Applying for College Scholarships? 6 Tips to Maximize Your Chances of Winning One

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By Guest Blogger Ashlee Hodson

Scholarships, better known as free money, are an important part of many students’ income and a cornerstone of their collegiate financial planning strategy. There are lots of scholarships out there, but with hundreds of applicants for each good one, actually winning the scholarship or grant you want isn’t a sure thing no matter how qualified you are. But keep in mind a few simple guidelines when you’re applying for scholarships and you could go straight to the head of the class.

by Keith Williamson

1. Work as hard on apps for small scholarships as you do for the big ones. Many students don’t even bother to apply for small scholarships because they feel that it’s a waste of their time. But when you’re in college, every penny counts. And while winning a $250 scholarship won’t cover your room and board, those tiny little awards – whether for $100 or $1000 – have a way of adding up.

2. Be organized. You’d think that this would be obvious, but people lose potential scholarship awards all the time because they forgot when their app was due or left out an important document. Invest in a calendar or use an online planner so that you can keep track of due dates, chart your progress, etc. Make sure the info you have for each scholarship is complete. Read the instructions and follow them to the letter. For example, if the essay assignment is to write about your community service efforts, don’t write about why people should be active in their community.

3. Be honest. A high GPA isn’t everything. Don’t exaggerate your grades, memberships, skills, or qualifications. In this day and age, it’s easy for scholarship sponsors to check your claims – and they will. Besides, many sponsors are more interested in well-rounded students who will add value to campus life through their involvement in the local community or school affairs; their interest in clubs, fraternities, and sororities; or their participation in team or other sports.

4. Be thorough. Remember, the people who’ll be reviewing your scholarship application don’t know how wonderful you are. And in early review rounds, when the panel will be looking for any excuse to winnow their list of applicants down to a manageable level, a simple typo or a misspelled word could land you in the reject pile. Proofread everything. (Consider asking a friend, teacher, or parent to read over your application packet with fresh eyes.) Spend quality time on the concept and execution of your essays. Create a CV to go along with your app, even if it’s not requested. It shows initiative and is a great way to highlight your activities and special interests. Make copies of everything and send your application packet by registered mail.

5. Be selective in asking for letters of recommendation. Choose people not only on the basis of how many great things they’ll have to say about you, but because of their standing in the community or school and their own reputation, especially as it relates to your areas of interest.

6. Watch out for scams. Remember the old adage that “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Don’t pay to search online for a scholarship or pony up dollars to pay for the chance to be awarded a scholarship. As one online website counsels, “Sponsors want to give YOU their money, they don’t want yours.”

Spending hours – or days – applying for scholarships might seem like a waste of time, especially with everything else that’s on a college-bound student’s plate. Tempted to take a few shortcuts? If you want a successful outcome – in other words, if you want to win that scholarship or grant – don’t. As with anything in life, you’ll get out of the scholarship application process exactly what you put into it.

Ashlee Hodson I DAYTONA STATE COLLEGE: Quirky, creative, a little goofy – and passionate about making a difference. This is a girl who dreams big. Hopes to one day earn a degree in Psychology. Ashlee, the world is waiting!

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2 Responses to Applying for College Scholarships? 6 Tips to Maximize Your Chances of Winning One

  1. Remember that it’s also a numbers game. If you apply to enough scholarships, you will win a few. If you only apply to a few, you are putting too much at stake in hoping you win those. I remember while attending UCLA, I went around to clubs and organizations looking for scholarships…applied to maybe 20-30 and got a few from there. Only cost was my time but if you convert the time spent to money earned, the dollars per hour wasn’t that bad.

  2. Kimberly Sunday says:

    Thanks for the tips.