The tightest competition for scholarships usually is not among all the applicants, but among those who rise to the top and become the “top tier” in the judges’ minds. So what makes them rise to the top? Based on my own service as a judge and my interaction with hundreds of scholarship providers and selection committee members, I have identified six common traits of successful scholarship students, and how you can emulate them:

  1. Follow the directions and do what is asked of you. It seems simple, but I am continually astounded by the number of people who ruin their chances because they do not follow directions, despite what appears to be a high-quality application.
  2. Showcase your strengths and accomplishments, with a dose of humble pie. Students who are too humble miss an opportunity to promote themselves in the judges’ minds; students who brag about every accomplishment, with little regard for those who helped them along the way, just seem cocky. Strike a balance and you might rise to the top.
  3. Write your application answers and essays with the care they deserve. This includes writing at a college-bound level, staying on topic, proofreading thoroughly, and crafting memorable answers, which leads me to the next tip…
  4. Figure out how you are different and make us remember. If you match the criteria to apply for a scholarship, just think about all of the other students who also match the criteria. What makes you a unique candidate? What are your life experiences? Based on your knowledge of the possible competition, how do you stand out? Being a scholarship judge can be an inspirational experience but sometimes it can be boring because all of the candidates sound alike. How will we remember you?
  5. Invest in your community, preferably before you start applying for scholarships. Volunteer and service work used to be the icing on the cake of scholarship recipients but more scholarship providers now want to know how you are giving back to the community. Do you have an answer? If you are not able to help out in your community, why not? Be prepared to respond to those types of questions with compelling answers. Note: not all judges will weigh this in the award process but it might give you a competitive edge compared to an equally-qualified candidate who does not engage in volunteer work.
  6. Know how the scholarship will impact your life, education, career, and/or community. Scholarship providers, in the most basic sense, are making an investment in human potential. While they will not be paid back monetarily, you need to be clear about the impact that the scholarship will have on you, your family, and your chosen field.

If you incorporate these successful traits into your scholarship application process, then you, too, may rise to the top of the applicant pool and make it to the coveted top tier of candidates. For other tips on how to survive and thrive in the scholarship process, check out the other articles on the University of Phoenix scholarship website.