Before you go out in search of student loans to help pay for college, you need to realize there is free money in the form of scholarships out there that a lot of people won’t put in the necessary amount of time and effort required to get it. Creating a well-reasoned, informative and well-written scholarship essay is one of the things you can do to give you the edge you need. The trick is to give your best effort, follow directions to the letter, and be as efficient as possible. Follow the steps below and your time spent completing scholarship applications may pay off.
Many scholarships require an essay. The majority of them will provide an essay subject(s) and most will only allow a limited number of characters or words per entry. Gather all of these scholarships in one place and compare them. Make a list of the scholarship providers to whom you might be able to submit the same essay without hurting your chances of winning. The great thing about scholarship essays is that there is so often overlap in the required subject matter that you can "recycle" them. If you can enter a single essay multiple times, you will cut the amount of time you need to spend applying to each considerably.
If a scholarship provider feels you haven’t put forth the proper effort or have ignored the rules, you may not have a shot at winning the award... no matter how good your essay is. Pick the scholarship opportunity with the strictest rules and begin with that one. Next, add any criteria from the others (as long as they don't conflict with one another). Now all that’s left to do is write an essay that will satisfy the requirements of all of them while giving you the best chance to win.
Writing scholarship essays that satisfy the requirements of a different scholarship to which you may be applying may not be as difficult as you think. In fact, you may be able to write just one or two such essays that you can submit to several different scholarship providers. Many scholarship providers use their websites to post previous winning submissions. Read these essays for inspiration. Take a cue from their grammar, sentence structure, the way they addressed the subject, etc. Get a feel for what scholarship providers generally seem to want in a winning essay and then give it to them. If you have difficulty with spelling and/or grammar, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance from teachers, parents and friends. They might be able to provide you with valuable pointers.
Believe it or not, some scholarship providers actually specify the font type and size as part of their scholarship essay requirements. If you have access to a computer and printer, take the time to prepare a type-written essay following any formatting requirements or guidelines set forth by the scholarship provider. If you have the time and know-how, create address labels for your scholarship envelope. Every little detail towards a clean and professional presentation will make an impression on the person reading your essay.
The obvious answer is "Whichever scholarship is worth the most money" but only assuming you haven’t put things off for too long. It is imperative that you respect deadlines and get your scholarship applications and/or essays in on time. Put those with the closest due date at the top of your list and don’t bother with those you don't qualify for and/or don't stand a good chance of winning. Once you have finished the ones that are "slam dunks," you may still have time to go back and apply to the ones in the "maybe" category. Starting early gives you the best chance to apply to as many scholarships as possible. With enough of a head start, you will be able to base priority strictly on the largest amount of money being offered and on confidence in your ability to win a scholarship. Good luck!
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