Winning scholarships sound pretty easy – just apply and wait for the money to roll in. That's not how it works, of course. But you can increase your odds of success by paying attention to detail and avoiding common problems that prompt judges to judge you – and not in a good way.
Many scholarship applicants often have to write a “How will this scholarship help you achieve your goals” essay. This gives the scholarship committee an understanding of how the scholarship will help students pursue their goals.
You likely already know the basics: Apply on time, complete the application, don't make spelling or grammar mistakes and meet the eligibility requirements. Even a stellar application from someone in Connecticut won't win an award that is for Iowa residents.
Needless to say, the essay is very important to the scholarship application. This is where students can show off their personality. Students should make sure to write a unique composition which answers the essay question.
Here are ten of the most common scholarship application mistakes students make as well as tips on how and why to avoid them.
Form a Strategy
One of the most common mistakes students ought to make is applying for every award they see. This does not stop here; an even bigger one is applying only for one or two high-dollar scholarships. While applying for scholarships, you need to form a strategy.
Many local groups offer awards – they may be small, but they can add up; plus, the competition is often lower. If you know your major, check out the corresponding department at your prospective school and see whether you qualify for school awards. Then, look outside your school for professional or other organizations that offer help within your major.
Don't count on winning that one big scholarship that will cover everything, but also don't apply for everything in sight. Why? Scholarship application fatigue can kick in – the more you fill out, the less committed you may be to each individual application and the more likely you will be to make mistakes. Decide on the best candidates, arrange them by the deadline and go from there.
Explain your Inspiration
You’ll then want to explain the inspiration behind your goals. What led you to want to pursue these goals? What experiences have you had in life which have influenced you and your dreams?
You may pride yourself on working well under pressure, but waiting until the last minute can leave you in a bind. For one thing, you might need transcripts or recommendation letters – which allow plenty of time to pull together all the required elements for the application. Plus, give your recommenders the time they need to write you a recommendation.
Don't pay for a scholarship. If a scholarship requires an application fee or any other payment, it's almost certainly a scam. And if you're "guaranteed" an award for payment, run from the scholarship.
Make your Essay stand-out
One essay won't suffice for every scholarship you want. Judges can tell when you've just changed the names of the award on a one-size-fits-all essay. Your essay needs to reflect your own self and your goals for each particular scholarship. It also provides perhaps your best opportunity to make the case that you're a winner in general and should be the scholarship winner. Make the introduction sparkle in case that's as far as the judges get – and don't try to impress with unfamiliar big words that you could misuse. If you choose to recycle an essay from a previous application that you think meets the current prompt, be sure to freshen it up. You can add a section specific to the organization offering this award, for example.
Your parents may nag you about filling out scholarship applications – after all, the more money you win, the less they pay. It may be tempting to ask your parents to fill out applications for you, but that's a big mistake. Part of going to college is becoming an adult. Start now and take control of your future with your work. While your parents might know the outlines of what you see as your future, they may not know the specifics needed for the scholarship application. Some scholarships also require an interview. If your parents complete the scholarship on your behalf, you could get blindsided during the interview if you're asked about something you didn't know was in the application. This doesn't mean you have to go it alone. Get input on your essay ideas and the finished product from a parent, teacher or trusted friend – or all three.
Mention your goals and dreams
It can be challenging to think about what your goals are after college. This is especially true if you haven’t decided on a major and have no idea what you want to study. If you find yourself struggling to determine what your career goals are, try brainstorming before you start writing. Think of what your short-term and long-term goals are and write them down. What skills do you need to achieve these goals? Talk about your education and career goals. Do you have a major? How will it help you achieve your goals? Do you have long term goals you can talk about? The scholarship provider doesn’t expect you to have long-term goals set in stone so don’t worry if you don’t. Instead, you can write about how you wish to impact others.
Design a Conclusion
In your conclusion paragraph, you should summarize the major points in your essay. Then finish with a closing thought. You should try to make it creative and unique. You want to leave a lasting impression on the reader. After you finish writing your essay, make sure you proofread it several times. The last thing you’d want to do is turn in an essay with grammar mistakes.
Recheck your details
For many scholarships, you can apply online or via email. But once you hit send, you can't make changes. If you are applying online, check that you have entered all the information correctly before you submit. If you are emailing your application, be sure you have the correct address. And always double-check that you've entered your own email address correctly. Also, make sure your email address is appropriate – not a novelty or nickname address like firstname.lastname@example.org. You can always set up a separate scholarship email. This may also be a good time to edit anything from your social media accounts that could be construed as offensive or distasteful.
It is common that students feel pressured and nervous while applying for scholarships. We are here to tell you that you have nothing to be worried about. Nervousness is not a commodity one can afford in this tough competition.