How to Apply for Scholarships
Scholarships are one of the best forms of student financial aid, for two reasons: first, they give you an incentive to do your best; and second, they do not have to be paid back. With careful planning and diligence, some students are able to fund their entire education with scholarships from one or more agencies. While each organization works differently with their criteria and application process, here is a general game-plan you can follow to apply for scholarships.
STEP ONE: GET PREPARED
Applying for scholarships is a time-consuming process; it takes more effort than just filling out an application and waiting for answer. The more you can do ahead of time to streamline the process, the better use you’ll make of your time, and the more time you’ll have to apply for more scholarships. Here’s a list of things you should get together:
- Personal information
- Cover letter (adaptable to each organization)
- Cover photo (some applications ask for this)
- Most recent school transcript
- Letter(s) of recommendation (from a teacher, boss or other significant third party)
- List of extracurricular activities you’re part of
- A draft of a student essay (Many scholarship applications require a student essay, and if you’re applying to similar organizations, the same basic essay can be adapted with minor edits and sent to several organizations without penalty.)
STEP TWO: FIND SCHOLARSHIPS FOR WHICH YOU QUALIFY
You can often find a number of organizations offering scholarships through centralized sites like scholarships.com. You can also check with your employer and the college you’re planning to attend, to see what scholarships they might offer.
STEP THREE: NARROW IT DOWN
Don’t be random in applying for scholarships; your time is too valuable for that. Instead, try to prioritize your applications based on what scholarships you’re most likely qualified to receive, how much money is available from the organization, application deadlines, and the amount of work involved for each application. Organization is a key to success.
STEP FOUR: FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS WHEN APPLYING
There’s no such thing as sending out mass applications when it comes to applying for scholarships; each organization has its own set of directions, and you need to follow those directions if you want their money. Take the time to find out what information the organization wants, and in what format, and make sure you do it just the way they indicate.
Some final tips to help you apply for scholarships:
- Start the process early. Don’t wait until the summer before school starts to start looking for funds. Plan ahead.
- Don’t waste your time. For example, if you know you don’t have the academic record to apply for a scholarship to Harvard, don’t apply for it. Be honest about what you qualify for, and focus your attention there. Scholarships aren’t luck of the draw; you are more likely to get them if you apply for the right ones.