The Do’s and Don’t of Applying For Scholarships!
It is a well known fact that college is an expensive undertaking for students. Everything from pens and pencils to school projects and tuition can cost a student thousands of dollars. We are all familiar with student loans (interest rates galore! years and years of repayment!) and grants (you have to qualify first) but what about a way to get free money? That’s where scholarships come in to play!
Scholarships are a great and easy way to pay for college without having to depend on your parent’s income or without taking out loans that you will have to repay. There are some important DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to applying for scholarships. Here, we provide you with some easy tips to help you succeed in scoring the scholarships you need!
DO: Be organized.
Like any application process, it’s important to keep all your records and files organized and in one place. Many scholarships require multiple items such as school transcripts, essays and class schedules in order for you to qualify. Misplace an essay or transcript and it could cost you the scholarship. Don’t let your hard work go to waste…stay organized and you’ll stay on track to securing your scholarship!
DO: Be Honest.
Not everyone can be Doogie Howser – you know a 16 year old genius that became a doctor before he could drive a car. When it comes to scholarship applications that focus on your grades, achievements and extra curricular activities, be honest! Scholarship sponsors are looking for one thing when it comes to you…YOU! So be yourself on your application and don’t try to be someone else.
DO: Apply for Multiple Scholarships – both big and small.
Who would not want to say they received an $18,000.00 scholarship to go to school? How cool would that be? In reality however, scholarships that large usually come with two downsides: Only one scholarship award and thousands of applicants. Applying for larger scholarships is a great idea but don’t underestimate the smaller ones! Many of your smaller scholarships have multiple awards to share. So, while they may be smaller in dollar amounts ($500 here, $1000 there), there are more award opportunities readily available to you (10, 20, even 30 scholarships can be awarded per organization). Also, apply for several scholarships from several organizations. The more you apply, the more you increase your chances of receiving multiple scholarships. And the more scholarships you receive, the easier it is to pay for college.
DON’T: Miss a deadline.
Scholarship sponsors are sticklers for details and one of those details just happens to be scholarship deadlines! This goes back to your first DO: being organized. Know when deadlines are approaching and be certain to maintain a checklist of items that need to be submitted prior to the deadline. Websites like fastweb.com and scholarships.com offer scholarship deadline tracking for students who register on their sites. Registration for both sites is free. Be sure to utilize these resources to help you stay ahead of the game and on time with your applications!
DON’T: Forget to read and proof read.
The number one reason students are disqualified from receiving a scholarship? Incorrect information. How can a Scholarship sponsor acknowledge a winning application if their name is “Scott” but the application says “Spot”? It’s important to proofread and proofread again. Don’t rely on spell check to identify every word. What if you’re using a term that is specific to your field of study and spell check does not recognize it? It could cost you a scholarship in the end. And, let’s not forget, proof reading does not begin after you’ve completed the essay. It starts with the scholarship requirements! Be sure to read and re-read specifics for each scholarship. Things like essay length, essay topics, questions to be answered and format for your submission (did they say “.PDF” or “.doc”?) will be addressed in the description and requirements for each scholarship. So read carefully! Don’t allow simple mistakes to be the reason you miss out on scholarship opportunities.
DON’T: Think you have to be an A+ student to get a scholarship.
The best piece of advice is to understand that not every scholarship is based on your grades. Things like gender, age, race, activities, volunteer work, and financial need are just some of the many requirements to receive scholarship funds. Organizations like the United Negro College Fund and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund base scholarship qualifications on your ethnic background. The Jeannette Rankin Foundation has awarded scholarships to 450+ applicants over the age of 35 who have faced substantial challenges in their lives. There are even scholarships for silly things like if you’re 6’2” or taller or have curly hair (visit wacky-scholarships.com to find more info about fun scholarships available). If you’re in school, there’s a scholarship out there for you! Choose scholarships that fit your background and apply apply apply!
These are just some tips to help you get started. Remember, you are your best advocate so stay positive about your education future and stay focused on your goals. Also, don’t give up. Just like a baseball player does not hit every pitch, you won’t win every scholarship. Don’t let the “strike outs” discourage you. Try and try again until you succeed!