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Scholarship Application Strategies

Scholarship competitions receive applications from numerous deserving students each year. With so many students who deserve an award, how do they choose just one or a few winners? While some may believe that the best applicant will be the one who wins, that is not always the case. Instead, it’s often the applicant who does the best job of presenting his or her case who wins the scholarship money. So how do you become this student? The key lies in scholarship strategy and creating a successful approach to finding and applying for awards. We’ve put together some advice on scholarship application strategies to help you improve your chances of winning scholarships.

Play to Your Strengths

Perhaps the most basic scholarship application strategy is to apply for scholarships you have the best chance of winning. While this seems obvious enough on the surface, figuring out what these scholarships are does require some thought. A good first step is to do a free scholarship search, like the one available at Scholarships.com. By completing a profile that includes many of your personal strengths and interests, you can allow someone else to do the initial legwork for you when it comes to finding scholarships. You’ll want to start early—if you begin to investigate scholarship options when you’re a junior in high school (or even sooner), you’ll have a serious jump on the competition.

After you’ve finished your scholarship search, you can begin narrowing the list down to awards you think you have the best chance of winning. Perhaps you’re an excellent writer, you’ve had a truly unique experience, or you are fascinated with the subject of a scholarship competition. Whatever the reason, there are likely to be scholarships that stand out as awards for things you can do, and do well.

Beyond deciding which scholarships to apply to, you should play to your strengths in constructing your scholarship application. Everything you put in your application should be designed to highlight your strengths as an applicant for that particular scholarship, including the materials written by someone else. For example, if you need a letter of recommendation, ask someone who knows you well and can speak to your strengths, rather than someone with an impressive title or a friendly attitude who may not be able to go into the level of detail that scholarship providers would like to see.

Write a Killer Essay

A large part of your time and energy when applying for scholarships will be devoted to writing scholarship essays. Many scholarship applications require at least one essay and a large number of scholarship reviewers will rely heavily on the essay in choosing a scholarship winner. There are things you can do to write effective scholarship essays that save you time and highlight your strengths as an applicant.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a particularly skilled wordsmith, you can write a scholarship-worthy essay if you put in the time and effort the task requires. By learning about your audience and what they want (one way to do this is by reading about the scholarship contest’s mission and reading previous years’ winning essays), you can better tailor your scholarship application to their needs. This will immediately set you apart from the students who didn’t bother to figure out exactly where they were submitting their scholarship application. If you do it right, you can incorporate this strategy into a plan for efficient essay writing to maximize your results. Beyond that, following other basic guidelines for the scholarship application process and scholarship essay writing will keep you on track and help you create success in your scholarship search.

Pay Attention to the Details

The most useful, and often overlooked, scholarship application strategy is paying attention to details. From making note of scholarship application deadlines to getting organized to formatting essays, paying attention to details can make the difference between winning a scholarship and finding your essay at the top of the reject pile. Be sure to always follow the rules, no matter how tiny or arbitrary, and to observe appropriate scholarship application etiquette. Taking these steps will ensure that it’s the substance of your scholarship application that stands out, not the errors in its presentation.

Last Edited: June 2015

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