I found a list of scholarships, any advice on how to win them?

In my last post, I explained some Easy Tips for Finding College Scholarships. So, now that you know where to find the scholarships, you need to begin the actual application process. I find that students are often conditioned not to apply for scholarships because they believe they won’t get an award. I want to dispel that myth. Students are receiving scholarship awards, but it’s the students who are well versed in the process that are getting the money.

First, a quick list of things to avoid:

• Sloppy applications
• Missing information
• Incomplete thoughts on essays
• Not taking time to read the directions
• Not meeting deadlines

With that in mind, here are some tips for success in the application process:

1. Research and understand the scholarship.

I sit on a few scholarship boards and one of the disqualifiers for many applications is that the student will apply for an award for which they do not qualify. Donors who fund scholarships are often looking for a specific type of student to win their award. Take the time to do the research. Are they looking for a particular classification? Can freshmen, sophomores and juniors apply? Do you need to have a certain grade point average? Do you have to participate in certain community or extracurricular activities? Doing the research will help you to identify scholarships that will be a good fit for your qualifications.

2. Quality matters. Take your time.

Give yourself plenty of time to complete the application. Most scholarship applications cannot be completed in one day. In fact, many applications will require days or even weeks to gather all of the comprehensive information. Don’t try to cram the information into an application two days before the deadline.

The team of professionals that sits on the review board can easily tell if a student took the time to prepare. Some applications will require letters of recommendation; it may take you several days to obtain these. Some will request official transcripts that must be sent directly to the scholarship team; this can also take several days to complete. This is not a time to procrastinate.

3. Be very specific and use concrete examples.

Many applications will require some sort of writing sample, usually in the form of an essay. The purpose of these written responses is to determine your ability to provide concrete examples in an organized manner. Usually there is a teacher or professor on the review board whose only job is to review scholarship essays. Make sure that your essay is well written.

4. Proof read, proof read, proof read. Ask others to help.

Most scholarship applications are evaluated using a scoring system where you will loose points for every item not included in the package and for items that are misspelled or not in proper format. Be sure to proof and reproof all information before you submit the application. Taking a little extra time could be the difference between getting the award and being asked to re-apply next year.

5. Meet published deadlines.

Timing is everything when dealing with scholarships. It is very easy for a review board to deny an application because it was late or all of the information was not received on time. It’s much harder to deny an application that really looks good, meets all of the qualifications and was submitted on time.

• Mail your application at least seven days before the deadline.
• Purchase delivery confirmation services or obtain the tracking number from UPS or FedEx to confirm the organization receives your package.
• Remember, many scholarship offices will not review late applications. Be on time or early.

Before I close, I want to provide you with a few closing thoughts on scholarships:

• Don’t skip the small dollar awards!
Many people want to go for the gusto and if a scholarship award is not thousands of dollars they will not apply. But, the reality is that even those small book scholarships valued at $100 can be very helpful, especially if you receive four or five of these $100 scholarships. Small dollar awards are easier to receive and usually only have a few people on the review team. Go for the award no matter the size of the award.

• Plan to apply for multiple scholarships.
One of the biggest mistakes that I have seen students do is put all of their eggs into one basket. Set a goal of applying for one or two scholarships per week for six weeks. This will ensure that you have 12 applications with your name on them sitting on someone’s desk. Your chances of getting an award are greater when you apply for more than one or two.

• Beware of fraud.
Even in the world of scholarships, scams are everywhere. A good rule of thumb is that if you should never be asked to pay to have your application reviewed. Usually this is a scam. In most cases you will not have to spend money to get money in scholarships.

Applying for scholarships requires a commitment of time and adherence to some basic guidelines. But a little bit of work could yield some big assistance in paying that college bill. Good Luck!


Derren is the Manager, Diversity Recruiting for Sodexo which is a leader in integrated food service and facilities management. He is responsible for managing the Sodexo Future Leaders Internship Program as well as executing diversity sourcing initiatives for both campus and targeted experienced hires. With over 14+ years of experience with Sodexo, Derren has had great success as a General Manager in the company’s Health Care Services division as well as in several positions within their Talent Acquisition Group. He’s an active corporate partner with the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH). Derren is an AIRS Certified Diversity Recruiter (CDR) and Certified Internet Recruiter (CIR).

Related posts:

  1. Easy Tips for Finding College Scholarships
  2. Top 5 Items to List in Your Scholarship Essay
  3. Holiday Wish List for Students

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