Have you been applying to scholarships for a while now, but don’t seem to be having any luck? We’re betting that there are plenty of students who can commiserate with you. We know it can get downright frustrating to send out 5, 10 or even 20 applications without any results. Of course, there are always a few students who seem to have money falling out of the sky (insert evil glare here). So, what gives? Do they have an inside connection or have they paid off the scholarship committee? It’s doubtful. In fact, those students probably have many of the same qualities you possess. They do, however, have one thing you don’t…the secret to winning scholarships. So, do you want to know how they win all that free money? Read on!
1. Plan Ahead
A successful scholarship hunter knows how to plan ahead. This means you shouldn’t wait until 30 days before you need the money to start looking for it. If you’re in high school, start applying your freshman year. Already in college or thinking of going back? The time to start applying is NOW! It can take anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks for scholarship providers to disburse funds to a winner AFTER the scholarship has ended, not from the date you applied. So, if you’re applying to a scholarship with a November deadline and win, you won’t be seeing that money until mid-January or later. In general, you should be applying 6 to 12 months from when you actually need the money, if not sooner.
2. Get Organized
Most scholarship programs require many of the same materials, such as essays, letters of recommendation, transcripts, résumés, and financial documentation (for need-based awards). You can save yourself a ton of time by having most of these items on hand at all times. Keep paper and electronic versions, so you can submit your information online or by mail, if needed. You’ll also want to update your records frequently to ensure they provide an accurate accounting of your achievements.
3. Take Your Time
Have you ever waited to do a school assignment until the night before it’s due? Of course you have. Well, you may get lucky enough to pull out a passing grade with that type of effort (or an ‘A’ if you’re really lucky!) in school, but it rarely works with scholarships. Why? When you’re under time constraints, there’s a good chance you’ll make some mistakes, which can derail any chances of winning. Just a few grammatical errors or a missing document is enough to send your application to the rejection pile. If you really want a shot at winning, pick 4 to 8 scholarships to work on each month (1 to 2 a week). This way, you can give each application adequate time to ensure you have put forth your best effort. You’ll also want enough time to have someone review your work for errors before you hit the ‘submit’ button. One thing is for certain…If you don’t want to waste your time completing an application, the scholarship committee certainly doesn’t want to waste its time reading it.
4. It’s a Numbers Game
While it may seem obvious that you should apply for every scholarship for which you qualify, remember that you’ll be competing for however many awards are offered with other qualified candidates. Scholarships with easy applications receive more applicants. Applications that require more work receive fewer applicants. Since you know now that you need to take your time with every application you submit, be sure to pay particularly close attention to applications that require more work because you will be competing with fewer contenders for those awards. A high-quality submission can really make a big difference. That said, it’s also about the dollar amount of the award offered. If you have lots of scholarships to apply to, prioritize your applications by the amount of the award. Just remember to pay attention to those deadline dates.
5. Stay Positive!
One thing we have learned over the years is that a positive attitude can take you far in life. If you are angry about not winning previous scholarships, or believe some of the myths floating around the Internet, that negative energy will seep into your essays and interviews. So, in the words of Taylor Swift, “Just shake it off!” Remember, each application is a fresh start and a chance to show the scholarship committee you are going to do your best regardless of what obstacles are put in your path. You have to believe in yourself before you can get anyone else to believe in you, too!
One Last Thing…
Now that you know the secret to winning scholarships, there’s one other thing you must do if you want to win. Any guesses? You have to APPLY! You can’t sit around expecting colleges and businesses to simply hand you stacks of cash for college; you’re going to have to do a little work. Check high school and college websites, troll social media, and register for an account with several of the free scholarship search services. The wider you cast your net, the more scholarships you’ll catch!