How to write an exceptional scholarship application
Applying for scholarships is a bit like applying to college. In most cases, you need to complete an application, collect letters of recommendation, and write one or more essays.
But since your goal is to win a scholarship, rather than being accepted into college, your approach should be a little different.
To help you get funding for college, we’ve put together scholarship writing tips and other tips on how to write an application with a better chance of success:
1. Write a unique scholarship essay
2. Collect awesome letters of recommendation
3. Be careful when filling out the application form
4. Request your transcript early
5. Prepare a solid CV
6. Gather your financial aid information in advance
● More: Make sure to apply early and often for the scholarships
Most scholarship organizations ask you to write an essay about yourself and your future plans. Your essay is your chance to speak directly to the scholarship committee, as well as share your unique story.
“Essay is at the heart of scholarship application, so students should focus on learning how to write an essay that moves judges,” said Monica Matthews, scholarship specialist and founder of How to win scholarships.
A key tip for the scholarship test from an expert colleague and founder of The scholarship system Jocelyn Paonita Pearson must open your essay with a “check mark”.
“A great way to grab attention is to start with a story or paint a picture for the reader,” Pearson said. “Start at the most intense point in the story or main plot, then go back if you need to tell a story.”
Pearson also recommends linking core values so that your reader understands who you are and what is important to you.
“Students need to identify the values that are important to them and relate to those in these essays,” she said. “This naturally leads to a more passionate and memorable essay, which can increase the odds of winning.”
And Matthews says don’t forget about the core values of the scholarship organization, because associating them with your answers might show you’ve done your homework.
“Take some time to learn the background and mission statement of the organization offering the scholarship,” Matthews suggested. “This information can be incorporated into the essay when it matches the student’s prompt and values.”
By following these scholarship writing tips, as well as customizing your essay for each application, you can increase your chances of winning a scholarship for college. For more tips on the trial portion of the app, see our detailed writing guide and some mistakes to avoid.
As with a university application, you will probably need to secure one or more letters of recommendation. These usually come from a teacher, but can also come from a counselor, principal, coach, supervisor, or other adult you have worked with in a meaningful way.
Matthews recommends that you think carefully about who to ask.
“Students need to strategically choose who they would like to write their letters of recommendation and have them tailor each letter to the purpose of the scholarship,” Matthews said.
“For example, a student entering engineering and applying for a STEM scholarship should ask their senior math teacher to write a letter of recommendation and mention the student’s strong math skills.” , she said.
Besides asking the right person, you can also help your recommender write a strong letter by giving them your resume or a list of activities.
“Handing the letter writer with a scholarship or an activity resume is another smart move that will help students achieve more detailed and personal letters,” Matthews said. “It also makes the letter writer’s job much easier, and his appreciation for the student who requests it will be reflected in his writing.”
The best letters don’t just repeat your resume, but also provide insight into who you are and what makes you tick. By following the steps above, you could help your recommender set up a strong approval for your scholarship application.
Most scholarships ask you fill out forms with your personal information. While this part of the app is pretty straightforward, it’s important to take a close look.
Make sure all of your information is accurate and up to date, and read all of the instructions carefully to make sure you have met all of the requirements. The last thing you want is for your application to be rejected for a technicality.
Finally, proofread everything – maybe a few times – before sending it in to check for spelling or grammar mistakes.
Pearson also recommends that a friend, family member, or teacher review it.
“Always have a second set of eyes to reread the request,” Pearson said. “Dumb mistakes can lead the application to the trash.”
If you are applying for a scholarship that considers academic merit, you will need to send your transcript. Some organizations will allow you to upload your own transcript, while others might ask your school counselor to upload it or send it directly in a sealed envelope.
Whether or not the organization requires this type of confidentiality, it is important to request your transcript as soon as possible. Your school counselor could help hundreds of students, all of whom are juggling their own deadlines for scholarships and college admissions.
Let your advisor know your deadlines at least a few weeks in advance and follow up with them to make sure everything arrives on time. Using an online planner or calendar to keep track of your deadlines will also help you stay organized.
Whether or not the scholarship application requires it, it may be useful to create a CV. Your CV may highlight internships, jobs, managerial positions, awards, or other experiences and accomplishments that you want to draw attention to.
“Students should write a resume, although it’s not mandatory,” Pearson said. “A student resume can be great additional information if the committee allows additional material of their choice.”
Check out Google Docs or Zety templates for resume examples you can use, and try to keep them all on one page. While a resume is usually not necessary, this extra step might impress a scholarship committee and show that you are determined to go the extra mile.
Finally, many organizations take financial needs into account when awarding scholarships. Therefore, you may need to collect your family’s financial information or submit a copy of your Estimated family contribution (EFC), a calculation that is done after you submit the FAFSA.
Collecting all of this information and submitting to the FAFSA can take some time, so read the requirements and start planning early. Also remember to file a CSS (see our CSS guide why this can be useful).
And if the scholarship is mainly awarded on a need-based basis, don’t forget to point out how this scholarship could help alleviate financial pressure and help you achieve your goals in your application.
While scholarship applications can take time, the effort might be worth it if it leads to more funding for colleges. Therefore search for scholarship opportunities at local and national levels, and apply early and often.