How To Write Applications For Scholarships

There are thousands of scholarships available every year, each of which awards students for different attributes. Some may award students for accomplishments in sports, others may award for academic excellence. Still others award students for belonging to a certain demographic or demonstrating a unique talent. But how do you get them? Here’s how to write applications for scholarships.

Pencil used to write scholarship applications

Common Scholarship Requirements

Though there are countless types of scholarships available, not all of them are open to every single student. Before you fill out scholarship applications, check the requirements to ensure that you meet all requirements of that particular program. Scholarship committees will not accept any application that does not meet their published requirements.

Let’s break down the most common kinds.

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Age and Grade

Every scholarship typically targets students of a certain age or grade. Some scholarships may be intended for junior and senior high school students. Other may be intended for students aged 14 years to 20 years. Still others may be open to all students who meet certain criteria regardless of age or grade. If a scholarship has any age or grade requirements, they will mention it clearly in the specifications. Before applying, make sure you meet these criteria.

Minimum GPA

All merit scholarships will have a minimum GPA requirement. But this criterion is not just limited to merit scholarships. Many non-merit awards also set a minimum GPA requirement. The difference between the two is that non-merit scholarships usually have a relatively low GPA requirement, sometimes as low as 2.5. You must meet this however. If you meet all other requirements except the GPA, your application will be rejected.

Recurring scholarships are offered on condition that you maintain the minimum GPA every year. Your scholarship could be revoked if your GPA slips below the stated minimum.

Test Scores

As with the GPA, most merit scholarships will require you to submit your SAT or ACT scores. Non-merit programs may or may not ask for test scores. Awards that ask for test scores will state the minimum qualifying score on their list of requirements. For merit scholarships, the minimum requirement is generally about 26 on the ACT and 1200 on the SAT.

College Enrollment

A large number of scholarships are established to help college students cover the cost of tuition. To apply to these awards you must be already studying in college or enrolled in college and starting the following academic year.


Most awards will ask you to submit an essay as part of your application. This is because scholarship committees want to know more about you other than your academic skills. They may want to determine if your vision and values align with theirs. Or they may want to assess your creativity or your writing skills.

What differs from one program to another is the essay requirements. Some may provide you with a topic to write on. Others may provide a list of topics for you to choose from. Still others may ask you to submit an essay on any topic of your choice.

Ideal Scholarship Essay Format

Your essay is an important part of your scholarship application. It’s what sets your application apart from other students competing for the same award. Scholarship committees often use essays as the deciding factor when choosing between two equally qualified candidates. Taking time to craft an outstanding essay is time well invested.

In writing the essay many students focus only on the content and ignore the format. This is a mistake. Scholarship judges have to go through hundreds of applications and essays. A badly formatted essay can be difficult and annoying to read. One way to make it easier on the reader is by following a standard format when writing your essay.

First, go through the essay format guidelines carefully to determine if they’ve included specific instructions for formatting your essay. If they have, follow those instructions. Don’t deviate from those and definitely don’t change the format because you think it looks better. Submitting the essay in the wrong format tells the reader that you don’t know how to follow instructions and will almost certainly disqualify.

If no instructions are provided, use this guidelines to format your essay:

  • Keep the essay no more than 2-3 pages in length
  • Use 12 point Times New Roman black font
  • Keep lines double-spaced
  • Leave margins of 1inch at the top, sides and bottom

Avoid the temptation to get creative with fonts and colors. Judges are never impressed with these unnecessary embellishments. They can in fact become a source of distraction or even annoyance. Stick to the guidelines and keep the formatting of your essay simple.

Scholarship Applications Are All Different

Some scholarships require essays, others don’t. Some are focused on extracurriculars, others aren’t. As such, each scholarship you apply to will be formatted somewhat differently. But that’s ok. Whether it’s an online form or a physical mail-in form, there are a few guidelines to follow.

  • Always use professional language (no slang or short-hand)
  • Double check for spelling errors before submitting
  • Make sure your tone matches what the sponsors are looking for

Tips For Applying to Scholarships

Applying for scholarships is worth the time spent when you consider that this is free money. You don’t pay any interest on your award and neither do you have to give it back at any time. It’s yours to keep. Moreover, there are no limits to the number of scholarships you apply to or the amount you win. Using these tips will help to maximize the amount of award money you could win each year.

Start early

Finding scholarships that you qualify for can take up a whole lot of time. Putting together your scholarship application can be even more time-consuming. Starting early and making a shortlist of programs that you qualify for will give you more time to work on your application.

Make note of the deadlines

Every scholarship will have a submission deadline. Applications received after this deadline are not considered. Make a spreadsheet with the deadline for each scholarship and submit your application well before that date. It’d be a shame to lose an award you qualify for only because you missed the deadline.

Get organized

You know what the common scholarship requirements are. Keep all the documents handy in one place so you’re not wasting time looking for the same paperwork every time.

Request recommendation letters early

Letter writers need time to compose a compelling recommendation letter. Besides, they may also receive requests from many other students and may not be able to comply at the last minute. Avoid any issues by requesting your recommender at least 2 weeks before you need the letter.

Don’t ignore the small awards

It’s tempting to vie for the large awards and ignore the smaller ones. The problem is, the larger awards are highly competitive and difficult to win. The smaller awards are easier to win. The best strategy is to apply to both. Winning a few smaller awards can add up and lower your student loan debt that by that much.

Scholarships are a way to earn free money towards college and reduce your student loan debt. It’s worth taking the time to explore opportunities and reading up on scholarship tips to maximize the awards you can win.

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