How to Apply for Scholarships

Scholarships are an often under pursued method for financing education.  With educational costs rising as they have, finding and obtaining good scholarships is more valuable than ever.  However, they only provide their value if you are selected for them.  We will discuss some background preparation for scholarships, where to look for scholarships, and tips for succeeding on your scholarship applications.  You should leave with a clear path to follow for financing your education.

Before applying for scholarships, it is important to cover all your bases.  Some scholarships are very focused on what you have done for the world outside of your education to that point.  It pays to get involved in community service efforts and other non-curricular activities.  These items may form the basis for essays that will be required for many scholarships.  Also, finances are a consideration for some scholarships, so ensure that you have an up to date FAFSA filled out.  This takes around an hour but is required for many aspects of financial aid.

After completing this you may wonder where to begin to look for scholarships.  First, look at the school that you are interested in attending.  Many schools make it very easy to find out the information on the scholarships that they offer.  They want to attract high quality students to attend their university.  Also, look to organizations that you belong to, as many of them offer scholarships specifically for their members.  Your heritage may play a key as well, as many scholarships are tied to a particular group of people, and sometimes these are easier to obtain as there is a smaller applicant pool.  A great source of information for scholarships is the Fastweb site, where you fill out a detailed profile and are presented with a number of scholarships that you are eligible for.

Now that you have found the scholarships you are interested in it is time to apply.  Many of them have a standard information portion, and often there are standard questions asked, such as employment and education history.  It is often convenient to maintain all of this information in a separate document so that you can easily refer to it as you fill out multiple applications.  Pay close attention to deadlines, as there is nothing worse than missing an important opportunity because your application is late.  There are often also essays involved.  Ensure that you put yourself in the shoes of those who are going to be reviewing your application.  What makes you stand out from the next candidate so that you are more deserving of this scholarship?  After you have written and re-read your essay yourself, have someone you trust take a look at it and see if they can provide any suggestions.  The more people that edit it, the better it will be.  Remember, the essay can often be the deciding factor for those reviewing your application.

After sending your application, don’t forget that the process isn’t finished.  You need to check the status of any applications that you have submitted so that you know what is going on with them.  If you are accepted, be proud of yourself, but remember that there are still some tasks to follow.  There may be other steps you have to take so that the scholarship money is sent to you or your school if it is from an outside organization, and there may be an agreement you need to sign even if it is from your school.  Don’t assume that you are done until the funds have been given to you or your school.  And some scholarships are merit based, so make sure to keep those grades up.

Having discussed background requirements to applying for scholarships, where to find them, and how to apply, you now have a solid background on this important part of financing your education.  Don’t sell yourself short.  Start looking for these opportunities immediately.