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Five Scholarship Myths

Five Scholarship Myths

Don't let these works of fiction keep you from winning awards.

By Ben Kaplan

February 03, 2013

MYTH #3: “Scholarship contests are conducted on a level playing field.”

The Real Story: Each scholarship contest has its own biases. This is not to say that scholarship judging is unfair. Rather, it’s just that each scholarship program is looking for students with particular qualities. The subjective process of valuing certain qualities over other ones tilts the playing field far from level. In this way, the ideal application you submit for one scholarship contest may, in fact, place you out of the money when submitted to another. Because of these biases, it’s essential to define each scholarship’s “ideal applicant” and to emphasize personal attributes consistent with this definition.

MYTH #4: “Applying for scholarships is just like applying to college.”

The Real Story: Actually, scholarship contests demand a modified approach from the college admissions process because scholarship contests are characterized by substantially more head-to-head competition. While college admissions officers compare students primarily to a standard, scholarship contests directly compare students to one another. Because of this more competitive environment, students who devise creative techniques to stand out from the crowd have a distinct advantage. In this way, a good scholarship application (which distinguishes you from everyone else) will likely be a good college application—but the reverse is not necessarily true.

MYTH #5: “The track record you’ve already accumulated determines whether you’ll win scholarships.”

The Real Story: What you do after you decide to apply for scholarships is just as important as the record you have already accumulated. This holds true regardless of how much time you have until a particular scholarship application is due. Content strategies, for instance, increase your chances of winning by adding depth and breadth to your existing record. Likewise, packaging strategies help make your application stand out from the crowd by creating a cohesive message that highlights talents, communicates passions, and emphasizes potential. So don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your die has already been cast. What you do now will make all the difference in the world.

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