One of the best things about scholarships is that for the most part, they reward the applicants who put forth the most effort. Like teachers who can instantly spot a sloppy homework assignment, scholarship judges can identify poorly composed applications without lifting a finger. Depending upon the award and how many students participate, the process of eliminating underqualified students can be competitive at best…and downright ruthless at worst. You may already be thinking “They won’t pick me, so why am I wasting my time?” Not true! The financial assistance obtainable through scholarships is worth it, even if you don’t receive an award from each and every scholarship that you apply to.
Most of the students who succeeded in earning scholarships did so for two reasons: 1) They met the criteria outlined by the scholarship sponsor. 2) They approached the application porcess strategically and were selective in their pursuit of the scholarship opportunities. It’s that simple!
There is no magic recipe that will help you win scholarships. What there is , however, is a time-tested strategy that many students find incredibly helpful in organizing their scholarship search. The students who apply these techniques usually come out ahead in the end.
Make a List
Gather the information for all of the scholarship offers that you are not qualified to apply for. The latter part of this suggestion is essential – do not spend time applying for scholarships for which your GPA, major, community involvement requirement or any other criteria that does not meet the standard. There are likely hundreds of awards for which you specifically qualify, so focus your attention on those. Read through your list and eliminate all awards that you are not qualified for.
Access Each Individual Opportunity
This will take your time but your investment will pay off. After narrowing down your list, so that it only includes the scholarships that are most relevant, consider the following catagories: Deadlines – How long do you have to complete the scholarship? Difficulty of Preparation – Considering the deadline, do you have time to prepare for this award? Award Amount – How much is this award worth? If it is only a few hundred dollars, consider whether or not you are willing to spend your time on it. Keep in mind that every little bit helps and that you have a greater chance of receiving slightly smaller awards as opposed to full tuition grants and scholarships, simply because they are less competitive.
Prioritize Your Opportunities
Now that you have determined the value of the scholarships that you have selected based on when the deadline is, preparation required, and the amount of the award, create a rating system. A simple way to do this is to rate each scholarship with a (-) or (+) sign next to the award. For example, an award with three plus signs is a scholarship you must apply for. The deadline is far off, average preparation is required and the award is $2,000. On the other hand, a scholarship with two minus signs might cause you to reconsider before taking the time to apply. It could be the amount of preparation required simply exceeds the amount of effort you are willing to exert because the scholarship award is on $100.
Alright, you’ve determined what scholarships you are actually interested in applying for. Chances are your list is a good bit shorter and much more feasible. Begin submitting to the scholarships that you have ranked highest in priority.