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Deciphering the application

Last year I attended a conference for scholarship providers. I distinctly remember a speaker who said that after reviewing hundreds of applications, he came to the conclusion that 90% of the requested information was the same.

What does this mean for you? Once you assemble your basic facts, the process should go more quickly because you will be entering the same information on multiple applications. I know that the first application can seem daunting. Unfortunately, some students quit after that because they can’t imagine investing the same amount of time into every application. I wish they would view it as a customized assembly line and see the benefit in completing multiple applications. Let’s de-construct the application to help you prepare for multiple applications.

The most common requests across all applications are likely to be your personal profile, academic information, goals for the future, and short answers or essays. Many sponsors might also require evidence of professional or community service, employment information, and letters of recommendation. If you can clearly describe who you are in those major categories, then you have already streamlined the process. Here’s a quick look at each category:

  1. Personal Profile: The sponsors want to know your name, where you live and how to contact you. In some cases, they may ask for demographic details such as citizenship, income status, age, etc. These are basic facts and it should be fairly simple.
  2. Academics: This usually focuses on past academic accomplishments, such as graduation attainment, grade point average, standardized test scores, merit awards and class rank. With adult or non-traditional students, some of this information may seem irrelevant. Be sure to complete the information as best you can, but also explain any situations in which you cannot provide the requested information. Some providers make no exceptions on required data, but others do, especially if they are targeting non-traditional students.

    You may also find that the scholarship providers want current academic information, as opposed to historical academic information. This might include your college or school, major, current grade point average, recognitions such as earning a place on the dean’s list, credits earned, etc. Again, complete what you can and explain any information that is not available.
  3. Goals: Scholarship providers are making an investment in your future and they want to know what that investment looks like. When you are trying to explain your future, specifics are preferred. Give them as much relevant information as you can in the space provided. Make it memorable. Think about how you will be compared to other applicants. If you write, “I want to get a good job someday,” that is not as impactful as saying, “I want to finish my degree and become an R.N. at the hospital in my neighborhood.” A clear focus on the future can help you succeed in your own mind, and it can affect how you are perceived by scholarship judges.
  4. Short Answers or Essays: In this section, judges are hoping to gain insight into your thoughts, beliefs, writing ability and chance for success in college. They may pose questions about your goals, or they may ask you to write about a topic of interest. Short answers and essays are your chance to create a memorable, positive impression in the minds of the judges. In some instances, the essays or answers are heavily weighted. If you plan to submit multiple applications, you should be prepared to write. University of Phoenix has another article on how to write scholarship essays that you can use as a reference. Current students can use the Scholarship Essay Review service available through the Center for Writing Excellence where staff can critique your essays and give you feedback on how to improve the quality.

Lastly, if you are asked to provide information about your volunteer work or employment, be consistent and truthful in your answers. Scholarship providers may verify this information and you want to be sure that what you wrote accurately reflects your situation. If there is a discrepancy, it may cause concern in the mind of the scholarship judge.

More tips on applications are available in the Frequently Asked Questions section of the University of Phoenix scholarship website.