There is an old Italian joke (which you may recognize from the beginning of Eat Pray Love): A man goes to a statue of a saint every day and prays to “Please, please, please let me win the lottery.” Eventually, one day the statue comes to life and says, “My son. Please, please, please buy a ticket.”
Winning a scholarship is a lot like that—you need to apply if you ever hope to win one, but simply applying and hoping for the best is not enough. There are a few things you can do to improve your chances of actually winning. These may sound simple (and they are!) but we’ve personally seen plenty of applicants ignore these rules and screw themselves over in the process. Don’t be that guy!
- Capitalize proper nouns
Make sure you’ve capitalized your name, your school’s name, etc. Using all lowercase letters is fine for a text message, but for an official application? Not so much.
- BUT DON’T CAP EVERYTHING
YOU KNOW HOW WHEN YOU USE ALL CAPS IT LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE SHOUTING? YOU DON’T WANT TO SHOUT AT THE PEOPLE WHO MIGHT BE GIVING YOU FREE MONEY, AMIRITE??
- Follow the directions
Some scholarships ask for additional materials, like a copy of your transcript or a personal statement. Whatever it is that they’re asking for, make sure you provide exactly what you’re asked to in exactly the manner it’s requested. If the instructions say that the personal statement should be a few sentences, don’t write a several paragraph essay! If they ask for a pdf, don’t send a Word doc. Not following instructions could automatically disqualify you from the running, and that’s no fun.
- Keep it classy & appropriate
Where does scholarship money come from, anyway? A lot of it is actually furnished by companies that hope to employ promising young talent (that’s you!) in the near future. Ensure you make a good impression on these potential employers (and the people who are deciding whether or not to give you money) by putting forward a flattering reflection of yourself. This doesn’t mean you should lie; just keep your language and profile professional. That means no references to drugs, drinking, or excessive partying. If you’re asked to supply a photo, don’t send one that would make Grandma blush. A good rule of thumb: Think job application rather than online dating profile.
- Checking your work is very impotent
It happens to the best of us. After you’ve written something and read it over a few times, your eyes start to glaze over and you don’t notice mistakes. Take a moment to run the spell check function, ask your English major friend to glance over it, or if you’ve been working online, print out a copy and look at it on paper. Don’t forget to check your wok! I mean, work.
- Don’t miss the deadline!
Many scholarships are recurring on a yearly, quarterly, or even monthly basis. It’s worth keeping a list of (or updating your Google calendar with) recurring scholarships you’re eligible for so you catch every deadline. For example, AfterCollege has deadlines every March, June, September, and December. Stop by the AfterCollege Scholarships page for more info!
Now that you know how to increase your chances of winning a scholarship, here are a few scholarship resources for you to check out.
CollegeXpress: Create a profile and search through $7 billion worth of scholarships (open to high school and college students). You can also learn more about colleges if you’re still deciding where to study.
Cappex: After you create a profile (or link to your Facebook account), you can search through $11 billion worth of scholarships.
TG Adventures in Education (AIE): Search through 15,000 scholarship opportunities.
The College Board: Search through 2,200 programs for scholarships and other financial aid opportunities.
StudentAdvisor: Download this app to search through scholarships on the go.
CareerOneStop: More than 7,000 scholarship opportunities, searchable by award type, state, study level, and affiliation.
NerdWallet: Search through more than 10,000 opportunities and get more ideas for improving your scholarship apps.
Discover Nursing: Choose from 363 scholarships for nursing students.
Engineering Education Service Center: List of scholarships available to engineering majors.
Don’t forget to look into the resources available at your school. You might be eligible for a scholarship provided by alumni, affiliates, or grants. Check your school website or ask your financial aid office for more information.
Homework time! Spend some time researching the scholarship options and make note of which deadlines are fast approaching. Get started on those apps right away!
P.S. Have any other tips for scholarship applications or opportunities? Let us know in the comments!
Update! Our friends over at Scholarships360 have also posted this excellent guide: “How to Rock Scholarship (and College) Applications – 10 Simple Tips.” Check it out for more useful info!