Scholarships can come in every imaginable form: free textbooks from a local business, a cash prize for an essay contest, school supplies, even lotteries for a financial aid. And winners of scholarships? They can be awarded for anything from high academic standing to left-handedness to big feet.
But regardless of the shape or size, any time a scholarship is awarded to a student it also awards the same welcomed support for them and their families’ financial situation, as well as the unique motivation that comes from an essential stranger taking an interest in your education. Even if it is just because your shoes are big and you get ink on your hand when you write left to right.
But the catch is that this support is only available to those willing to go out and actually find the scholarships, which in itself can be a tall order.
To first find a scholarship, and then create the perfect application to win it, the right combination of motivation, perseverance, management, and a little luck is needed. It requires a certain approach. But with the right approach all these things can fall into place and result in one of the most rewarding feelings – and rewards – a student can get.
Here are five tips to getting a scholarship that will maximize your efforts and help you get the most out of the process, even when you may not be chosen.
Work smarter, not harder
Being the tedious process that is, it’s important to use your energy efficiently when applying for scholarships. Apply to those that you legitimately feel you have a chance for, such as those that require something you’re good at (an essay, a speech, an interview). And if you’ve already written an essay for a scholarship or class, find scholarships that you can recycle it for, or tweak it a bit for an application. And while sweepstakes, or scholarships that only require “contact information” for eligibility are quick and easy, they also have the slimmest chance of winning, so limit your time spent on these in favor of those with less applicants.
Highlight your involvement
In your classes and in your community. The main objective of college is for you to better yourself, and scholarship judges feel no differently. They take notice to volunteer experience, extracurricular activities, and, one of the most effective things, letters of recommendation from professors and faculty. No matter where you are in life it’s never too late to start bettering yourself, so anything you can show off that proves you’ve bought-in to this, be it a rising GPA or increasing community involvement, will catch the eyes scholarship judges.
Search nationally and locally
While there’s plenty of ways to find scholarship opportunities on the national scale via the web (sites like www.fastweb.com or www.scholarships.com) by no means should you forget about local scholarships. Local businesses and groups offer the most reliable scholarships to students, leaving behind the commercial aspects of big businesses and Internet surveys. Ask around by phone or in person to your local libraries, churches, organizations, banks, stores, anything really, to see if they offer any scholarships. Your civic drive will put you up for consideration immediately, often even if you’ve never been affiliated with the group, and the smaller application pool will give you a great shot at winning.
Find niche scholarships
Come from a military family? Play a sport? Adult returning to school? There’s a scholarship for that – and a whole lot of other things. Any special quirk you may have or unique experience you’ve been a part of that sets you apart from the average person likely qualifies you for a scholarship. Think about what sets you apart and then search for any scholarships aimed at just that.
Set a benchmark
Applying for scholarship after scholarship can be a grueling process; and given that most of them won’t end up being right you, a sometimes discouraging one, too. But you can’t win if you never play, right? So similarly to what you would do when applying for jobs, set a weekly or monthly goal for how many scholarships you’ll apply for so that regardless of how you fare, your name stays out there and you’re less likely to get discouraged after the first couple of tries.
Have a scholarship success story? Or questions about paying for school? Let us know on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. And feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034, or email firstname.lastname@example.org with any concerns.