10+ Scholarship Application Tips

Spending time looking for scholarships to help pay for college is a great idea. But to maximize your efforts, you must implement tips that will help you win those hard-to-get awards. Scholarships tend to get very competitive. Sponsors receive hundreds of scholarship application letters for every scholarship opportunity and they can afford to be very selective when choosing a winner. These 10+ scholarship application tips will increase your chances of being the ‘chosen one.’

1. Keep Applying

In many ways, winning scholarships is a numbers game. The more scholarships you apply for, the higher your chances of winning. Completing several scholarship application letters may take up a large chunk of your time but, pro tip, it’s still worth it. Better to put in the hard work now rather than having to work hard to pay back your student loans.

When applying for scholarships, cast a wide net. Just because you’re a math whiz, don’t just apply to math scholarships. Look for others that you may qualify for and apply to them too. For example, you could qualify for faith-based or minority-based opportunities. There are others simply for high grades. And some awards have little to no qualifications as long as you’re going to college!

If you have an unusual skill, chances are there could be a scholarship for that, too.  Do you speak Klingon or sing in the choir? Are you a talented duck caller or are you taller than 6’2”? All of these may qualify you for scholarships dedicated to these unique skills!

2. Don’t Skip the Smaller Awards

Why spend time on the small awards when there are so many bigger awards available, right? Wrong. The bigger the award, the more intense the competition, and the more difficult it can be to win that scholarship. It’s not impossible, just difficult. Aiming only for the big awards could lower your chances of winning any award at all.

While an award may only be $100 or $1,000 (compared to those full-ride or $25,000 awards), it’s still worth applying to. Not only are they potentially easier to win – the money will add up! Even if you win a few, you could win enough to help make college much more affordable.

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3. Read the Qualifications and Instructions Carefully

Every award has different requirements to apply. This isn’t like a job application where you can still apply even if you only meet most of the requested requirements and still have a chance of getting the job. You need to meet all of the listed requirements of a scholarship. If you don’t and you apply anyway, you’re just wasting your time that could be better spent on applying to awards you actually qualify for.

The organization has also taken the trouble to provide instructions and they expect you to follow it. Not following the instructions provided will count against you during the evaluation stage. If the instructions say to submit two letters of recommendation, don’t submit three in the hope that it will bolster your application. It won’t. Instead, it may even harm your chances of winning.

4. Choose Your Letter Writers Well

Most scholarships will ask you to submit one or two letters of recommendation. Some may specify who that letter writer has to be, while others will leave it up to you to choose. Either way, give thought to it.

Asking the right person can make a huge difference. A well-written letter from your high school teacher or advisor who has a personal connection with you and knows your academic goals will hold much more weight than a letter from a well-known personality who does not know you.

While on the subject of recommendation letters, remember to ask well in advance. It takes time to write a letter of recommendation and the person you are asking may have their calendar full with other commitments. Respect their schedule and ask well ahead of time. This also gives them time to think about what to write so that it shows you off in the best light while still being genuine.

5. Blow Them Away With Your Essay

The essay is one of the most important elements of your scholarship application that can tip the scale on winning. While you may be able to reuse some of your essays for multiple awards, some scholarships will require pieces that are more tailored to the tone of the award or cover a particular topic. In these cases, you want to be sure your essay aligns with the content of the scholarship and the vision of the sponsoring organization.

In addition, keep the word count of your scholarship essay as close as possible to the word count specified. Double-check that your essay answers all the questions asked and satisfies all the requirements.

Last but not least, take time to proofread your essay. After you’ve proofread it, ask a parent, teacher, or guidance counselor to look it over for anything you may have overlooked.

6. Maintain a Professional Online Presence

Today, the easiest way to get to know some more about a person without actually meeting them is by checking their online profiles. Chances are all scholarship organizations and even colleges that you apply to will look you up on some of the more popular social media networks.

Do yourself a favor and clean up your profile on all social media platforms. Instead of posting party pictures on Facebook and Instagram, use these platforms to highlight your extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and community involvement. Talk about your accomplishments and your academic goals. If you don’t have one, you should also create and complete your LinkedIn profile – even if you don’t have job experience!

7. Stay Organized and Develop a System

Every scholarship has its own eligibility criteria, application procedure, and submission deadline. When you are applying to many scholarships, you could get the details mixed up and overlook some important information, causing you to lose out on the opportunity. Missing a deadline, in particular, can be disastrous. You cannot win an award if the organization has not received your application in the first place.

Creating a spreadsheet or using a checklist is a great way to stay organized! You can keep track of applications you need to complete, materials you have to track down, essays you have to write, and deadlines. You can even track applications by deadlines so you’re completing the most pressing ones first. You’ll also be able to mark when you complete your scholarship application so you don’t accidentally apply twice!

8. Start Early

The earlier the better when it comes to scholarship applications. If possible, you don’t want to wait until the last minute to submit your details. Technical errors are all too common due to high volume on the last day and you don’t want to miss out on a great opportunity!

Starting early also gives you the chance to apply for more awards. Scholarships have varying deadlines, and if you begin the process earlier, you may find some additional awards you qualify for you could have missed out on by starting late.

9. Use Scholarship Databases

Scholarship databases are the perfect way to find awards you qualify for! Without them, you’ll be sifting through thousands and thousands of awards by yourself to find scholarships you can apply to. How much time would you waste?!

This scholarship application tip can be invaluable. To use a database (like College Raptor’s scholarship search tool), you simply input your information about yourself. The system will return with scholarships you qualify for without you having to do any legwork!

The more information you supply the better as you can be more sure you qualify for the award. And as more scholarships become available, you can receive emails letting you know you qualify and should apply.

10. And Other Scholarship Application Tips

A few other tips you should remember when submitting a scholarship application include:

  • Don’t just apply your senior year of high school; many scholarships are for college students, too.
  • Many awards are renewable, so, if you win, always check if they need additional information to receive money the following year.
  • Don’t skip any scholarship interviews you’re invited to or you could lose out.
  • Talk to your guidance counselor and local organizations about any other scholarship opportunities in your area.
  • Don’t sleep on state grants; they can provide plenty of free money to those looking in the right place.
  • Always complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA); it is sometimes a requirement for scholarships and state grants, especially those that are need-based.

Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid for schools around the US—for FREE!


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