College Scholarship Application Tips

You’ve met with your financial aid office and combed the Internet.

You now have a solid list of two or three-dozen good scholarship matches. But how to you ensure that your scholarship application doesn’t land on the cutting room floor? Give you application the ole’ college try by following these 8 tips to landing a scholarship.
The more of this free money you get the fewer government student loans you may need so keep at it and don’t give up!

1. Be realistic.

A scholarship for a first-generation immigrant isn’t a good match if you’re ancestors came over on the May Flower. And just because a scholarship requires a minimum 2.5 GPA doesn’t mean your 2.6 is a shoo-in.

2. Read the fine print.

Before you submit your application, you need to be sure that you have dotted every ‘I’ and crossed every ‘T’. If the essay should be limited to 500 words, make certain yours isn’t 520. With hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of students applying for the same scholarship, even small oversights like these could land you in the reject pile before the second line of your essay gets read.

3. Be on time.

Like tip #2, deadlines in the scholarship world are non-negotiable. There are no extensions for chicken pox or sick grandparents. Keep a calendar of scholarship deadlines and make sure you honor each and every one.(And getting in a few days or weeks ahead of schedule certainly doesn’t hurt either.)

4. Tailor your essay.

After writing all your college apps, you probably still have that boilerplate “this is my life story” essay. Even if the content is perfect for the scholarship you’re coveting, make sure to tweak it for your audience. Not sure what that entails? Carefully review the criteria for selection and make sure you know what the reviewers want to see. If leadership, grades and financial aid are all mentioned, for example, find a way to work all three into your essay.

5. Not rain, nor shine, nor sleet can stop the post office. But if it does…

When mailing your application, pay a few pennies extra for “return receipt requested.” Better yet, always take the online option for applying – nearly all scholarships have one today.

6. Prioritize your details.

A long list of serious leadership activities can look very impressive. A long list of fluff stuff, on the other hand, is immediately transparent. Only include those activities at which you really worked hard – or which speak to your commitment to a particular cause or issue area.

7. Be choosy about those who recommend you.

Letters of recommendation are critical – and can often make the difference between a “we’d like to learn more about you in an interview” and a “better luck next year.” Be sure that the sum total of your recommendations provides a complete and integrated picture of your unique qualities. At least one letter should be from someone who can talk about your academics, while a second should focus on your leadership in extracurricular activities and/or community outreach.

8. Think like an editor.

Once you’ve finished your application and essay, let them sit for at least 24 hours. Then go back over them with a fine-toothed comb. Are your thoughts clearly articulated and accurate? Style is also critically important. So is neatness, so be sure that your margins are in tip-top shape. Once you’re 100% happy, ask a friend, parent or even teacher to think like an editor and red pen your work. Once you’ve finished those corrections, your application is (probably) ready.

Applying for scholarships can be a nail-biting job. By following these eight steps, your applications are sure to shine.

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