How to Make Your College Scholarship Applications Stand Out
When you?re getting ready to start college, few things are more important than applying for as many scholarships as you possibly can. Every dollar of financial aid that you do not have to repay after school will ease your loan burden: put together enough of those free bucks and you might even be able to avoid student loans altogether.
Scholarship committees will award to only the very best applicants, though, so your paperwork really needs to stand out. This is particularly important when you do not have an interview. The committees won?t see or speak with you until after the awards are given out (if they see you even then), so your applications need to be the best that you can make them. These tips will help you improve your chances of getting that money.
- Don?t apply for scholarships that you cannot receive. If you are not eligible, don?t waste the committee?s time ? or your own. You won?t get the money anyway, so move on to the next scholars
- Read the entire application before you begin. Most do not have any trick questions or anything like that, but you need to read the paperwork anyway. This helps you make sure that you?re eligible for the scholarship. It also gives you a clear idea of what information you need to provide.
- Follow every instruction ? even the ones that don?t make much sense or don?t seem to be very important. If the committee tells you to paper-clip your essay to the application, don?t staple it. This does not seem important, but your attention to small details will make your application packet stand out ? in a good way.
- Write neatly. This might not seem important, but good penmanship serves two purposes. One: it?s easy to read, so the committee will have fewer problems reading your name, contact information and other important data. Two: neat handwriting demonstrates that you care about what you?re doing. That?s always a good impression to make, especially when financial aid is involved. Any time you can type instead of write, go with that option. Your application essay, for example, should be typed unless the scholarship committee says otherwise.
- Be honest. The committee can do plenty of fact-checking while they?re trying to figure out who gets the scholarship. They just might learn that you weren?t really in the glee choir, or that you never volunteered at the local animal shelter.
- Your life experience can matter to the committee. If you?ve worked several jobs, been in the military, et cetera, you have something unique to offer. Traditional students often go to college right after high school, so they don?t have the experiences that you?ve had. Use this to your advantage, especially when you?re asked to write an essay.
- List all of your relevant extracurricular and volunteer activities. Some committees do not want information about organizations or activities that give away the applicant?s race or religion, so you might not want to mention these types of things. But you should definitely list things like Scouting, your volunteer work at the homeless shelter and the recycling drive you helped organize in your community.
- If you write an essay, keep a copy. You can often re-use these essays for other applications. This is particularly true if the committees want fairly broad topics, like, ?What I hope to get out of college? or ?My goals in life.?
- If you reuse a scholarship essay, be sure that you update it before you send it off to the committee. Example: you write a 500-word essay about your goals in life for a State School scholarship. When you reuse that essay for an application to University of State, make sure that you remove every reference to State School. You don?t want to make it obvious that you have not paid careful attention to details.
- Some scholarships require letters of reference or recommendation. Approach the people who will write these letters no fewer than two weeks before you need them. You should also follow up with a thank-you note: many people who write letters of recommendation want to know how things worked out for you.
- You might need to provide school transcripts. Some schools get these out faster than others. Call your school or visit the Web site to find out how soon you can expect yours to go into the mail after you request it. That way, you don?t blow the scholarship deadline because your transcript is still en route.
- Submit all parts of your application packet at the same time unless otherwise directed. If the committee wants an essay as well as the application, make sure that they are both sent in the same package (or electronically submitted at the same time). This simple step saves the committee the time and hassle of trying to put together an application that shows up three or four days after the essay, or vice versa. You don?t have to worry about the committee mistakenly thinking that you submitted an incomplete packet, either.
- Turn in a complete application. If the scholarship committee requires you to write an essay, then you need to write the essay. Skipping this part will usually result in disqualification.
- Speaking of essays - have two or more people proofread yours before you submit it to the committee. Your family, friends or teachers will catch errors that you miss.
- Submit your application as early as possible. This can only help you because, if there is a problem with your packet, the committee has time to contact you. Waiting until the week before the deadline leaves little or no time for you to make corrections or submit more information.
- Don?t bother the committee. The application form should tell you when the committee will announce winning students. Most committees don?t want to hear from you before then, so resist the temptation to call or e-mail them to ask if they?ve picked winners yet.
All of these details can stress you out. Relax! You won?t win every scholarship, but each application helps you become a better applicant for the next one. You?ll figure out how to make yourself look better and better as time goes by. Keep applying ? and don?t forget to ask your friends, family and other people if they know of any good scholarship opportunities. You can also take advantage of the opportunity to ?round out? your experiences. Volunteer work and membership in various clubs and organizations can encourage the scholarship committee to give you the award.
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