Writing your scholarship essay
Sometimes navigating the world of scholarships can become overwhelming. While each scholarship you apply for will have different requirements, many formatting guidelines are similar. Here’s a list of a few tips that will help you get through the scholarship process.
- Know what to expect
- Be organized
- Make the time
- Look everywhere
- Seek regularly
- Apply only if you meet the eligibility criteria
- Begin preparing for the application process
- Clean-up your online image
- Follow the instructions
- Apply for several scholarships
- Find your “wow factor”
Scholarships are competitive. You must present your best self if you want to succeed in obtaining a scholarship award. You must be willing to commit to the process and to go the extra mile. You will need to devote time and effort to the scholarship process. Learn as much as you can about the process in the beginning. The more effort you give, the better results you have in obtaining a scholarship award.
Every scholarship is unique with different requirements. You should develop a system to help you remain organized as you look and apply for scholarships. We recommend including a tracking tool and a calendar. The tracking tool should list scholarships for which you are interested in applying. It should also include the eligibility and application requirements. Here is an example of a tracking tool you can use. The calendar can be used to remind you of deadlines and to revisit closed scholarship opportunities at a future date.
Finding and applying for scholarships takes time. It can rarely be done in 30 minutes. You must carve time out of your busy schedule if you want to receive a scholarship. The first application usually takes the longest. After the first, it gets a little easier and faster. By then, you have a better understanding of the process and have certain information already gathered together.
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is to limit yourself to one resource. If you do this, your results will be limited. Instead, look everywhere you can. Try newspapers, newsletters, libraries, social media, community foundations, scholarship databases, your neighbor, professional associations, etc. Be creative in your search. You just might find a scholarship in the unlikeliest of places.
While January through April are the months where you can typically find more available opportunities, scholarships open and close all year long. Schedule a time each month to dedicate to your scholarship search. If you find a scholarship that you want to apply for, but it is closed, set a follow-up for yourself on your calendar. Revisit the scholarship in 4 to 6 months to see if it is open. Remember to check the eligibility criteria to make sure you still qualify.
All scholarships have eligibility criteria that must be met to apply. If you do not meet the criteria, you should not apply. Selection committees don’t make exceptions. You are wasting your valuable time if you apply for a scholarship for which you are unqualified. Do not make assumptions. If you have questions about the criteria, contact the scholarship provider.
Use this time to prepare for the next step. Identify areas that you need to improve on and make a plan. This can include your GPA, written communication skills, community involvement, networking, etc. Even if you might not be able to improve in time for this year’s application period, keep working on it so you are ready for next year.
Providers search online for information about their applicants. Make sure there isn’t anything out there that will hurt your chances of being awarded a scholarship. Google your name to see what pops up. Scrub your social media sites clean of inappropriate pictures, comments, etc. If needed, create a professional email address to use to fill out your applications. Your online image should be squeaky clean.
Read and follow all instructions on the application. Selection committees can and will disqualify applicants if the directions are not followed. If you have questions about what is being asked of you, contact the scholarship provider. Additionally, make sure your application is neat because it represents you.
Applications, essays, résumés and all other components should be free of mistakes. You should always submit a final and polished draft. If needed, ask family members or friends to proofread your documents for any errors. You can also use the resources available through your student website, such as the Center for Writing Excellence (CWE), to assist you in creating a polished application.
Apply for as many scholarships as you can. Remember that several small awards can add up. As you apply for additional scholarships, it increases your odds of obtaining an award. It also refines your scholarship skills as you repeatedly fill out applications, ask for letters of recommendation and write essays.
The scholarship world is competitive and providers are looking for candidates who stand out from crowd. Identify your “wow factor” and flaunt it. The “wow factor” is something that sets you apart. It might be defining a life moment when you discovered your passion or an inspirational experience that helped mold you into the person you are today. Finding your “wow factor” is all about painting a vivid picture for the selection committee. Give them a glimpse of who you are but leave them wanting more.
If you’re having trouble finding your “wow factor,” take a deep look at yourself. Make a list of things that are uniquely you. If needed, get help from family members and friends. We are often too critical of ourselves, but those around us are willing to point out what makes us stand out. If you are still struggling to find it, go out and create it.