To Get Money, You Have to Ask for It
The scholarship application process is very similar to the college application process. First, you will filter a large list of possible choices into a focused list that matches your needs. Then you create compelling applications that are supported by achievements, essays, recommendations and interviews. Here are some tips to help you create strong scholarship applications.
Why are scholarships available?
It seems too good to be true - all this money offered out of nowhere just for you. But, scholarships have a distinct purpose. They are available to not only foster your reputation, but also your schools. Awards and scholarships are a way of attracting and keeping students that will make valuable contributions to an institution. Scholarships can also be a way of preparing students to be productive representatives of their college or university upon graduation. Or, sometimes scholarships are awarded by companies to help employees and their families fund their education.
Who is eligible for scholarships?
There's a scholarship out there for everyone. They are awarded at all levels for students of all disciplines and backgrounds. Some you may have to apply for, while others you may automatically be considered for. The criteria for these awards vary. Academic achievement is not always mandatory for eligibility. Often, students who participate in school or community activities can win scholarships based largely on their extra-curricular involvement. Likewise, students with specific talents, hobbies, ethnic backgrounds or family affiliations can meet award qualifications.
Who administers scholarships?
You may think of schools as being the only administrators of awards. However, there are many other kinds of institutions and groups that provide and facilitate scholarships. Sometimes you have to apply directly to these organizations, not your school. Examples of administrators include governments, trade unions, companies, corporations and individuals.
How do I get a scholarship?
Apply. It's that simple. Many students assume that they won't win, so they don't bother to apply. That's why many scholarships go untouched each year. Once you've identified which awards you qualify for, read over and carefully fill out the applications, gather any additional documentation and send them in early.
How long do scholarships last?
As if getting money isn't good enough, there are scholarships that extend beyond the initial amount that you were awarded. These scholarships are renewable. Yet, many of them are conditional upon maintaining a high academic average or an uninterrupted course of full-time studies. Some of these scholarships renew automatically, while others do not. The number of years or semesters that they last also differs.
Who can help me find more scholarship information?
There's lots of help out there - it just a matter of talking to the right people. If you're a high school student, you can speak to your guidance counsellor or contact the financial aid officers at the colleges or universities you're considering. If you're already in university, you can speak to either your school's financial aid officer or your department. Don't be shy - that's what they're there for!
Start Looking on the Internet
Where do you start looking after you've gone through your local resources? The Internet. But just doing a search on a search engine, no matter how Internet-savvy you are, is just going to frustrate you. What you need to do is to use a specific database of scholarships, organized in such a way to make searching effective. I would recommend ScholarshipsCanada.com.
You can start looking right away, with no idea where you want to go to school, but I would recommend at least having an idea. As I mentioned before, most of the scholarships in search databases are for students attending specific schools; having an idea of where you might go will narrow down the field a bit.
The scholarships in a database tool like ScholarshipsCanada.com will most often not be a complete explanation of everything you have to do to get the scholarships. This is because of space issues, both in the print directory and online. So if you find a scholarship in ScholarshipsCanada.com that interests you, you'll have to use that as a lead and find out more about the scholarship either by contacting the organization who offers it or by looking at their Web site or print literature.
Follow Every Lead
If you do find a scholarship that leads you to another piece of literature or another Web site, check it out carefully. They may have posted a new scholarship that we haven't got to yet, or they may have changed the name or the requirements of a scholarship. Scholarships are like a trail that you follow. Explore all the forks in the path before you go home.
Scholarship Application Tips
There's a lot of advice out there about the best way to apply for scholarships — how to package yourself in the essay, what extracurricular activities to emphasize. 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 will discover that most of the scholarship secrets you read about boil down to using common sense and following directions carefully.
Start the Research Early
The more time you can put into a scholarship search, the more options there are. You need time to research scholarships, request information and application materials, and complete applications — and remember, some scholarships have deadlines early in the fall of the senior year. You can use scholarship search engines to get started.
Read Eligibility Requirements Carefully
If you have a question about eligibility for a particular scholarship, contact the scholarship sponsors.
Organize All Scholarship Materials
You should 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 some combination of the following:
- Standardized test scores
- Financial aid forms
- Parents' 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 Applications Carefully
You can use the computer's spelling and grammar check features. Have a family member, teacher or friend read your essays.
Don't Leave Items Blank
You should contact scholarship sponsors if not sure how to fill out any part of the application.
Follow Instructions to the Letter
Make sure you do not go over the length limit for the essay. Don't send supporting materials that are not requested in the application.
Make Sure the Application Is Legible
You should type or print application forms and essays.
Make Copies of Everything You Send
If application materials are lost, having copies on hand makes it much easier to resend the application quickly.
Double-Check the Application
If you are reusing material (such as a cover letter or essay) from another scholarship application, check to make sure no incorrect names are left in or there are blank fields. it should be carefully checked for incorrect names or blank fields. Make sure you don't forget to sign and date the application.
Get Applications In Early
You will miss out if deadlines are missed. Consider using certified mail or requesting a return receipt.