By: Katie Wornek, UHEAA
Benjamin Franklin once said, “For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.” When it comes to scholarship applications, staying organized will definitely save you time, but it can also earn you money! I have a few tips to help you organize your scholarship workflow throughout the year.
Summer and the First Few Weeks of School
Draft Your Personal Statement
Some scholarships require you to write an essay on a specific topic or in response to a prompt. You’ll need to write a different essay for each of those applications. However, many other scholarships will ask for a personal statement instead. This document is your chance to grab the attention of the scholarship committee and let them know what makes you special as a student and as a person. You can usually write one personal statement and then make small changes to tailor it to the scholarship you’re applying for. Write a rough draft of your personal statement as early in the school year as you can, then ask professors, mentors,or peers if they would be willing to edit or give you feedback. You can also check if your campus has a student writing center that may be able to help you.
Most scholarship applications will ask for at least one letter of recommendation. A good letter of recommendation emphasizes your good character, your work ethic, your ability to overcome challenges, and the likelihood that you will be successful in college. Identify professors, mentors, advisors, or employers who A) would have respect and trust from a scholarship committee, and B) will speak highly of you in their letter. In other words, letters of recommendation should not come from your peers, your family members, or any person who may not have a favorable opinion of you. Once you identify the people you would like to use as recommenders, meet with them in person to ask if they are willing to write multiple letters of recommendation for you. Remember to notify each recommender about each scholarship application a few weeks in advance of each scholarship application deadline.
Refine Your Resume
Many scholarship applications will ask for a copy of your resume. If you’ve already created one, great! Take some time to update the information. If you haven’t, don’t worry! You can find plenty of free resume templates online or in your word processing software. Be sure to include your contact information, contact information for your recommenders, and details about your education, work, extracurricular activities, volunteerism, and any relevant skills or experiences. Just like with your personal statement, have multiple people edit and review your resume.
Search for Scholarships and Create Your List
The more scholarships you apply for, the more likely you are to secure the money you need for college. Start by creating a list of scholarships you qualify for. Your financial aid office likely has a list of your college’s scholarships on their website. You should also research scholarships through your employer, your parents’ employer, local businesses, your bank or credit union, or your church or any community organizations you are involved with. Be sure to search scholarship databases, too. Here are some websites you can use:
Once you create the list of scholarships you want to apply for, use a calendar to write your scholarship schedule. Start by jotting down all the application deadlines, then work backwards to identify when you’ll need to write your essay, ask for your letters of recommendation, or complete any other tasks required on the application.
Every Month of the School Year
Check your scholarship schedule often to make sure that you are completing application requirements and submitting your applications on time.
Continue your search
Keep checking scholarship databases and your counseling office for any new scholarship opportunities you may have missed.
Thank your scholarship provider
Now that the hard work of applying for scholarships is nearly over (until next school year), it’s time to start watching the money roll in! If (or, better yet, when) you receive a letter notifying you that you won a scholarship, celebrate! Share the moment with your family and friends, and be sure to tell your recommenders (they love to recognize students whose hard work paid off). The next step is to thank the scholarship committee for choosing you. Consider sending them a letter, email, or card expressing your gratitude and explaining how this scholarship will help you achieve your college and career dreams.
Claim Your Funds
Be sure to follow the instructions from the scholarship provider about claiming your money. Most committees from private scholarships will send a check to the financial aid office at your college, so they will likely ask for documentation like your student ID number or proof of enrollment. If your scholarships are renewable, you’ll need to do this each year.
College is a challenging and rewarding life experience, but it can be stressful, especially if you don’t know how to pay for it. Taking the time to apply for scholarships now will help relieve that stress in the future. And if you stay organized and make a scholarship application plan, the work becomes far more manageable.