With the high cost of higher education nowadays, scholarships can be a vital part of a student’s financial repertoire. There are many, many scholarship grants and opportunities, and a focused, methodical approach to tapping into those sources will save time and failure. The approach is based on somewhat of a “job-search” strategy, and that strategy has to be based on the student’s academic qualifications, skill in self-promotion, and ability to answer the question, “Where’s the money?”
♦ First things first
At the risk of stating the obvious, the most important indication that a student is deserving and eligible for a scholarship grant is the student’s academic performance. A student’s grade transcript is absolutely the first thing the scholarship reviewers check. Students with poor to mediocre grades will not do well in the highly competitive quest for scholarship money.
♦ Know where the money is
Resources for scholarship availability range from school counselors and college student services offices to the web. Scholarships are targeted either to the general public or to special categories (women, minorities, etc.). The web is also populated with many scholarship resource sites. Scholarships.com, for example, offers a free scholarship search on the web and has been serving students and counselors since 1999. Just go to its scholarship search page and register.
♦ Read the eligibility rules and details
Finding a promising scholarship grant is only the first step. Read up on what the grant is about. Who does it target? Is it a memorial for someone, or a foundation endowment? Just as a job hunter tailors job applications and résumés to a particular job search, a scholarship applicant should tailor the application to highlight all the skills, experiences, and interests that mesh in with the scholarship purpose.
♦ Master the application
Scholarship application forms typically ask for personal and academic data that should be collected in advance and be honest and complete. Incomplete or messy applications reflect badly on the applicant. Neat, printed, or computer generated applications that are easy on the eyes of the reviewers and reflect diligence and care can be one of those “subliminal tie-breakers.”
♦ The scholarship essay
Most scholarship grants ask for a short essay from the applicant. There are no fixed rules or guides for scholarship essays, but there are a few commonsense approaches:
◊ Read the essay prompt or question and, above all, endeavor to specifically address what the prompt or question is directing or asking.
◊ Do not beat around the bush or go for a creative writing masterpiece – unless, of course, the essay prompt asks for it.
◊ Do not be overly “needy,” but be factual in stating your financial need if called for.
◊ Plan the essay with a specific writing goal in mind. Again, there is plenty of help on the web for writing scholarship essays. One very good one is at Scholarship Help’s “College Scholarship Essay.”
♦ Don’t give up
There are thousands of scholarship grants available for deserving students. Again, using the job-search approach, the applicant should remember that this is a highly competitive field. Honing those application and scholarship essay skills and, above all, keeping those grades up are how deserving students tap into the scholarship grant stream. If at first you don’t succeed, take a look past applications and accompanying essays. Get a second opinion, and start again.