We all know that paying for school is tough. However, there are thousands of scholarships out there that want to help alleviate the cost of college!
Applying for scholarships can be exhausting – sometimes more exhausting than applying to college itself! How can you make your scholarship search more efficient and effective? Allyson Collinsworth of The Office of Loans and Scholarships at the United Methodist Church has ten must-do tips for students looking to earn scholarship money this year.
- Apply early for scholarships! DON’T wait until the last minute. DO your homework, and know when applications open and close. Give yourself and your references time to submit quality work.
- Know the background, guidelines, and donor wishes of the scholarship program for which you are applying. Demonstrate this knowledge in your essay or through your references’ remarks. If you spend time on the application aligning your qualities, experiences, and education to the specific requirements and initial purposes of a scholarship program, you will be a front-runner for selection.
- Know yourself and market yourself humbly within the scholarship application as if it were a job application. Cater your application to the scholarship program you are applying for as you would a résumé for a particular job opportunity. Highlight the areas in your experience, coursework, and volunteer work that parallel the intent of the scholarship program or donor. For example, for a scholarship based on social-justice issues, emphasize and detail your campus ministry activities or community work with Alternative Spring Break or the local homeless shelter over your role with student government or a campus social club.
- Regarding your education, community involvement, and regular work, DO choose three to five people who really know you well, and who will be strong references for future scholarship applications. DON’T overwhelm one reference with the task of submitting 20 letters on your behalf for the 20 scholarships you’re going for. Be intentional about requesting letters from references based on the scholarship programs where they can be most helpful to you.
- Prepare your scholarship references by providing them with the name and background information of the scholarship for which you are applying. Provide your references with a list of your accomplishments and attributes as a helpful reminder.
- DO read and answer scholarship application questions carefully and thoughtfully. For example, is the application asking if you are a sophomore in college now, at the time you are applying, or if you will be a junior in the fall term when the award will be disbursed? This question could be a basic selection criterion that if answered incorrectly may disqualify you from even being considered for a particular scholarship.
- Spell check essays with a spell check system and with an actual person — Mom, Dad, or a friend who is an English major. There is no excuse for poor grammar and punctuation!
- Verify that your application is complete and has been received before the specified deadline.
- Follow up with the scholarship provider on the status of your application or award via the instructions provided. If there is an online personal page for you to view status updates, use it! If the provider notifies applicants by e-mail, read your e-mail and check spam and junk folders for lost e-mails. If you don’t receive feedback from the provider, contact them directly.
- It is your responsibility to read and follow the instructions of a scholarship application — from answering questions on the application, to understanding how you will be notified about an award, or how you will claim and receive the funds. DON’T bring negative attention to yourself and your application by asking the scholarship provider for clarity on a question when it is clearly stated in writing on the application instructions. Breathe, think, and read before you ask.
Allyson Collinsworth works with The Office of Loans and Scholarships at the United Methodist Church