Scholarships are in high demand, and the competition is fierce. We’ve outlined our top seven favorite strategies for pushing scholarship applications to the next level. It won’t take much, but keeping these tips in mind will help you leave your competitors in the dust.
- Stop Putting It Off
We get it. Filling out lengthy scholarship applications can seem like a hassle, and with a new school year starting up, it might be one of the last things on your mind. However, you shouldn’t wait to apply. The application and approval process can take a long time. Experts suggest applying as early as possible to leave plenty of time to do it right. Don’t put it off any longer—it doesn’t pay to delay.
- Apply to Varied Categories
You might be more qualified than you think. Don’t feel limited by your current course of study or future career plans. There are plenty of scholarships out there that you may be eligible for without realizing it. Some different styles of scholarships include:
- Academic or merit based scholarships
- Athletic scholarships
- Group-oriented scholarships, such as awards for military families or minority populations
- Financial-need scholarships
Don’t restrict yourself to your strengths—there’s plenty of options for you to choose from.
- Customize Each Application
The shotgun approach to scholarship application is appealing. You maximize your chances by applying to as many as possible, right?
Yes and no. Applying to a wide range of scholarships is a smart move, but only if you customize the application to align with the sponsor’s goals. Each application you write must be unique. It’s tempting to write up a template and fire it off to as many sponsors as possible, but you can bet that they’ll be able to tell. Much like job applications or college applications, scholarship letters must be crafted with originality to succeed.
- Show Your Passion
What separates scholarship applicants from scholarship winners? Passion. Scholarship boards look for applicants that demonstrate enthusiasm about the subject or field. Don’t get caught up trying to sound smart or show off your accomplishments. Write with confidence, energy, and excitement. Don’t be afraid to get personal; relevant anecdotes and life experiences are great for adding a human element into your application.
Plenty of your competitors won’t understand this and will write their applications as laundry lists of achievements and accolades. Writing with personality will help differentiate yourself, and will leave a much stronger impression than another dull résumé masquerading as an application.
- Read the Fine Print
The devil is in the details. Whenever you apply for a scholarship, make sure you read all the directions. Some sponsors want more information than others, and some will request specific details about your education or experience. Some will ask for essays, some will ask for videos. Neglecting these critical bits of information can sink an otherwise flawless application. Make sure you know exactly what the sponsor is looking for before submitting your application.
- Lock Down Social Media
Good news: most people forget this step. Image is everything, as they say, and recruiters look candidates up when making a decision. And make no mistake, they will look you up.
You don’t have to purge your profile of every photo containing a red Solo cup, but make sure lock down your security setting to restrict outside access. Use those oft-ignored privacy settings to view your profile from the perspective of a stranger. The last thing you want is to spend weeks crafting your application only to be sunk by a few awkward photos from last weekend’s house party.
- Take Your Time
It might sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many applicants rush through the application process. Maybe they started too late (neglecting rule #1), or maybe they got worn out from filling out form after form. The reasons why don’t matter; the end result is always the same. Spelling and grammatical errors. Poorly constructed paragraphs. Disjointed thoughts.
Writing isn’t easy, and most people struggle on the first attempt. Take your time with each application you submit. Write a first draft, edit until it’s in pieces, and then write it again. If writing isn’t your strength, have a friend or advisor look over your drafts as you create.
Succeeding with Scholarships
Although there are plenty of snags that can trip you up during the application process, as long as you start early, you’ll have plenty of time work out the details.
Apply to as many different scholarships as you can, and ensure each application is specifically written for the sponsor in question. And don’t forget to review before submitting; thousands of dollars in scholarship money is a high price to pay for a few missing keystrokes. Put some care into the process, and the results will pay off.
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