Successful scholarship applications take time and effort.
There’s no shortcut to a quality application. But there are steps you can take to make your efforts as rewarding as possible. Tackling your scholarship search with strategy and efficiency can translate into extra applications—and extra college tuition dollars.
For best results, try to work these tips into your application process as early as possible:
Schedule recurring scholarship time in your calendar
Think of your scholarship application strategy as a regular practice, rather than a single sprint.
Investing regular increments of time over several months will likely serve you better than doing an all-out application-fest over a single weekend.
You’re better able to plan for the opportunities you want and respond to any snags along the way. Your efforts aren’t as easy to derail, and you get the added motivational boost of seeing progress over time.
Treat your scholarship application time as you would a part-time job, and give it a fixed time slot in your weekly schedule.
Create a master binder
To save yourself the trouble of scrambling for documents at the last minute, use a binder to store regularly requested documents:
This way, the appropriate document is a quick photocopy or scan-and-print away.
The master binder is also a great place to keep a list of scholarship applications you’ve already completed and a calendar with upcoming application due dates.
Archive your essays
You’ll want to cater your essays to each scholarship’s requirements. But there will likely be some overlap between the essays you write.
Rather than keeping dozens of essay versions scattered across folders on your computer, print hard copies of all your applications and archive them in your binder. Separate each application with a tab divider.
The next time you find yourself staring at a blank screen waiting for essay inspiration to strike, you can thumb through past applications and borrow the pieces that apply to the current opportunity.
You’ll beat your writer’s block and cut down on overall writing time while keeping your essay fresh and unique.
Make a ‘cheat sheet’ for online applications
While you should avoid hitting copy and paste on your essays, you can speed up the process by copying and pasting your basic info.
Create a Word document with information that pops up frequently in online scholarship applications. This can include:
- Personal info: Your name, address, phone number, date of birth and email address.
- Academic info: Name of current high school, list of current courses, expected graduation date, intended majors or areas of study, GPA or other academic scores.
- Parental info: Names, employment and income information for your parents or guardian.
- Your mini-resumé: A list of school activities, community activities, volunteerism hours, jobs and/or internships, and awards or honors you’ve received.
You’ll spare yourself from typing the same answers over and over again. Like all documents with personal or sensitive information, keep your cheat sheet in a safe place (password-protected is ideal).
Be smart about letters of recommendation
Your teachers and mentors are doing you a huge and potentially life-changing favor by submitting letters of recommendation.
Think about it—their words could be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars. So it’s in your best interest to make the process as easy for your letter-writers as possible.
As the school year winds down, schedules get extremely busy, and your teachers, coaches and employers might not have time to field each of your requests.
Communication is the key. Schedule an appointment with your teachers and let them know that you’re applying for scholarships and could use their support with letters of recommendation. Be clear about how many scholarships you’re applying to.
Is it five?
Then discuss some possible strategies for making it happen.
Explain whether you need individual letters for each application or whether a general letter can be repurposed for multiple applications. If you wish to use the same letter for multiple scholarships, get permission from your teacher to edit the letter’s recipient.
Provide your teacher with a resumé, and highlight accomplishments you want mentioned in your letters of recommendation.
Be clear about time frames and set a reasonable deadline that works for both of you. If time is an issue, see if your teacher is willing to approve and sign a letter that you’ve written.
Be accommodating and flexible, and don’t forget to show some courtesy. Send your letter writers a thank you card, and share news of any scholarship wins with them.