September 11, 2009
Unless you're lucky enough to happen across an extremely obscure and unusual scholarship with only one or two qualified applicants, you are going to have to face some competition to receive a scholarship award. In the case of essay scholarships that are easy to enter or that come with a substantial award, you may be facing quite a lot of competition. In fact, with many scholarship competitions, you may be up against so much competition that there's no guarantee a reviewer will even have time to completely read and digest each scholarship essay submitted. This makes your essay's introduction vitally important.
The first sentence of your scholarship application is your first, best and possibly only chance to capture your reader's attention. To have the best chance at winning scholarships, you need to know how to start your essay off right. The following are some tips to help you craft an eye-catching introduction that gets your foot in the door and gets your application the attention it deserves.
Put it in your own words. While starting with a quote is a common technique in speaking and some writing, it may not work best in a scholarship application essay. Leading with a quote shows the reviewer that you know how to read, but it doesn't tell much else about you or your ideas. Use your own words to begin, and if a quote supports or enhances your argument, consider bringing it in later in the essay.
Avoid clichés and tired phrases. One of your essay's goals should be to distinguish you from the competition, and it won't do this if it rehashes the same overused expressions that everyone else employs. Keep in mind that the scholarship reviewer will be reading hundreds or even thousands of applications. What seems clever or cute the first time doesn't seem that way after the 50th or 100th iteration. A good rule to follow is that if a phrase belongs on a bumper sticker or in an e-mail from your mom, it likely does not belong in your scholarship essay.
Establish a personal connection. If your experience gives you a unique perspective on the essay's topic, show your reader this. Most people are suckers for personal anecdotes, provided the stories are interesting and well-told. Make sure the story you tell fits these criteria and actually enriches your essay and contributes to your overall message. Don't get melodramatic and don't bog down your introduction in an overly long, detailed or irrelevant narrative, but if you've got a good story to tell to frame your essay, use it.
Say something new. Are you arguing something that falls well outside the typical series of canned responses? Consider leading with your thesis, or at least some of the information or realizations that guided your essay towards its thesis. There's no better way to stand out from a pile of fairly standard responses than to have something fresh and thought-provoking to contribute with your scholarship application.
With a solid introduction and a thoughtful and well-written response, you'll be well on your way to writing a scholarship-worthy essay.
October 14, 2009
While most scholarship application deadlines occur between January and March, a number of large scholarship awards for high school seniors have deadlines that fall much earlier in the academic year. To make sure you're not missing out on major sources of college funding, be sure to start your scholarship search when you start your college applications, if not sooner. If you haven't gotten around to applying for scholarships yet, check out these awards with approaching deadlines for motivation. You may want to mark them on your calendar and clear some space in your schedule to apply.
Horatio Alger National Scholarship Program
Deadline: October 30
Dollar amount: $20,000
Who qualifies: High school seniors who plan to enter college next fall and to pursue a bachelor's degree. Students must be U.S. citizens with grade point averages of 2.0 or higher and critical financial need (typically, a family adjusted gross income under $50,000).
Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation
Deadline: October 31
Who qualifies: Current high school seniors planning to enter college in the fall. Must have a minimum high school GPA of 3.0.
VFW Voice of Democracy
Deadline: November 1
Dollar amount: $30,000
Who qualifies: Any high school student in grades 9-12 who composes a taped response of 3-5 minutes to the question, "Does America Still Have Heroes?" Entries should be submitted through your high school or the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post.
Intel Science Talent Search
Deadline: November 18
Dollar amount: $100,000
Who qualifies: High school seniors who have individually completed a research project in science, math, medicine, or engineering. More information on qualifying projects is available on the contest website.
AXA Achievement Scholarship
Deadline: December 15
Dollar amount: $25,000
Who qualifies: High school seniors who plan to enroll as undergraduate students at a two-year or four-year university. Winners will be chosen based on outstanding achievements in school, work, or their community.
These are only a few of the scholarships for high school students in our database, and only a few of the awards with upcoming deadlines. For more information about these and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free college scholarship search. If you qualify based on the information you provided, you will see a link to the award in your search results.
November 10, 2009
If you haven't already been seeking out and applying for scholarships, what better time to start than National Scholarship Month? November was designated as National Scholarship Month by the National Scholarship Providers Association to bring more awareness of scholarship opportunities to the college-bound or those already pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees. The organization works with scholarship providers to make them more effective in providing you with scholarship opportunities and exposing college students to the number of awards out there.
National Scholarship Month was switched from May to November in 2008 for a reason. Now is a great time to start applying for awards, as by next spring, many scholarship deadlines have passed and funding has already been disbursed. And even if you have several months to get ready for a scholarship application deadline, apply early. Scholarships are constantly being added and created, and in a tough economy, best practice will always be to apply early and apply often to get the most out of your scholarship search.
Browse through our site for tips on applying for scholarships to improve your chances of padding your financial aid package with scholarship money. One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that your chances of winning a scholarship award are slim to none. But someone wins each award, right? Why shouldn't it be you? For an idea of the kinds of awards you could win if you put the time and effort into your scholarship search, see our Success Stories page. Many of those students applied to a lot of scholarships before winning one, or had the same apprehensions you might have about your chances to win an award. Now they're enjoying life on campus with less of a reliance on student loans and a new confidence that they were chosen to win these awards from large pools of applicants.
Celebrate National Scholarship Month by starting with a free college scholarship search, where we'll come up with a list of awards that you're specifically eligible for and have a good shot at landing. Make your search as specific as possible, as there are awards available to students based on almost any characteristic you can think of. Play up your academic strengths if that's where they are. If you have a unique hobby, use that to your advantage, as there are awards out there that could reward you for your interests. And be sure to keep your profile up to date. If you improve on your GPA, for example, you could be eligible for a number of new scholarship opportunities you weren't eligible for before.
Most important of all, go into the scholarship search with confidence. There are awards out there for you, so start looking and apply for scholarships before the school year gets away from you. Happy National Scholarship Month!
November 11, 2009
Scholarships.com has a guest blog on CampusCompare today on the start of the scholarship application season, in honor of November being National Scholarship Month. Whether you’re just beginning to apply early decision to colleges on your list or are already on the campus of your choice, November is the perfect time to begin seeking out and applying for scholarships for the following year.
To read more and to check out the site, visit http://www.campuscompare.com. CampusCompare is a free website that helps college-bound students find the right school for them by offering free college search tools, like information on 15 categories of college life for over 3,000 colleges, and college admissions advice.
November 12, 2009
Scholarships.com is pleased to announce its 2009 Resolve to Evolve Essay Scholarship winners!
The five winners of the 2009 Scholarships.com Resolve to Evolve Scholarship tackled college costs, achievement gaps, energy policy, and post-graduation struggles in essays that provided not only their criticism and opinions, but workable solutions to problems facing the country.
College students have been creatively addressing current events and issues through the Resolve to Evolve Essay Scholarship since 2006. This year, the contest asked applicants to explore the efficacy of general education requirements or create their own “calls for change” in response to the current administration’s tasks for the future. The five winners each received $1,000 scholarship awards, and will have their essays posted online and forwarded to officials who may be able to act on their suggestions.
This year’s winners were Jennifer C., who argued that general education requirements should include life skills to help students get and keep jobs after graduation; Andrew K., who suggested legalizing and taxing marijuana to pay for two years of free tuition for every college-bound American; Tara M., who proposed investing in early childhood education to close achievement gaps and support lifelong learning; Yvonne V., who suggested more flexible general education requirements with a firm foundation that left room for greater freedom after the first year of school; and Tai W., who offered a strategy for energy reform in the United States.
"For me, winning the Resolve to Evolve scholarship has a special meaning. I am a returning student, and it took a lot of motivation to return to school after a seven-year hiatus. ... Winning this scholarship helped me prove to myself that I can succeed and accomplish my goals," Tai W. said about the scholarship application process.
Jennifer C. compared winning the award to "having my own cheering squad encouraging me to go on with my education and helping me succeed."To learn more about this year's winners and winners from previous years, visit our Resolve to Evolve award winners page. We also have a Success Stories page for scholarship searchers who have landed some generous scholarship funding by applying for awards early and seeking out scholarships often. Check those out to give you a confidence boost for your own search, as it's a great time to be looking for scholarships. And remember, essay scholarships aren't the only awards out there. Conduct a free scholarship search to see the kinds of awards you may qualify for, because many won't require an impressive academic record or essay-writing ability. Good luck!
November 13, 2009
Cancellations and cutbacks to scholarship programs have been making the news a lot lately. Michigan recently ended its state Promise Scholarship in the face of a budget crisis (though the state's governor vows to restore funding) and other states and companies are also having to make some hard cuts. The latest round has left five high-achieving Arizona high school juniors without the four-year full-tuition scholarship they signed a contract to receive in the fifth grade.
Budgetary cutbacks aren't the only way that students can lose scholarship money. Many scholarship funds are only designated for a set amount of time: four years, two years, or just one check. Other awards are contingent on strict eligibility criteria. A dip in your GPA, a semester where you drop below full-time, or a transfer to another college or university could potentially make you ineligible for a renewable scholarship award. All of this can change your college funding picture dramatically from year-to-year.
Students who are transferring will want to see if their new college offers scholarships for transfer students. If your scholarship is from your college, it's unlikely to transfer to your new school unless there's a preexisting special arrangement between the two institutions. However, if you've won an outside scholarship, especially one from a state or national organization, you should contact the provider to see if the award will transfer to your new school. You also will want to do a scholarship search--many national scholarship awards are designated specifically for transfer students, especially students who are moving from community colleges to four-year schools.
Students who have lost their scholarship from not meeting eligibility criteria will often have a chance to appeal the decision to revoke the award. Ask the scholarship provider if there's an appeals process, and follow the instructions exactly in as timely a manner as possible. If there are extenuating circumstances that led to the situation, you may need to document them. Above all, be polite and respectful and try to create a good impression, even if your appeal is denied. Awards that run out can also occasionally be appealed for an extension, or applied for again for a possible second round of funding. Check the rules for the contest or ask the scholarship provider if this is the case. Even if you lose eligibility for one award, it doesn't mean you're ineligible for all scholarship opportunities. Search for scholarships to see what else you may be able to find.
Finally, if your scholarship program has been canceled, there are still things you can do. Some providers, like our Arizona example above, will help students find alternate funding, and may even be able to supplement some of the difference between what they promised and what you can't find on your own. Some colleges are also making up for cuts in high-profile state and local scholarship programs by creating their own scholarship funds for the students affected. Other schools have emergency aid or one-time scholarships available to students who find themselves suddenly without the means to pay their tuition. Check with your financial aid office to see if your school can help.
Students who have already succeeded at winning scholarships are also likely to win more, since so many scholarship providers have similar criteria. If you find yourself caught without scholarship money you had planned to use, try to find some time to apply for additional awards. You may even win more money than what you lost.
November 16, 2009
Scholarships.com has a guest blog post on the Church Hill Classics DiplomaFrame Blog today in honor of National Scholarship Month. Although squeezing more work into your already hectic schedule may not seem like the best cause for celebration, free money for college certainly is. We go through some basic tips for starting your scholarship search and completing scholarship applications.
To read more and to check out the Church Hill Classics website, visit http://www.diplomaframe.com. Church Hill Classics offers a variety of diploma framing options, as well as the Frame My Future Scholarship, which has previously been featured as a Scholarships.com Scholarship of the Week.
November 30, 2009
Want a shot at a top fellowship, like the Rhodes scholarship? There may soon be someone on your campus to point you in the right direction. Just like college advisors and career counseling services can help you apply to graduate school or find a job, many schools are hiring fellowship advisors to help students land these competitive awards for graduate study.
Fellowship advising, once found almost exclusively at Ivy League schools, has become a growing trend at unviersities nationwide, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Fellowship advisors get in touch talented and ambitious students on their campuses and help motivate them to seek out and apply for prestigious fellowships, such as the Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, and Fulbright scholarships. Since the common understanding of these programs is that they are exclusively for the best of the best, usually exceptional students at top-ranked universities, many students who could qualify and potentially win don't even think about applying.
Fellowship advisors typically look for students engaged in challenging coursework, research, and extracurricular activities, and encourage them to consider graduate study and fellowship funding. For many, the goal isn't so much to have students at their schools win these prizes, but to help outstanding students define their goals, push themselves, and get the most out of their educations. The process of preparing and competing for a prestigious fellowship can be a huge help to a student, even if he or she doesn't win the award.
High school students who are committed to seeking out all possible academic and scholarship opportunities may want to see if any of their prospective colleges have fellowship advising offices. Current college students, especially freshmen and sophomores, may also want to look into this, as many fellowship programs look at students' entire college careers, not just their last year or two.
Even if your school doesn't offer fellowship advising, you can still compete for, and potentially win, prestigious graduate student scholarships. As with your college scholarship search, seek out opportunities early, and know what's required to apply. Cultivate good relationships with your professors to land excellent letters of recommendation and seize every chance to participate in research projects and extracurricular activities. Even if you don't win the award you want, these activities can help you stand out in the job search and the graduate school application process.
December 14, 2009
There are a lot of awards out there that target high school seniors and college freshman, one justification being that in order for those student populations to even consider going to college, they may need more help getting a start and funding that difficult first year. This week's Scholarship of the Week, however, targets college sophomores who have spent that first year proving themselves on their college campuses.
The Ronald Reagan College Leaders Scholarship is given to college sophomores who are making a difference on their campuses as leaders and have taken a stand against ideological conformity. The award is given annually by The Phillips Foundation, a nonprofit that looks to advance constitutional principles, free enterprise, and a democratic society. This scholarship program was launched in 1999 to provide renewable awards to undergraduates demonstrating leadership on behalf of the cause of freedom, American values, and constitutional principles. The foundation awarded more than $200,000 in new and renewed scholarships for the 2009-2010 academic year.
Prize: Up to two $10,000 awards will be awarded, but scholarship renewals will also be given in the amounts of $7,500, $5,000, $2,500, and $1,000 for the 2010–2011 academic year.
Eligibility: Applicants must be college sophomores enrolled full-time and in good standing at any accredited, four-year degree-granting institution in the United States or its territories. Third-year students are eligible to have their awards renewed to help in the costs of their senior years on campus.
Deadline: January 15, 2010
Required Material: Applicants must complete an online application that will ask for proof of good standing at their accredited colleges, a short essay highlighting their personal background and scope of activities consistent with the reasons for the award, any documentation proving the students' leadership abilities, and at least two letters of recommendation.
Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.
December 28, 2009
After you have created your list of scholarships and or colleges and identified the people you want to write your recommendations it is time to tackle the most important part of the application. The reason writing skills are apart of the foundation of the application is because they build up to the personal statement. The personal statement is just that; writing that makes a statement about who you are as a person. It does something that a grade point average, test score, or award cannot: it gives you the opportunity to creatively tell the scholarship or admissions review board (the people who will read and judge your application) how high school has affected you. It also provides the opportunity for the review board to gain an understanding of who you are when you leave school. The review board will be looking for students who are well rounded and that understand that school is more than just acquiring accolades and gaining a high GPA or test score. School is about growth and progression and the people who read your application will enjoy applicants who show that they understand this concept. The personal statement is your chance to show the review board that you understand, and in many instances it will be used to evaluate everything else included in your application.
Now that you see why the personal statement is so important, it’s time to start writing. However, before you start writing, please check out my Top Five Don’ts When Writing a Personal Statement:
Now that you have read the "Top Five Don’ts When Writing a Personal Statement", you should be more than ready to write a great personal statement for any college or scholarship. Just remember that the personal statement is about illustrating who you are as a person in and, more importantly, outside of school. You want to find something that other parts of your application do not say, start early, be concise, be creative, and revise, revise, revise. If you keep these points in mind you will definitely set yourself apart.
About the Author: Derrius L. Quarles is a 19-year-old freshman at Morehouse College. He hopes to go to medical school after he graduates with a degree in psychology and biology and a minor in public health, and to one day work on the public health policies of his hometown, Chicago, and beyond. To help him achieve those academic and career ambitions, Derrius has won more than $1.1 million in scholarships, including a full scholarship to attend Morehouse, since graduating from Chicago’s Kenwood Academy High School with a 4.2 GPA. Derrius was awarded a Gates Millennium scholarship and won a number of other highly competitive awards, many of which he found while searching for scholarships at Scholarships.com. He is the first in his family to attend college, and spent his childhood in the foster care system before becoming the “Million Dollar Scholar.” This is the third in a series of posts Derrius is writing for Scholarships.com on how he was able to fund his education, along with advice about the scholarship application process.
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