I’m sure many people think that whenever they see a scholarship application, they think that only the “exceptionally perfect people” earn scholarships and decide not to even bother applying. If you do, YOU’RE WRONG! I’ve won 5 and I don’t think I’m near perfect at all… then again, I am generally pretty modest. You don’t have to be a straight A student who’s president of multiple organizations. I’m just a normal student with above average grades who’s in many extracurricular activities and enjoys participating in class. I usually keep between a 3.1 and 3.3 in my major and cumulative respectively, both out of a 4.0. You’re definitely NOT going to get a scholarship if you think that writing these “silly essays” is a waste of time. IT’S FREE MONEY. The tedious essay writing and question answering is very well worth it. Trust me when I say this: winning is possible as long as you try!
Some scholarships are need based (how much money you and your family make in a year), some are merit based (grades and academic involvement), and others are both. All of that definitely plays a factor in the chances you have to winning.
Most scholarships usually involve writing essays, which are more tedious than anything. Just keep your eye on the prize and stay motivated to finish the entire application. Winning looks pretty darn good on a resume as well! Before applying, however, make sure to READ THE FINE PRINT because you need to ensure you’re eligible first! There is a lot more that goes into winning a scholarship than just the essay!
Here’s some advice on what I have done to win so many of these (in no particular order):
1. Don’t bore the judges. I’m sure they have tons of essays to read. Don’t go over the maximum word count either. Make the introduction of each essay “suck the reader in” and entice them to want to keep reading. Don’t just start your first sentence with “I want to win this award because…” or end with “please let me win…” or you will probably get a rejection letter!
2. Be sure to not have any spelling or grammar errors or your essay will be thrown away/deleted and you will get a rejection letter… unless, of course, they don’t catch the mistake because they are probably reading super fast. But seriously, don’t do it!
3. Have people (ex your mom or school writing center) take a look at your essay to make sure it is error free, coherent, organized, not off topic, and ready for submission! Before you turn it in, make sure to proofread multiple times, as well as make sure you fully answer the question! That way, the odds will ever be in your favor!
4. Have your conclusion or last sentence of the question fully complete the essay and allow it to complete its full circle. What that means is that you make sure all of your thoughts are finished and leave the judges with a powerful message to think about while trying to give your final convincing remarks of why you deserve to win. On one of the essays I wrote, it asked me why I wanted to win and I responded by saying, “Winning this award will make me feel like I truly made a difference to the community, the School of Information Technology, and successfully inspired others to reach their fullest potential.” I ended up winning that award.
5. I like to listen to music when writing all of my essays to give me some writing inspiration. Get yourself into a writing zone in order to be able to focus and come up with your best word artistry. However, use your colorful vocabulary wisely and accurately!
6. Apply apply apply! You probably won’t win every scholarship you apply for. That’s nearly impossible and that definitely didn’t happen to me. The more scholarships you apply to, the more chances you have of winning. Never give up, no matter how many times you lose! Everyone will get plenty of rejection letters (unless you’re a super hero or very lucky), but don’t let that discourage you, especially if it was one you really wanted. There are many more opportunities out there. Who knows, maybe better one will come up and you’ll end up winning that one when you least expect it! Not only that, but it feels amazing when you win that “one” award that you thought you had zero chance to win because it was a national award, and you apply anyway because “sure why not, what do I have to lose? A couple hours and a few seconds of my time to read a sorry letter” and then you end up waking up randomly one morning and finding out you won. That is one of the most amazing feelings in the world. Never underestimate yourself!
7. Brag, don’t blab! In scholarship essays, you want to sell your greatest strengths to the judges. Make yourself sound like the most impressive person in the world, but don’t ramble on about the same thing for eternity or the judges will get sick of reading it and move onto the next person. For each “strength” you are trying to advertise, write about 3-5 sentences for it and move onto the next topic. You may not be able to hit every point because of a word limit, but pick 3-5 of your best attributes to sell. For example, if you’re the president of the club for your department, hold some sort of leadership position, were accepted into some honor society, did some major volunteer or coursework project that was implemented and it made a noticeable difference and was recognized in many places, those are some of the things you should definitely mention!
8. With your strengths that you are promoting in your essay, don’t lie. You have to be as close to qualified as possible to apply. With that being said, you should definitely be involved in school and not just sit on your rear end all day being lazy and a mediocre student and expect to win something. You have to do what you say you do and make yourself stand out in some way, especially on the essay. If it’s for a scholarship sponsored by your school, not only do you have to write a stellar essay, but you have to stand out in your classes and participate in extracurricular activities. You may not think these awards are biased, but I’m sure they are to some degree! Having leadership experience is definitely integral, but not required. Having involvement is pretty much required because you need to have at least something that distinguishes you from the rest of the applicants. You don’t want to be just “an applicant”. Same applies for having work experience/working at the same time you apply. If you don’t have a job at the moment, say “you decided not to work because you wanted to attend college to learn, focus on your academics to maintain your high GPA, and reap the benefits of attending a university, such as *insert what you’re doing here*.” Judges also appreciate volunteering in some way, which is something I highly advocate. Of course, you need to stay true to yourself when applying for anything. People who read applications would probably be able to determine if you are full of it anyways!
9. Many scholarships require you to list references from jobs or classes (or within your major). A way to not only win, but succeed in general is to befriend your professors and make good impressions on them. I’m not saying to be teacher’s pet and act like an arrogant jerk who sits in the front of the room and doesn’t let anyone else participate. Professors are people too and they don’t bite. Utilize their office hours and feel comfortable asking a question in class. That way, they will know who you are when you ask them for a recommendation. It will also show you have a work ethic. It’s all about NETWORKING and who you know, but you have to put yourself out there to get to know people!
10. Sound confident in your talents and use your writing as your outlet to showcase yourself. Don’t use phrases such as “I think I’m good at this” or “I may do this” or “I want to do this”. Say more definitive phrases that convey confidence, such as “I am the president of the computer science club and I enjoy doing it while doing xyz to help the club”.
11. It could also help to add a little bit of a “sob story” to your essays. For example, if one of your parents is sick or you have gone through many hardships to get to where you are now, that is definitely something you should mention (when applicable). It’s definitely worked for me. Of course, make sure you’re not steering off topic and are answering the essay question while doing so!
12. If you have applied for multiple scholarships and you are proud of what you have submitted, you can definitely reuse what you have written. It will save you a lot of time and you can tailor your up to date skill set that better matches the requirements of the application you’re working on. Of course, you can also use your previous essays as a reference if the questions to answer are completely different. If you’ve won one or more scholarships, you can revise the essay a little bit and turn it in again (as long as you’re not turning the exact same essay to the same judges). You can even reuse bits and pieces of what you have written in other essays. The more times you’ve applied and the more essay questions you’ve answered, the more content you have to reuse in the future and the less you have to write for future applications!
13. I have mentioned this before, but I’m going to save the best for last. NEVER GIVE UP! You can’t win if you don’t try, so might as well go ahead and apply! You can do it!