it will make your essays stand out compared to other essays that may be generic and “one size fits all” for every scholarship competition. When possible, do your research on the company or foundation sponsoring the scholarship. Try to tie your essay topic into their mission and values. By showcasing that you understand the company and what is important to them, you will demonstrate your value as a scholarship recipient.
UNDERSTAND HOW TO WRITE ABOUT YOUR ACCOMPLLISHMENTS
It is important that you find a balance between writing about your accomplishments and coming across as likable and humble in your scholarship essays. The best way to highlight yourself in essays is to focus on your passion and what you have learned. In most cases, your passion for whatever you are involved in (sports, music, community service, etc.) is what probably led you to your accomplishments. By discussing your passions and what opportunities they have brought you as well as the lessons they have taught you, you will be able to highlight your achievements without seeming as if you are bragging.
DO NOT EXAGGERATE
Although it is crucial for you to share your successes and accomplishments with the scholarship granters, be sure not to exaggerate or lie about your achievements. There are too many ways for people to corroborate that your information is correct, and it can be very easy to see through lies you may put on your application. Honesty is the best strategy in the case of your applications, though you shouldn’t be afraid to highlight and discuss the things you really have accomplished.
PROOFREAD YOUR APPLICATIONS
Possibly one of the most important steps to writing a winning scholarship application is to proofread prior to submission. One of the best strategies to catch as many errors as possible is to print your application and read it out loud. You should also share your application with a few trusted proofreaders, such as your guidance counselor or a favorite teacher. Most people will be more than willing to assist you, and submitting a polished and clean application will make a significant impact on those selecting the scholarship recipients.
MAKE COPIES OF YOUR APPLICATIONS
Before submitting your final application, make both electronic and physical copies. If you always have a plan for the worst to happen, such as your application getting lost in the mail, you will be able to devise a solution thanks to your forward planning. If possible, try to request a confirmation that your application arrived. You could do this by sending it through certified and tracked mail if it is a paper application or calling or emailing someone on the scholarship committee to confirm if they share their contact information with you.
FINISH ALL OF YOUR APPLICATIONS
You won’t receive any scholarship awards if you fail to complete the application! No matter how much time and energy each application takes, it’s important to give yourself the best chance possible to help fund your college career by putting the effort into your scholarship applications.