Scholarship Success, Tips and Tricks

The world of scholarships can be confusing, competitive, and complicated. Searching for opportunities can be overwhelming. Filling out applications can be fatiguing. Here are some tips and tricks that touch on the basics of scholarship success, organization, and writing an effective application [PDF] to ease the effects of the scholarship process.

The basics

Start early. If there is one tip to help you through the process, it is to start early. The more time you have, the better you’ll be able to prepare your application with a well written essay and all supplemental materials without feeling stressed. Don’t wait until last minute. If you are applying online, computer systems can get clogged with the large volume of applicants, especially before the last few days before the deadline.

Be prepared to do the work. While scholarships do not have to be repaid back, they aren’t entirely free. You may be asked to write a personal statement, essays, submit recommendation letters, and/or resumes as part of the application. Imagine the application and personal statement are part of a proposal as to why someone should invest in you, to help you remember why you are doing all this work.

Have realistic expectations. Whether it’s hoping to get your application essay done in a week or being awarded a scholarship; Remember to think realistically! Scholarships tend to attract a large number of highly qualified applicants. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t a quality applicant, or don’t show strong promise, but being unrealistic about the entire application process isn’t going to help.

Stay organized. Have a calendar, checklists, and folders where you keep important papers. Keep copies of everything you submit. Mark down your deadline and lay out a timeline.

Create a plan of attack. Since there is so much to do, it can be helpful to make a check list, note down requirements and make sure you’ve covered everything. Be sure you haven’t left out something important because incomplete applications are never considered.

Have a goal in mind. Know why you want to pursue an Engineering degree. This will come up in your essay so spend some time thinking about why you want to put in all the work and expense it takes to become one. It’s important to be focused and clearly state your goals in your personal statement.

Solicit help or ask for advice. If you know that you are not a strong writer create several drafts. Proofread and then ask for some helpful feedback from friends, family, or even professors to make sure your essay is in top shape.

Find a way to stand out! Include interesting information about you. Incorporate your “wow-factor.” Tell your personal story and engage the scholarship committee. Draw on your experiences by mentioning volunteer work, community service, relevant accomplishments, extracurricular activities, work experience, leadership, etc.

Keep your essay(s) clear, concise and compelling. Using big words doesn’t necessarily equate to better. Long-winded sentences can lose the reader. You want an essay to makes sense, read easily, emphasize optimism and compel your reader to keep reading! You can do this by addressing the questions you were asked using concrete examples, staying humble, being creative and standing out by telling your story.

Stay positive and say thank you. Stay positive and feel good about what you can offer as an applicant. Everyone is unique and has different experiences. Saying “thank you” can demonstrate gratitude and good manners. “Your attitude determines your altitude.”(Ziglar).