Any student can win scholarships - you just have to work smarter. Finding the right award to apply for is only the first step. How do you make your application stand out from the crowd? Use Schools in the USA's finance section to up your ante, and you may also learn something new about yourself in the process.
Filling out a successful scholarship or grant application is all about knowing yourself. Write down any job experience, interests, hobbies, and skills that you have on a piece of scrap paper. Include volunteering, travel experiences and interesting things that have happened to you. Then think about everything you want to do during your lifetime and write it down. Now look at the two lists. Is there a pattern? Your experience, skills and hobbies help you to achieve your life goals. That's why the judges are interested in your activities.
Use these lists to write a one-page statement of your skills, experience and interests, then write another one page statement about your life goals. Get a teacher or parent to check the pages for spelling or grammar errors. You can now use these two pages to answer the application questions. If you prepare your personal statements beforehand, they will sound much clearer, and they will have fewer mistakes.
BUILD A PORTFOLIO
A portfolio is a collection of all the work you have produced, presented in a professional way. They are a valuable tool for scholarship searching, and job hunting as well. Portfolios showcase your talents to scholarship judges and prospective employers.
Have you written for the school yearbook or newspaper? Can you draw and paint? Have you built a web site? Has someone written an article about your accomplishments? Have you won any awards or commendations? Include them all. Web sites, art, creative writing, school essays and letters of recommendation all make for a great portfolio. Try to collect as many different kinds of accomplishments as possible for your portfolio.
If you have all of these projects in one place, it's easy to submit a copy of your portfolio when the application asks for your accomplishments.
Once you've found the scholarships and grants you think you have a shot at winning, target your application specifically to what they are looking for. You don't need psychic powers to figure this out. You just need to read the application carefully, and think about what they are asking.
Look for key words that repeat themselves. Chances are, they are interested in candidates that fit those key words. For example, if you see the word "volunteer" a lot, chances are you'll have a good chance of winning the award if you emphasize your volunteer experience.Give them exactly what they want, no more and no less.
Get the application in on time, and don't make mistakes. Tardiness and mistakes on your application means it will go straight to the reject pile. Excuses will not work.
PLAY THE NUMBERS GAME
Apply for as many grants and scholarships as you can - the more you apply for, the greater your chances of success. You may even win several awards!
You will greatly increase your chances of scoring scholarships if you apply for smaller awards. Don't just go for the big money: the larger the award, the more competition you will have. Some of the smaller awards have few applicants.
Try to apply for many different kinds of scholarships. You may find that you write an cool personal statement. Or you are really good at debating a political topic. Or you may even have a great science project. Some scholarship applications ask you to write essays, some ask for projects or portfolios. Learn what kind of application you are best at filling out by studying your successful applications.
There are a lot of different kinds of scholarships, and they don't all come from colleges, universities or governments, although these places are a good jumping-off point for your awards hunt. Some scholarships are based on need, extra-curricular interests, volunteering, and work. Try to apply for different types of scholarships and grants - this will increase your chances of winning.
RECYCLE YOUR ESSAYS?
A lot of scholarship advice on the Internet will tell you to write one scholarship essay and submit it on every application. This tip will save you a lot of time, but it could also cost you the award if you aren't careful.