Scholarships are an ideal way to pay for a chunk of college expenses—especially since they don’t have to be paid back, unlike loans. With a variety of types and a variety of benefits, applying for scholarships should be at the top of college-bound and college-hopeful students’ to-do lists. No doubt a lot of time and effort go into scholarship hunting and applications, so making even tiny mistakes can be a big set back.
Here are commons mistakes students make when they apply for scholarships, and—most importantly—how to avoid them.
Only Applying to a Few Scholarships
College is expensive, and no doubt that scholarships can be a big help—but only if you apply to more than a small handful of them. There are thousands and thousands of scholarship opportunities out there—on a local, private, school, and federal level—and so just picking out one or two may not make much of a dent in your college costs.
Many will tell you that scholarship hunting is a numbers game: the scholarships you apply for, the more likely you are to earn some money. Buckle down and happy hunting!
Only Applying for Big Money
It’s definitely tempting to only apply for scholarships that have a lot of zeroes in them. $10,000 is more appealing than $1,000 right? But don’t discredit smaller award amounts. Scholarships with smaller funds are often less competitive, and they are in more abundance than scholarships with large payouts. Applying to a number of these smaller awards can really build up.
Only Applying to Private Scholarships
Many think that private scholarships—those awarded by individuals, companies, organized groups, and charitable foundations—are the only source available. Actually, private financial aid makes up for a relatively small percentage of total award availability. The big names? The federal government and the schools themselves. Private colleges especially tend to give out numerous scholarships and other forms of aid in order to make college more affordable. So be sure you file your FAFSA and do some research on the schools you’re interested in attending.
Not Customizing Each Application
It’s definitely tempting to copy + paste, especially when doing a repetitive task. Scholarships are one place where that may not be the best policy. Each scholarship (especially private ones) is unique, and the sponsor will offer it for any number of reasons. Because of this, it’s extraordinarily important to tailor each application to the specific scholarship donor.
But you likely don’t have the time to write a dozen different essays for a dozen different scholarship applications right? It is ok to reuse essays or essay ideas, SO LONG AS it fits well with whatever prompt is given by the current scholarship you’re applying to, and if you go through the essay to ensure it addresses the values and ideals held by the specific scholarship itself.
Pay to Play
If a scholarship you’re applying to ever requests an application fee, DO NOT APPLY. It is almost certainly a scam. Scholarships are about getting you money, not giving it to online con artists. If you see them asking for cash, run like the wind.
Not Reading the Fine Print
Many scholarships have a number of eligibility requirements—if a scholarship has, say, eight things a student must be / have in order to be eligible for the award, and you only have seven of them, don’t waste your time (or theirs) by applying. Scholarships take requirements seriously.
Make sure you read the requirements carefully (and then reread to double-check). This goes not only for eligibility requirements but also for application materials. If they need you to send in your latest school transcript, make sure you do! You don’t want to lose out on a scholarship just because you missed a tiny detail.
One of the worst things that could happen after you put in all the work of crafting an application is finding out you were too late. Deadlines are strict in the scholarship world, and sometimes students find themselves out of luck and out of time if they don’t pay attention. To avoid this, try marking down the due dates on whatever calendar you use. Set reminders on your phone. Or even set the due date to a few days before it’s actually due in order to give yourself extra time in case something pops up. Don’t leave it until the last minute.
Forgetting to Proofread
Typos, grammar, and punctuation errors are the bane of any application. These mistakes, no matter how tiny, make a bad impression to anyone reviewing the application. Always, always, always proofread things before you send them. Even better, get someone else to read it over. An extra pair of eyes can spot errors or things that don’t make sense where you maybe can’t.
These are all avoidable mistakes that can help streamline your scholarship hunt, improve your applications, and hopefully increase your chances of earning some scholarship money.
Another great tool that can help with college financial planning? College Raptor! With our free match tool, you can see college price estimates personalized to your specific situation!