Scholarship Tips and Tricks: How to Improve Your Chances
If you're searching for a scholarship as a way to pay for school, there are many things that applicants can do to increase their chances for consideration. Here are a few of the most common strategies:
Applying early can work to your advantage because your application will be one of the first that committee members see. They will have fresh eyes and a clear mind when reading your app, whereas later applicants may have their application land on the desk of someone who’s exhausted after reading thousands of resumes. Also, if your application essay has a similar theme as someone else, committee members will likely read the first one with more enthusiasm and interest than those that follow.
Organize and Proof
Needless to say, it is incredibly important to thoroughly proof and review your application before submitting it. Even the most trivial error or omission can make the difference in a committee member’s decision to select you over another equally qualified applicant. Since you’ve likely spent countless hours staring, correcting and perfecting your app, it might benefit you to have a new pair of eyes proof it (like a parent, teacher, peer) to catch any errors you missed. Make sure it is easy to read and well-organized.
The relationship between the scholarship application and the scholarship essay is similar to that of the job resume and job cover letter. They are meant to complement each other, not duplicate each other. You do not need to restate the accomplishments listed in your app in your essay. Use your essay to highlight a more personal part of you that the application can’t demonstrate. The essay should give a voice to the person whose achievements have already been highlighted in the app.
Get Your Name Out There
Reaching out to a point of contact at a school or scholarship committee before applying will establish a relationship between you and the organization, which can speak volumes about your interest as a scholarship candidate. Phone and/or email are both acceptable ways to do so, and attending an orientation is also a great way to familiarize yourself with the organization. Committee members will recognize your name when your application crosses their desk and remember that you took the time to introduce yourself.
Don’t Come On Too Strong
While sending an introductory email to a committee contact is perfectly acceptable, continuously hounding this person with emails or phone calls regarding the status of your application may have the opposite effect you intended. Committee members are busy with hundreds of applicants and paperwork and bothering them constantly with your individual requests can be a huge turn-off that ultimately may hurt your chances of being chosen.
Set Yourself Apart
Individuality is one of the most important components of getting selected as a selected as a scholarship recipient. Think about it—committee members have hundreds of apps landing of their desk every day, and after the first hundred, they probably all start looking the same. Don’t let your application become a part of the blur. Set yourself apart, either in the essay, in the layout of your application, during your orientation, in your correspondence with a contact on the committee. Give them a reason to remember you—in a positive light.
Consider Financial Aid
Applying for financial aid is not a mandatory component of increasing your scholarship chances but it won’t hurt if you do. Each scholarship is different, with some being needs-based, some being academics-orientated, others having criteria completely unrelated to either (see our Top Unusual Scholarships article), and some using financial need as the deciding factor. You will never be penalized for asking for financial aid, but your chances will be lessened if you do not completely submit a financial aid application when it is a consideration of the scholarship.
Final Note: Understanding the Selection Process
Academic evaluation (mainly GPA) varies from school to school across the nation, and thus measuring an applicant by this standard is not always equitable. Committee members recognize this dissonance and therefore do not lend much weight to GPAs as a legitimate factor in their evaluation of applicants. Rather scholarship potential is weighted more heavily in:
- SAT/ACT scores
- Class rank
- Extracurricular activities
- Work/volunteer history
- Writing quality
Don't miss other great posts from our Scholarship Tips and Tricks series:
Mackenzie Maher graduated in 2010 from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a BA in Global Studies and a minor in Professional Writing, with an editing emphasis. Mackenzie’s diverse portfolio also includes writing, editing, photography, and documentary script writing on such subjects as travel, career, and finance. Next to writing, she is most passionate about world travel (she has visited 24 countries).
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