Scholarships are free money to help you pay for tuition and sometimes can help cover other college expenses. Much of your financial aid will be awarded after you apply for the FAFSA, but scholarships often have their own application process. Each year, millions of dollars in the United States goes un-awarded because students don’t apply for scholarships — don’t let this free money go to waste! We recommend you apply for as many scholarships as possible, and here are a few tips to help you be successful!
1. Create a list of your unique traits.
Did you know that there’s a scholarship out there for almost everything? Scholarships are available for students based on variety of qualifications, including GPA, interests, nationality, extra curricular activities, family financial situation and more! You name it, there’s probably a scholarship for it. A great way to start your search is to make a list of your interests and traits.
You can start with this list of traits about who you are, including:
- Personal interests and passions
- Extracurricular activities
- Hardships you or your family have endured (e.g. cancer, loss of a parent, a natural disaster, etc.)
- Career interests or goals
- Academic accomplishments
- Heritage and community
- Personality traits (e.g. strong sense of leadership, great sense of humor)
2. Make a prioritized list of scholarship opportunities and their deadlines.
Make sure you keep track of scholarship deadlines. You should prioritize scholarships that you qualify for best — and don’t forget that even small scholarships add up to a lot when combined! Everyone’s list will look a bit differently, but making a prioritized list will help you stay on top of the applications and deadlines. Use a calendar or planner, make a schedule, and stick to it. Missing a deadline — even by just one day — will likely disqualify you from consideration.
3. Ask for letters of recommendation, and keep a copy on file.
Many scholarship applications request general letters of recommendation, while others need specific letters that speak to the topic of the scholarship. Keep a copy of your recommendation letters on file so you can make a copy and send them in with your applications. Here are some tips for getting recommendation letters:
- Find a teacher or boss who can discuss your extracurricular activities, college aspirations, other classes, etc.
- Provide your recommender with all of the information they will need to prepare and submit your recommendation.
- Read the application requirements carefully – an application may require a specific number of recommendations.
- Make sure to give your recommender friendly reminders weeks before your scholarship deadline.
- Thank your recommender — you many need to ask for additional letters in the future! Surprise them with a hand-written thank you card.
- Maintain communication with people who recommend you for scholarships.
3. Write a great essay.
Think carefully about the questions being asked, and use this opportunity to tell the selection committee exactly why you should win the scholarship. Answer the questions fully and briefly. Our tips for crafting an awesome essay are:
- Follow the directions, and make sure to stick to the essay length requirements.
- Stick to the topic. Don’t try to force an essay you’ve previously written into a topic that doesn’t match.
- Be specific, and include plenty of details.
- Read your essay out loud.
- Ask someone to help you proofread.
- Be creative, and let your personality shine in your essay.
Make sure you toot your own horn! As uncomfortable as it might be, you only get one shot to brag about yourself and convince the selection committee. Talk about your achievements and dedication to help them understand just how awesome you are. Essa
4. Be wary of scams.
You should never have to pay for scholarship applications or scholarship services. The vast majority of scholarship opportunities you’ll find are safe and legitimate. But just like everything online, it’s important to evaluate each opportunity.
5. Keep At It!
We recommend you apply for as many scholarships that you qualify for. Even if you don’t win a scholarship right away, keep trying and do not get discouraged. Save copies of each application that you complete so you don’t have to start from scratch each time.