Tips for Applying for Scholarships

My parents opened a college bank account for me the day I was born.  Of course, I didn’t appreciate it until the day I was accepted to the University of Texas at Arlington, took a look at the four-year bill, and was told that I wouldn’t have to pay any of it on my own.  I’m extremely cognizant that I am in the minority in this regard.  Most, at some point in their academic career, will have to find an alternative way to get funding for their education.  Four years after I completed my undergrad at UTA and at the cusp of returning to school for a postgraduate degree (in London, England, no less,) that’s where I am right now.

That said, I have conducted much research into the art of perfecting scholarship essays and applications.

  • Read Terms and Conditions to confirm eligibility.
    • As a non-conventional learner (post-grad, international student with career experience,) I assumed I’d have oodles of scholarship opportunities knocking on my door. What I found instead was rather slim pickings.  I discovered what I called the Three Strike Rule.  I am a postgraduate student.  Strike one.  I’m heading overseas to complete my studies outside of America.  Strike two.  I’m obtaining a Masters in Arts.  Strike three.
    • Here’s the catch. Of the 90 someodd scholarships that showed up during each of my scholarship searches, I was only eligible for maybe 12 of them.  This wasn’t visible without additional research.  Though several scholarships claimed to be for “postgraduates,” I’d go to the Terms and Conditions and find the fine print; “Postgraduates attending an accredited university in the United States.”  I found several scholarships that were offered for students traveling overseas only to read the fine-print and discover that they were for high school seniors and undergraduates only.
    • Make sure to read the terms before you commit to writing an essay and wasting your time on an application that you aren’t even eligible for.
  • If you don’t have to write an essay to win the scholarships, chances are slim-to-none that you will win it.
    • I cannot tell you how many scams seeking your private information I came across in the form of an “Essay-Free Scholarship.”
    • Even if you find one that you think is legitimate, thousands of people will apply each time. Your chances of getting it are minimal.
    • You’re on the hunt for money. No one gives away money for free.  Don’t take the easy way out.
  • But for the essays you do write, make sure you’re following the directions to the letter.
    • Nothing is worse than spending your time writing an essay and submitting it, only to realize you forgot to include the asked-for contact information.
    • Each scholarship requires something different, whether it’s 200 words or 2000 words, make sure you read the instructions and follow them to the letter.  If you don’t, someone else will.  And then they will receive the scholarship instead of you.
  • If you’re re-using essays, always re-read to ensure you aren’t submitting something with someone else’s company name in it.
    • Occasionally, you’ll stumble upon two scholarships that want the same essay. 1000 words on why you deserve this scholarship.  (First of all, I certainly hope you have the reason of a lifetime.)
    • Make sure to read each essay before you submit. You don’t want to submit your essay to Company B with Company A’s name within it.  That is a big glaring faux pas that tells the scholarship committee that you copied your essay and didn’t devote any extra time to writing it with them in mind.
  • Even if you don’t hear back/didn’t win, go back to the site after the announcement deadline to read the winning essay.
    • Sure, it’s humbling. Do it anyway.  You will get a better feel for what the scholarship committees are looking for.  Maybe your grammar wasn’t on point?  Maybe the winner is a homeless amputee with a peg-leg who independently hobbled all the way up K2 without oxygen.  Reading the results will help guide your future essays.

Keep these five things in mind as you move forward with the scholarship process and may the odds be ever in your favor!

Author: alisonlcohn

Graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Communications Advertising. Traveled a bit. Taught for two years. Administered aptitude tests for a while. Worked as a Training Associate for Guardian Mortgage and a Quiz Master for Geeks Who Drink. Obtained my Master's in Film, Television and Screen Media in London, England. Now working as a small-group travel coordinator. Nice to meet you!

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