Posted on July 30, 2015 in Financial Aid
Scholarships are financial aid packages awarded to sudents to help further their education. They are typically awarded on merit, excellment in an activity or association - different from grants, which are typically awarded based on need.
College scholarships are the most popular ways for students to help pay for college. Scholarships are free and do not require you repay them - ala Student Loan. Most students start applying for scholarships in their junior and senior years in high school, and will continue to research and apply for them throught their college career. There are thousands of scholarships offered by universities, organizations and private foundations, all seeking students who show strong commitment and desire to excel in their studies.
How to Apply for a Scholarship
Applying for scholarship is very similar to applying for college - you first need research scholarships that you qualify for (we will provide links below) and then complete the specific application requirements. Most of the time you will need to write a personal statement or essay that supports why you are a qualified candidate for the scholarship. You may also need to gather letters of recommendation from teachers, guidance counselors or prominent community members as well. Scholarships will always have a submission guideline and we recommend that you submit your application as far ahead of the deadline as possible.
While all scholarships are different, the following tips and guidelines will apply to most and ensure that you are ahead of the curve in the application process:
Read the Eligibility Requirements Carefully
Some scholarships will have very specific rules and requirements. Be sure to read and re-read these requirements - often time deviating, even slightly, from the scholarship rules will void your application. If any of the rules are unclear or confusing, reach out to the person/company in charge of administering the scholarship. Theres nothing worse than writing a 1,000 word essay and submitting it to a scholarship that has a hard limit of 750 words.
Organize all Your Materials
Most likely you will apply to several scholarships simultaneously. Therefore it is important to keep all of your materials separated for each scholarship so you don't accidently submit the wrong items to one another.
Most scholarships require that you provide many or all of the following:
- High school or community college transcript
- Standardized test scores - SAT, ACT, etc
- Financial information for yourself and your parents, including tax returns
- Financial aid forms
- One or more essays or personal statements
- One or more letters of recommendation
Some scholarships will also require you do an in-person interview so be sure to prepare and practice for this.
Proofread, Proofread, Proofread!
This is a no brainer - submitting scholarship materials with bad grammar or spelling will undoubtedly void your application. Use your computers spell check and have a friend or parent proofread for readability.
Complete all Items
If you are unsure of how to fill out any parts of the scholarship application, contact the scholarship sponsor. Never leave any item or section blank as this will again void your application.
Make Copies of all Materials you Send
Things get lost in the mail more often than you would think. Always make backups of your scholarship materials and get proof that you mailed your app in. If for some reason it gets lost in the mail, you can resend with proof of the original mailing to ensure that your application isn't automatically reject.
Scholarships CAN Affect Other Financial Aid Options
One caveat of receiving a private scholarship is that it can actually reduce other parts of your financial aid. For example, grants that are given on a need basis take scholarship money into account when they evaluate your need for additional federal/state funding. If the money from the scholarship pushes you above their minimums, you will no longer qualify for a grant on a need basis.
It is a good idea to talk to the financial aid office at your college and ask about their policies regarding financial aid and private scholarships.