You’ll need a series of tools to maximize the power of your scholarship search. Having theses on hand and set up will save you time and effort.
A calendar with reminders. Calendar services like iCal, Microsoft Outlook, or Google Calendar will be invaluable for keeping track of scholarship deadlines. iCal comes free on Apple’s Macintosh computers, and Google Calendar is freely available online. http://calendar.google.com
A text editor or word processor. You’ll want a way to keep copies of all your scholarship essays and writing them out in text on your computer will let you selectively copy, paste, and rearrange work you’ve already done. Most computers have a basic text editor; some word processors like Microsoft Word are bundled with your computer, and Google Docs is a free word processor online. One of the best features of online word processors is that if your computer crashes, you won’t lose your work. http://docs.google.com.
A spreadsheet. Keeping track of your budget and determining how much money you’ll need is important, and tallying up awards is even more important. A basic spreadsheet will help you keep track of scholarships you’ve applied for and stay organized. Spreadsheets are often included in basic office software suites, and Google Spreadsheets are free online. http://spreadsheets.google.com.
An RSS reader. RSS is a way subscribing (for free) to news, blogs, and alerts. In the secrets, we’ll talk about how to use RSS to keep on top of scholarships of interest. RSS readers are typically available online for free, like Google Reader. http://reader.google.com.
Phone, fax and email. Many scholarship applications ask for multiple ways to stay in touch with you, and having all these forms of communications are helpful. Free services from K7.net let you set up a voicemail and fax number for free; when someone calls or faxes, the voicemail and/or fax is emailed to you. As an added bonus, if you’re concerned about privacy, setting up separate phone, fax and email accounts will keep your personal life separate from your scholarship search.
Having an email address is also essential and typically free, available from service providers like Google, Hotmail and Yahoo.
A Web site. Having a personal Web site set up for your scholarship search is a great way to distinguish yourself from your peers. A personal Web site is a great place to store appropriate articles, videos, music and other content that would be ideal to show a scholarship committee but doesn’t translate well to a sheet of paper. Personal Web sites can be found for free in the form of blogs as well as regular sites, from providers like Google Pages and WordPress.
A word of caution! Be sure to create separate accounts for your scholarship search for profiles, email addresses and other digital accounts, and ensure that they are appropriate for business. Try to avoid choosing user names that some might consider inappropriate or immature (e.g. email@example.com) or loading a social networking profile with photos of wild parties. IF you currently have profiles like that, make sure you don’t use your real, full name on them, lest Google associate less desirable content with your name rather than what you want scholarship foundations and admissions offices to find.