One way to help pay for educational expenses is to apply for a scholarship.
Receiving a scholarship is like receiving free money!
You do not have to qualify for Financial Aid to apply for scholarships. Scholarships are based on major, GPA, educational goal, and other criteria.
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Top 10 Scholarship Do's and Don'ts
Scholarship judges may spend just a few precious minutes or even seconds reviewing your scholarship application. With such a finite amount of time to make a lasting impression on these important decision makers, it’s crucial that you make the most of this opportunity. If not, your application may be on the fast track to the circular file. To help, here are the Top 10 Scholarship Do’s and Don’ts that you must know to increase your chances of winning.
Top 10 Scholarship Do’s
- Get friendly with your own neighborhood. Take a look around yourself, and you’re likely to find some of the best scholarships. Your community is one of the biggest sources of scholarships. Local businesses, service organizations, city governments and even politicians often offer scholarships for students. Find out about these kinds of awards by contacting your local chamber of commerce and by reading your community newspaper.
- Choose quality over quantity. Unless you plan to make applying for scholarships your full time occupation, you’ll need to prioritize which scholarships to apply for. Instead of trying to apply to as many scholarships as possible, try to apply to the scholarships that best fit you.
- Understand the purpose of the scholarship. Every scholarship has a reason for its existence. Scholarships may be designed to encourage students to enter a specific career field, to reward students who contribute to their communities or to help underserved students enter higher education. Whatever the purpose of the scholarship is, it’s important for you to understand why it exists. Then use this information to guide how you write your scholarship application. For example, if you are applying for a scholarship that is based on volunteer work, then focus on how you have served the community in your application rather than any of your other achievements.
- Follow the directions. From your first game of Simon Says, you learned how to follow directions. And yet, when students apply for scholarships and thousands of dollars are at stake, many do not do this. It’s simple. Include all the information and forms requested, and answer every question.
- Write an essay that demonstrates why you should win. If you think of the scholarship application as your first handshake when meeting a person, then the scholarship essay is like your first conversation. It gives the scholarship judges a sense of who you are and what’s important to you. As you’re writing your essay, it’s important to make a case for why you deserve to win. Think about what skills and qualities the scholarship judges seek and then describe how you match them.
- Get feedback from editors. You can’t write a strong scholarship essay in a vacuum, and editors are the best people to help. Friends, teacher and even parents can make great editors.
- Proofread. No matter how strong of an applicant you are, it would be difficult for a scholarship judge to overlook spelling or grammatical errors. Proofread your application and essays yourself, and have your editors do the same.
- Practice for interviews. Some scholarships require an interview, and the best way to stand out in this forum is to practice. Ask a friend or parent to do a mock interview with you to prepare for the real thing.
- Ask your parents for help. Mom and Dad are capable of doing more than write the tuition check. They can help you find scholarships, keep track of deadlines and give you feedback on your applications and essays.
- Brag a little about yourself. No one else is going to do it for you so you’ll need to let your best self shine through in your scholarship applications.
Top 10 Scholarship Don’ts
- Don’t overlook your college financial aid officer or guidance counselor. Cozy up to these two people to get the scoop on awards from your college or high school and for local students. Helping students pay for college is their job, and you should take advantage of the knowledge they’ve accumulated.
- Don’t ignore the Internet. Fire up the computer, and use free web-based scholarship searches like ours (link to Financialaid.com scholarship search) to find more scholarships.
- Don’t ignore small awards. When there are scholarships worth tens of thousands of dollars, you might think you shouldn’t bother with the small potato awards. The truth is that a $1,000 scholarship is $1,000 less that you will spend, and even if it doesn’t make a significant dent in your tuition, it can buy your books.
- Don’t think that you have to be an academic or athletic superstar to win. There are scholarships based on leadership, art, music, theatre, cheerleading, public service and more.
- Don’t be a victim of a scholarship scam. Never pay for a scholarship search, to apply for a scholarship or for a listing of awards. You can find scholarships on your own for free, and scholarships are designed to not cost anything to apply.
- Don’t use the shotgun approach. It can be tempting to send the same application and essay to every scholarship competition, but this would be a mistake. Remember that all organizations that give away scholarships have different selection criteria. This means that the same application won’t work for all of them.
- Don’t forget to answer the question in your essay. There’s a reason why the scholarship organizations provide the essay questions. They want to know your answer. An essay can be very well-written, but if it doesn’t answer the question asked, then it’s not going to win.
- Don’t wait until the last minute. You may think that you do your best work on the day before the deadline at 3 a.m., but if you review your work you’ll probably see that you don’t. Take the pressure off, and allow yourself more time to complete an application.
- Don’t turn in an application that is incomplete. Scholarship organizations receive far more applicants than they can support. Don’t give them a reason to take you out of the running for not having a complete application, something that many organizations do.
- Don’t think that it’s impossible for you to win. Every student who has won a scholarship has thought this. And guess what? They won, and you can, too.
5 Reasons Why Scholarships Are Essential
By Scholarship America, July 7, 2011
Since we launched The Scholarship Coach in December 2010, we’ve tried to give you as much advice as possible on how to seek out and apply for scholarships, and also highlight the best ways to boost your chances of receiving a scholarship. We also think it’s important that you understand the bigger picture as to why scholarships have become so essential to the majority of students who want to graduate with a college degree—and why it’s imperative that you understand that scholarships can be vital to your post-college success. Here are the top five reasons why you can’t afford not to apply for scholarships in 2011.
- College costs a lot more than it used to. According to a 2010 Trends in College Pricing report by College Board, since the year 2000, public four-year tuition and fees have increased more than 5 percent annually above inflation. Tuition at public two-year colleges and private four-year colleges also increased by 3 percent above inflation.
- The economy stinks, and your parents have no money. Well, hopefully that’s not 100 percent accurate, but there’s definitely some truth to that statement. While parents still very much value contributing to their children’s college tuition, the amount that families can afford to contribute has declined. A study commissioned by lender Sallie Mae and conducted by Gallup found that the number of families who planned to cover few if any college costs had risen while the number of parents expecting to cover more than half of the costs had dropped. A similar survey conducted by Longmire and Company, a higher-ed consulting firm, found that 33 percent—the largest percentage of parents—said they planned on contributing less than $5,000 to their child’s college tuition, barely enough to cover four years of textbooks.
- The cost of college living is up. Unless you plan on living at home and commuting to school—a very good option for a lot of college students—plan on paying a lot more than your older brother or sister paid for your apartment, food, books and supplies. All of these things have gotten more expensive.
- State support for students has decreased substantially. Although it looks like America may have weathered the worst of the recession (let’s hope), many states are still reeling from the economic slump and most have made large cuts in public service funding—including higher education. As a result, public colleges and universities have increased tuition, meaning you’re probably going to pay more now.
- People owe a lot of money. One quarter of the U.S. population—70 million people—owe a collective $700 billion in student loan debt. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? It is. According to the Institute for College Access and Success, the average college graduate has acquired $24,000 in student loans by the time they graduate, and that figure is likely to increase. Experts say this may be the next financial bubble to burst.
I know what you might be thinking. And the answer is a resounding yes—going to college is worth it. Your college degree will be one of the most lucrative investments you’ll make. College graduates earn, on average, $20,000 more per year than someone with just a high school diploma, according to a 2007 report by College Board. The cost of attending college may seem daunting, but that’s exactly why finding, applying for, and receiving scholarships are essential to ensure that you won’t struggle to make huge student loan payments upon graduation. Scholarships are no longer just a bonus. They’re crucial for bridging the gap between the increasing cost of tuition and what you and your family can afford to pay out of pocket.
Scholarships are a great way to supplement your college education. There are so many out there and it takes time to research them.
Source: Scholarship America
Here are a few things to think about while doing your research:
- Apply only if you are eligible. Read all the scholarship requirements and directions carefully to make sure you’re eligible before you send in your application.
- Complete the application in full. If a question doesn’t apply, note that on the application; don’t just leave it blank. Supply all additional supporting materials, such as transcripts, letters of recommendation and essays.
- Follow directions. Provide everything that’s required, but don’t supply things that aren’t requested – you could be disqualified.
- Neatness counts. Always type your application, or if you must print do so neatly and legibly. Make a couple of photo- copies of all the forms before you fill them out. Use the copies as working drafts as you develop your application packet.
- Write an essay that makes a strong impression. The key to writing a strong essay is to be personal and specific. Include concrete details to make your experience come alive – the who, what, where, and when of your topic. The simplest experience can be monumental if you present honestly how you were affected.
- Watch all deadlines. To help keep yourself on track, impose your own deadline that is at least two weeks prior to the official deadline. Use the buffer time to make sure everything is ready on time. Don’t rely on extensions – very few scholarship providers allow them at all.
- Make sure your application gets where it needs to go. Put your name (and Social Security number, if applicable) on all pages of the application. Pieces of your application may get lost unless they are clearly identified.
- Keep a back-up file in case anything goes wrong. Before sending the application, make a copy of the entire packet. If your application goes astray, you’ll be able to reproduce it quickly.
- Give it a final “once-over.” Proofread the entire application carefully. Be on the lookout for misspelled words or grammatical errors. Ask a friend, teacher, counselor, or parent to proofread it as well.
- Ask for help if you need it. If you have problems with the application, don’t hesitate to call the funding organization.