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How to Win a Scholarship: From a Girl Who's Applied for 300+ Awards

Jun 19, 2013

by Diane Melville

How to Win a Scholarship: From a Girl Who's Applied for 300+ Awards

Yes, I’ve applied for a LOT of scholarships. It was basically my full-time job throughout college and was my preferred source for finding the scholarships that I qualified for. You may think that this post will outline how you should do the same thing. False: Me telling you how to apply for 300 scholarships would be like a guy who found a mountain of gold after searching for 30 years telling you to take the same long, exhausting journey. You don’t want to repeat his arduous trek – you just want to buy a one-way ticket to gold mountain! In the same way, I want to teach you some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way that will help you to win scholarships...without having to apply for hundreds of them.

Start Small. I started this whole thing by applying to one scholarship. That’s it. I won that scholarship ($1,500 a year for the rest of my education) and that’s what motivated me to apply for more. Some students create massive goals for themselves and set out to win a ton of scholarships, yet they soon find the process to be daunting and give up. The best piece of advice I can give you is to start small. Don’t try to find hundreds or even dozens of scholarships in one shot. Instead, find five scholarships that have deadlines within the next six months and make it a priority to apply for them. First off, it’s a lot easier to find five scholarships that you not only qualify for, but feel you have a solid shot of winning. Second, this will be enough of a taste of the application process to help you determine whether or not you’d like to keep this whole scholarship thing up. If you do end up winning a scholarship, or if you simply enjoyed the process, then you can go to town and apply for many more. Until then, keep it simple.

Select the Right Scholarships. National corporate scholarships draw a lot of applicants so even if you are eligible, the odds of you winning are low in comparison to the smaller ones. The same goes for awards with very limited requirements. What should you do then? I suggest that your five scholarships look something like this:

  • Two national scholarships (examples: Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, etc.)
  • Three small or local/state scholarships (examples: Central Massachusetts Community Foundation, City of Boston Scholarship Fund, The Girl Friends Fund Scholarship, etc.)

This mix still gives you the opportunity to win a national award but increases your chances of success by including smaller, local scholarships that receive fewer applicants.

Take Your Time. Now that you’ve got your scholarships selected, you should put maximum effort into completing the applications to the best of your abilities. Don’t procrastinate until the night before the essay is due and just slap a few things together with the hope that it’s good enough – really research and consider what each scholarship organization values and try to highlight the areas of your life that reflect these values.

Push Through It! You are going to feel unsure. Maybe you hate your essay. Maybe your resume feels lacking. You get stuck, then procrastinate, then neglect and before you know it, the deadline has passed and you didn’t apply for the scholarship. Don’t let this happen! If you don’t apply, you will never have a chance of winning. Push through those feelings of frustration, ask for help if you need it and just submit your scholarship application. Trust me, you’ll be happy that you did.

Diane Melville is the author of The Community College Advantage and president of the community college planning website, Transfer Bootcamp. Diane has applied for more than 300 scholarships (using, of course!) and paid for her entire college education using private scholarships. She hopes to use this blog to share everything she has learned about paying for college.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!


Share your thoughts and perhaps thousands of students will benefit from your unique insight on the subject!

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igwe chiomavictoria  on  10/30/2016 1:15:26 AM commented:

i hereby apply scholarsip in ur school.i love d programm u offer.

Jakai T  on  10/6/2016 12:16:01 AM commented:

This would be great if my state scholarships were ever open :)))) But this advice is great, overall. I'm just afraid I won't win any of the essay ones because I'm lazy when I write.

Cletus chidera  on  8/2/2016 4:13:57 PM commented:

it is so helpful

Adozuwe Kingsley  on  7/26/2016 2:02:51 PM commented:

I will be glad if I will be chosen

Ncobile A F  on  5/20/2016 4:02:48 AM commented:

Hi my name is Ncobile A Fakudze from Swaziland, complicated my high school in 2008 but still don't have money to do my accounting course please help me.i really need to study and go out there and help others

Jaqueline H  on  4/19/2016 10:37:27 PM commented:

Hi my name is Jaqueline and I will graduate from high school in May. However, in order to continue into college I'm in need of financial aid. I will be honored to receive a scholarship that will help me pay out my tuition.

Pamela G. L  on  2/22/2016 11:09:26 PM commented:

Thank you for that very needed information. I will take your advice and pray it works.

Darren K  on  2/1/2016 8:43:58 AM commented:

Hi Im Darren,Im From PNG N I Study Computor Networking...I really Need A Scholarship to make my dream come through and take back the knowlegde that I learn from the scholarship back to my small country. I Really Want It. Thnx

Michael K.  on  11/22/2015 9:58:24 PM commented:

Hi, we have lived in Europe now for ca. 25 years, Germany to be exact . We have a daughter studying in the states already with my son starting next fall. He has already been accepted to 5 universities but when we look for scholarships to apply to we are most always having to state that we are not US residents. we are a family of dual citizens - both US and German. Anybody out there with similar experiences? We don't want our kids to leave college each with +100K debt upon completion... Any advice?

sarai C  on  11/10/2015 3:10:28 PM commented:

Wow, thanks... The encouragement I needed.

Terrena S  on  9/22/2015 6:28:26 PM commented:

Wow, awe inspiring, it really goes to show how much scholarships can help, and the tips totally made sense.

 on  9/8/2015 6:44:36 AM commented:

am fredericko i am looking for a scholarship to help me in my university

Debra Nunn  on  8/27/2015 12:59:31 AM commented:

SAHM with student loans , I need grants no more loans!

Daniel k.  on  8/19/2015 4:08:51 PM commented:

Well ,am glad to have heard about your success in accuring scholarship. Kindly please ,I would ask you to help me a accure scholarship whereby I would wish to pursue biological sciences.Thankyou.

Daniela Burl  on  8/13/2015 10:33:32 AM commented:

I would like it to recieve a scholarship I don't have anymore to continue to go to school this will stop the furtherance of my education . I need your help I would like to get my bachelors and fashion marketing and management but I can't do it without your help

Dimitri W.  on  8/8/2015 2:35:03 PM commented:

Diane, this is such a wondrous story that you have been able to write in your journal of life. I am a junior in college that has had siginificant financial troubles with college, as of recent I was almost unable to register for my classes. I want to make sure what has happened to me never happens again. I feel as though I have almost developed PTSD from being in college and having these troubles.

Dimitri W.  on  8/8/2015 2:35:00 PM commented:

Diane, this is such a wondrous story that you have been able to write in your journal of life. I am a junior in college that has had siginificant financial troubles with college, as of recent I was almost unable to register for my classes. I want to make sure what has happened to me never happens again. I feel as though I have almost developed PTSD from being in college and having these troubles.

Ochieng B Ochieng  on  8/7/2015 5:47:54 PM commented:

I really need a scholarship so that i may study and and help other students who are suffering like me by sponsoring them.

Brittany A.  on  7/30/2015 3:34:47 PM commented:

I've done what you've done but I lucked out, how can I tell that the scholarship is right for me when I don't even know.

Charlene C.  on  7/14/2015 4:17:46 PM commented:

Thanks Diane for sharing your experiences with us. Paying for college can be so expensive, so it's nice to win any free money for college. That is my problem. I'm always applying for scholarships that I'm not likely to win because they're so many applicants. I will use these tips to win the perfect scholarship for me.

Abdoulie k  on  7/14/2015 6:47:34 AM commented:

I wonder who will be able to sponsor my career Acca

Njiru Dorothy Wanja  on  7/7/2015 2:14:04 AM commented:

This is so helpful. @pnatasha

 on  7/7/2015 2:12:24 AM commented:

This Is So Helpful...

Q.B.  on  6/27/2015 12:27:09 AM commented:

Thank you, I really needed that speech. I am currently moving on in high school to be a sophomore and I thought I'd start looking for scholarships early; for a head start. This speech helped me realized the .. well reality that I might not win all and that I should just start small and build my way up. Thank You again.

Sabrina W  on  6/24/2015 2:50:17 PM commented:

thank you! This is so helpful!

Kate W.  on  6/14/2015 2:18:54 PM commented:

Thanks. This is helpful.

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