How to Apply for a Scholarship
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How to Apply for a Scholarship
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The Money Is There, But You Have to Ask for It
The scholarship application process is very similar to the college application process. First, you filter a large list of possible choices into a focused list that matches you. Then you create compelling applications that are supported by your achievements, essays, recommendations, and interviews. Here are some tips to help you create strong scholarship applications.
There's a lot of advice out there about the best way to apply for scholarships -- how to "package" yourself in your essay, what extracurricular activities to emphasize, etc. The truth is, much of this advice can vary widely, depending on the author -- what works for one applicant may not necessarily work for another. You'll discover that most of the scholarship secrets you'll read about boil down to using your common sense and following directions carefully.
Start Your Research Early
The more time you can put into your scholarship search, the more options you'll have. You'll need time to research scholarships, request information and application materials, and complete your application -- plus, some scholarships have deadlines early in the fall of senior year. Use Scholarship Search to get started.
Read Eligibility Requirements Carefully
If you have a question about your eligibility for a particular scholarship, contact the scholarship sponsors.
Organize All Scholarship Materials
Create a separate file for each scholarship and file by application date. Keep a calendar of application deadlines and follow-up appointments.
Many scholarships require you to provide them with some combination of the following:
- Standardized test scores
- Financial aid forms, such as the FAFSA or PROFILE
- Parent's financial information, including tax returns
- One or more essays
- One or more letters of recommendation
- Proof of eligibility (e.g. membership credentials)
You may also need to prepare for a personal interview. For students competing for talent-based scholarships, an audition, performance, or portfolio may be required.
Proofread Your Application Carefully
Use your computer's spelling and grammar check features. Have a parent, teacher, or friend read your essays.
Don't Leave Items Blank
Contact scholarship sponsors if you aren't sure how to fill out any part of the application.
Follow Instructions to the Letter.
Avoid going over the length limit for the essay, and resist the temptation to send supporting materials that are not requested in the application.
Make Sure Your Application Is Legible
Type or print your application forms and essays.
Make Copies of Everything You Send
If application materials are lost, having copies on hand will make it much easier to resend your application quickly.
Double-Check Your Application
If you're reusing material (such as a cover letter or essay) from another scholarship application, be especially careful you haven't left in any incorrect names or blank fields. Don't forget to sign and date your application.
Get Your Applications in Early
You'll miss out if you miss deadlines. Consider using certified mail or return receipt.
How Scholarships Affect Your Financial Aid Package
Private scholarships can actually reduce parts of your financial aid package. How? Colleges must consider outside scholarships as a student's financial resource, available to pay for education costs. If a college financial aid office meets your full financial need, government regulations specify that any scholarship money you win lowers your need figure on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
What should matter to you is which types of your aid are reduced or eliminated -- self-help aid (loans or work-study) or need-based grants. Colleges, following federal regulations, can adjust your aid package in a variety of ways -- some will subtract the value of unmet need first, others will reduce self-help aid before reducing grants, still others will use scholarship funds only to replace grant money. Some schools even give you the option of using scholarships to reduce your expected family contribution.
It's a good idea to contact the financial aid office of schools that interest you and inquire about their policies regarding outside scholarships.
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