Let’s face it, college is expensive. While there are always loans available, the less you borrow means the less you will have to pay back upon graduation. And let’s face it, no one want to have huge bills looming over them while they are trying to find a job! Scholarships are another route to go when financing your higher education and they are available to people from all walks of life, not just the uber-brilliant with perfect SAT scores and a 4.0+ high school grade point average. To land these “free” monies, however, it is imperative that you represent yourself accurately and intelligently on the application. By following the pointers below, you can increase your chances of landing a scholarship and reducing your cost for school.
Number One: Check Eligibility Requirements Carefully!
While this may seem like a no-brainer, make sure you read the requirements thoroughly. You don’t want to waste the time of the institution offering the scholarship (or yours, for that matter) by applying for a scholarship for single mothers if you’re a single guy, or for people with GPAs above a 3.5 if yours is a 3.0. Scholarship committees RARELY bend rules and are serious about their requirements.
Number Two: Read the Directions!
Many scholarship applications are thrown out because the applicant didn’t follow the directions laid out. If the application requires three personal references, list three: not two, not four. Similarly, if an application asks for your cumulative GPA, don’t put your major GPA. It is a good idea to read the application through once before beginning to write!
Number Three: Fill the Whole Application Out!
Yes, this means that you have to state your REAL age and your REAL ethnicity. If it asks for the number of children in your family, give it to them. Don’t skip questions, and only use “not applicable” if the question truly is not applicable (and chances are if there are more than two questions on the application that you are writing this for, you shouldn’t be applying for this particular scholarship). When you are finished with the application and have read it over yourself, give it to a trusted friend or family member to read it over and make sure you haven’t inadvertently skipped something.
Number Four: Be Punctual!
Late applications are the number one reason that people do not get scholarships. My advice: get a calendar and write the due date for all of your applications ONE WEEK before they are due. That way, if you do run into problems, you still have a week to fix it before it’s late. This is how most law firms in the United States schedule when things are due. If it works for them, chances are it will also work for you.
Number Five: Essays are Essential!
That being said, give yourself ample time to write and proofread it. Most scholarships want essays that have a strong voice and clear details. If you aren’t a strong writer, have someone who is go over your essay with you before you submit it. Once again, give yourself enough time to do this. Many scholarships weigh the essay the heaviest when looking at applications, so you should spend the most time on this section of your application.
Number Six: Legibility!
Scholarship committees are not going to take the time to decipher illegible handwriting, so even if you are the perfect candidate, you will be overlooked if your handwriting looks like hieroglyphics. Similarly, we live in the technology age, and while handwritten essays were acceptable twenty years ago, that just is not the case now. TYPE YOUR RESPONSES! If your application is a paper application that has blanks to fill in, find a typewriter. The last thing you want is to be overlooked because your responses can’t be deciphered.
Number Seven: Label Everything!
It is not rare that the pages of scholarship applications get separated during the evaluation process. While this is a pain, you can make sure it doesn’t negatively affect you by putting you social security number, date of birth, and name on EVERY page you submit. This will help get your application back together in the event it gets separated.
Number Eight: Ask Questions!
Not every question will be clear to every applicant. Organizations know this and this is why all scholarship applications have a number to call for questions. Use it! Chances are, if you’re asking a question, many others have and will ask it too. Don’t allow your bashfulness of fear or embarrassment to get in the way of your scholarship.
Number Nine: Make Copies!
Things get lost in the mail, get coffee spilled on them, get eaten by the dog. If you make copies of your applications as you complete them and put them someplace safe, chances are you’ll be prepared in the face of a seemingly catastrophic event. If using a computer, back up your files. If using paper copies spend the five cents per age at your local library and make a couple copies for yourself.
Number Ten: Proofread, Proofread, Proofread!
Typos are not acceptable. Ever. Grammatical errors cease being cute at the age of ten. Simple proofreading by yourself and a friend or family member ensure that you won’t be overlooked for a scholarship because of easily fixable errors.