Free money, the solution to all of our financial problems. What if you had the tools to put your best foot forward for free money to use towards college? Would you use them?
Consider today your lucky day, as I am going to give you my top five tips and tricks for completing scholarship applications and essays. Keep in mind, each application is unique to the donor. Some scholarships may have few requirements while others will involve lengthy essays and documentation. Starting the search process early will give you time to navigate these different applications.
#1. Answer every question completely
Seems simple right? An incomplete or hastily filled out scholarship application is missing your first opportunity to put your best foot forward and persuade scholarship committees to consider you.
Don't simply answer “yes” or “no” to a question and and move on to the next. I advise students to think about the five Ws and one H - who, what, when, where, why and how. The best scholarship essays include at least two or three of those in each answer. The more you detail you provide, the more your audience will learn about you.
#2. Create a template
Scholarship applications, especially if you are filling them out completely, can be time consuming. The best way to save time and still have quality applications is to create a basic template for your essays. Your template should include your name, school, grade level, awards and accolades, volunteer work, and any extracurricular activities. You can add and remove to this template to best suit the scholarship you are applying for, but having a strong foundation will simplify and streamline the process.
#3. Include all your accomplishments (even silly ones)
Did you receive an award for consuming the most hot dogs eaten at the state fair? Did you volunteer at a book fair for even one hour? That's something! Don’t leave out those "silly" awards you receive or the years of perfect attendance or straight As. Each form of recognition highlights a different part of you that can help paint a fuller picture for the scholarship committee.
#4. Get personal to stand out from the crowd
What makes you different than the person next to you? For some, it might be playing an instrument and for others, it might be the ability to build computers from parts. The best scholarship essays showcase your unique talents, so make sure to include them in your applications. Sharing your goals and aspirations is another way to show your individuality. Focusing on what makes you you helps essay readers understand why you should receive the award over someone else.
#5. Plan ahead and save time to proofread
Have you ever written an essay the night before or morning of the due date? Then, days later you reread it and realize that you would have benefited from setting aside more time to complete the assignment? The time you devote to your scholarship applications will reflect in the quality of the work you are submitting. If you find that you are dozing off, save your essay and come back in a few hours. Put your best foot forward and those who are reading your essay will recognize the effort.
My challenge to you: Today, find one scholarship that you would be an excellent candidate for and set aside time to complete the application. Use the tips above and work through the application and essay process. Don’t forget to ask family, friends or teachers to read over your essay before submitting. Double-check your work and most importantly, be proud of what you are giving – after all, this is your future!