Winning a Scholarship
The most basic tip to winning a scholarship? Apply early, apply often.
January 09, 2013
One of the most common questions we receive at Fastweb is how to increase your chances of winning a scholarship.
To help answer these questions, Mark Kantrowitz, a nationally recognized financial expert, put together a list of tips to help you achieve scholarship search success.
Kantro cautions that many of these tips may sound like common sense but, unfortunately, common sense isn’t always that common.
• Start Your Search
Start searching for scholarships as soon as possible. The sooner you start, the fewer deadlines you will miss and the more time you will have to complete your application.
• Utilize Free Scholarship Matching Services
Fastweb and other similar sites match your personal background profile with a large database of scholarships, showing you every scholarship you’re eligible for. Whenever a new scholarship is added to the database, Fastweb will send you an email about the scholarship if it matches your profile. The Fastweb database is updated on a daily basis, which means you’ll have lots of opportunities to find scholarships to apply for.
• Answer Everything
When using a scholarship matching service, answer all of the optional questions. Students who answer the optional questions tend to match twice as many scholarships as students who answer just the required questions. The optional questions are there to trigger the inclusion of specific awards.
• Search Offline
Scholarships aren’t just available on the Internet, they’re pretty much all around you. For example, look for local scholarships posted to bulletin boards near your high school guidance counselor’s office or college’s financial aid office. You can also find local awards posted at your public library near the jobs and careers section.
• Open a Book
Scholarship listing books can also be a good source of information about scholarships. They are particularly handy for random exploration, where you open it to a random page and see what scholarships are listed. Before relying on a book, however, check the copyright date. About 10 percent of scholarships change in a significant way each year, so a book that is more than a year or two old is too old to be useful.
• Read the Paper
The coupon section of the Sunday newspaper is also a good source of information about scholarships, since many national companies advertise their scholarships there. Many popular brands, like Coca Cola, Tylenol, Discover, and Dr. Pepper sponsor scholarship programs.
• Apply like Crazy
Apply to every scholarship for which you are eligible, and only to scholarships for which you are eligible. There’s an element of luck, not just skill, in winning a scholarship. So the more applications you submit, the greater your chances are of winning a scholarship. It gets easier after your first half dozen applications, since you’ll be able to reuse and adapt your application essays.
• Don’t Discriminate
Don’t skip small scholarships. Many students dislike small scholarships because they think they aren’t worth the time, but the smaller scholarships are easier to win because fewer students apply. The amounts add up, and they add lines to your resume that may make it easier to win the larger scholarships.
• Speak, then Write
Students also dislike scholarships that require an essay because many don’t feel confident in their writing skills. If you have trouble writing essays, try recording yourself as you answer the essay question out loud, then transcribe the recording. Most people speak at about 200 words per minute, but write or type at 30 to 60 words a minute. The act of writing can interfere with the flow of thought whereas answering the question out loud also yields a more fluid and passionate essay.
• Personalize Your Essay
Keep it interesting, since a trite essay will be boring. How did you affect other people and how did they affect you? Keep in mind that the person reviewing your application will be reading many essays and you want yours to keep their attention. Try to stand out and be memorable in a positive way.
Proofread your application before mailing it. The selection committee will be evaluating you by the way you write and an essay filled with spelling and grammar errors will give a bad impression and signify that you didn’t care enough to take the time to review your application for errors.
• Keep Records
Make a photocopy of your application before mailing it. Send the application by certified mail, return receipt requested or with delivery confirmation, so you will have proof the application was received on time. That way, if anything were to happen with the mail, you would not be disqualified for missing the deadline.
Keep in mind that applying for scholarships is a numbers game. The more you apply for, the better your odds of winning. Unfortunately, it’s difficult at times and you may feel discouraged because not everyone is guaranteed to win one. Scholarship winners will tell you that it’s vital to never give up on applying for scholarships—because then you’re absolutely guaranteed to never win one.
Do you have any other tips on how to win a scholarship?