Paying for college can be an immense financial burden for students and families. With the cost of higher education steadily rising each year, finding ways to fund a degree is more important than ever. This is where scholarships come in – they provide students with free money that does not need to be repaid like loans, here is 10 Tips for Winning College Scholarships an easy way.
Scholarships are essentially rewards for academic achievements, community involvement, athletic talents, or other skills and traits. There are over 1.7 million different scholarships awarded in the United States each year, together totaling over $3.5 billion in free education funding.
Many students feel discouraged from applying to scholarships because the application process seems daunting or competitive. However, there are countless awards out there and you don’t need to be a straight-A student to win. In fact, approximately 30% of scholarship recipients have GPAs between 3.0-3.4.
With strategic planning and persistence, any student can maximize their chances of securing scholarship awards. This article will provide 10 tips to help you win funding for college through scholarships:
1. Start Your Scholarship Search Early
The best way to prepare for the scholarship application process is to begin early. Start scholarship search 1-2 years before needing the funds allows you ample time to find and apply to the best opportunities.
Many programs open up applications for high school students in their junior year, allowing those who win early funding the chance to supplement awards in their senior year too.
Beginning the process early also gives you more chances to earn awards. If you start applying early in high school, you can continue searching and winning free funding even once enrolled in college.
When you’re ready to begin, utilize online scholarship search platforms to find awards that match your profile. These services act as databases providing thousands of up-to-date listings.
As soon as you create a student profile, the platform’s matching algorithms go to work finding potential scholarship opportunities personalized to your eligibility and traits. This eliminates much of the lengthy research process so you can quickly focus efforts on applying.
2. Create a Master List of Scholarships
To stay organized in your search, create a master list of scholarship opportunities you discover and add to it continually. This list allows you to easily track scholarship opportunities eligible.
- Application requirements
- Relevant deadlines
- Award amounts
- Estimated chances of winning
Try to diversify your list with award opportunities such as:
- Large national scholarships
- Smaller local community awards
- University-provided merit scholarships
- Niche scholarships tailored to your interests and skills
Revisit your scholarship listings frequently and update application statuses to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Having an organized system in place makes managing numerous applications simple.
Be thorough in your search – cast a wide net across various platforms to discover the array of options. Also try asking teachers, counselors, family and friends for lesser-known local lead and ideas you may be missing.
3. Strategically Prioritize Your Scholarship List
As your master list grows longer, strategically prioritize the awards you will apply for. Consider categorizing opportunities based on:
- Award amount – highlight the largest sums first
- Competitiveness – separate out easier wins versus reaches
- Effort required – weigh lengthier applications against simpler ones
Develop a “Top Ten” list of your favorite scholarships across these categories – including a diverse mix gives you the best chances. Avoid applying only to awards where you have the absolute best chance of winning. Reach for competitive nationwide programs with larger rewards as well.
For each of your top ten, clearly mark deadlines on a calendar. Build in buffer periods for requesting letters of recommendation or giving essay drafts time for review.
Streamline your efforts by dedicating specific windows of time for searching versus applying – such as Monday nights for the search and Wednesday nights to submit.
4. Complete the Easier Scholarships First
Having a prioritized list allows you to strategically pace workflow. For times when you need to apply but don’t have several free hours, sort by effort required and complete some easier scholarships first.
Examples of simpler applications include:
- Awards without essays
- Short answer questions instead of essays
- Opportunities with less required materials
Tackling these first clears out applications taking less time and energy, freeing you up for lengthier ones later. Don’t allow easier scholarships to fall off your radar in favor of only large, intensive applications. Smaller awards still earn you dollars toward college!
5. Take Advantage of Application Bundles
Submitting applications in bundles that allow a single form or document to apply to multiple scholarships at once is an efficient shortcut.
Many scholarship databases now allow for batch submitting materials or full applications to eligible bundled awards. This maximizes the number of scholarships you apply to in a shorter time frame.
However, be vigilant that any source offering bundles still represents legitimate awards. Sadly, scholarship scams and fraudulent offers do exist. Thankfully there are warning signs to recognize questionable opportunities you should avoid:
- Fees/charges to apply or claim the prize
- Overly general qualification criteria
- Requests for sensitive information like passwords or SSNs
- Notification that you’ve won before applying
As long as scholarship bundles come from reputable platforms, take advantage!
6. Customize Applications to Align with each Scholarship’s Mission
Scholarship sponsors review hundreds of applications for the same exact awards each cycle. Find ways to make yours stand out, even just slightly, amidst the stack.
One simple customization strategy includes aligning your application materials to the unique mission behind each scholarship. First, investigate the history of the award and the sponsor’s vision in offering it. Highlight parts of your personal experience or future goals that directly line up with this agenda in short answers and essays.
For example, if applying for a scholarship designed to foster female leaders in government, use your essay to highlight previous leadership experiences and desire to empower women. Go beyond cliches and speak directly to how you fit their vision.
Avoid recycling the exact same essays and responses word-for-word with every application. Spending an extra 5-10 minutes tailoring responses shows initiative and elevates an application.
7. Review Your Online Presence from a Scholarship Committee Perspective
In the digital age, scholarship committees often vet candidates online, even casually browsing social media presences. Take a step back and Google yourself, imagining this quick search from their eyes.
Delete questionable Tweets or other posts that could paint you negatively if taken out of context. Additionally, comb through photos and untag any unflattering imaging. For highly competitive awards, consider setting social accounts to private during the application season.
Many applications also request links to social profiles or published online work samples. Take time when including your handles to ensure directing committees to accounts portraying your best self – do not just hastily link your Twitter without review.
8. Triple Check Final Scholarship Application Process Submissions
After pouring hours into applications, anxiously clicking “submit” often follows – but don’t send forms speeding through cyberspace quite yet! Be sure to triple check all submitted materials first, no matter how complete you think the form already looks.
Common reasons scholarship applications get rejected include:
- Uploading the wrong version of an essay
- Forgetting supplemental documents or letters attached
Read back through each response, resume details, essay drafts, and any additional files before that satisfying final submit click. This allows you to catch any unfortunate errors jeopardizing an otherwise perfect application.
While checking, also confirm all provided links connect, documents properly upload, and the form visually looks complete with no flagged fields. Additionally submit the application 1-2 days prior to deadlines allowing a buffer for technical internet issues potentially sabotaging last minute applicants.
Invest this final quality check step to assure no silly small oversight costs you scholarship dollars!
9. Save Time By Repurposing Strong Scholarship Essays
Customizing applications takes time but strong writing remains critical for competitive review processes. Luckily, repurposing previous essays as templates saves effort.
Many scholarship essay prompts pose similar questions surrounding applicants’ backgrounds, motivations, accomplishments, career aspirations or potential study topics. Develop 2-3 well-written “master essays” reflecting universal themes adaptable across applications.
When beginning a new scholarship essay, first determine if a master essay already covers related key points. If so, tailor saved drafts to the exact prompt rather than starting from scratch. Priming papers with precise personalized details and examples strengthens content.
Remember to always directly answer each new question prompt accurately. Never solely submit an entirely unedited pre-written draft neglecting themes of different questions. Customizing template essays to strongly answer provided prompts saves writing time while allowing creativity polishing earlier work.
10. Give Yourself Time Cushions When Meeting Scholarship Deadlines
Procrastination kills scholarships chances! Begin targeting application deadlines weeks or even months in advance. Treat due dates for major application components like early mini-deadlines as well:
- Have recommendation requests submitted 4 weeks out
- Complete draft essays for review 2 weeks prior
- Gather supplemental materials 1 week before
Building in these time cushions allows you to perfect submissions with time to spare avoiding last minute submission scrambling vulnerable to errors.
Additionally prioritizing submitting applications days or weeks early brings benefits beyond relieving deadline stress. Various scholarship programs track early application turn ins and prioritize reviewing or award bonus points for initial completions. Even if no official incentive mentions early timing – completing first helps ensure no potential technical issues later sabotage meeting rigid deadlines.
Finally – begin early also means beginning scholarship application journeys early. High school juniors for example could get a jump start securing funding before senior year if targeting programs catering younger applicants. Remain persistent applying throughout high school and college journey’s accumulating awards over years.
Start Applying for Scholarships Today
With billions in scholarship dollars up for grabs each year, the rewards make navigating the application process worthwhile. Consistently putting in work to discover and strategically apply for diverse relevant opportunities maximizes your chances to win free college funding.
Additional tips for getting on the road to scholarship success include:
✔️ Signing up for reputable scholarship search platforms compiling key listings opportunities in one spot
✔️ Asking guidance counselors about undiscovered niche local awards
✔️ Sharing essays with editors checking for errors or areas needing clarity
✔️ Scrubbing social media of any content potentially raising judge’s eyebrows
✔️ Persisting through the process – even some initial rejections
College costs continually climb but with proper preparation, resourcefulness and resilience, scholarships help students access education dreams without drowning in debt.
Implement organization systems and dedicated search strategies securing you financial assistance rewards persisting even after high school years. Maximizing scholarships means maximizing futures.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are scholarships important?
Scholarships provide students with free money for college that does not need repayment. With college costs and borrowing rates rising, scholarships make accessing higher education possible without accruing massive student loan debt burdens. Awards recognize students for academic, extracurricular, creative achievements or other applicant traits.
How many scholarships are there?
There are over 1.7 million different scholarships awarded annually together totaling over $3 billion available for students in the United States alone. High schools student can begin applying as early as junior year with options persisting throughout college as well.
Do I need perfect grades to win scholarships?
Great grades certainly help qualify for merit award academic scholarships but are not essential or limiting factors. Approximately 30% of all scholarships awarded go to applicants earning GPAs between 3.0-3.4. Well rounded applications with interesting life experiences or perspectives still have opportunities to win financial support.
When should I start applying to scholarships?
Ideally starting your scholarship search 1-2 years before needing funds allows you maximum chances to win multiple awards over time. However, opportunities still exist for those with impending tuition bills. Begin the process as early as possible – even current college students can still supplement aid securing new scholarships each year.
What are some tips for writing strong scholarship essays?
Critical essay writing tips include directly answering provided prompts, highlighting personal experiences illustrating deeper applicant insights, maintaining formal style with polished grammar, sharing drafts seeking reliable editors’ feedback and professionally communicating clear passions supporting focused academic/career ambitions.
Key Takeaways: Tips for Winning Scholarships
- Start the scholarship search early – 1-2 years before college to maximize potential awards
- Utilize reputable search platforms to discover personalized opportunities you qualify for
- Strategically categorize and prioritize scholarships based on key factors like award size
- Apply for some easier, fast scholarships to check off your list
- Customize application materials aligning your story to each award’s unique mission
- Scrutinize online presences from a committee member’s perspective
- Build in time cushions on calendars before deadlines to allow for revisions and error checking
- Repurpose well-written scholarship essays as templates applied to similar prompts
- Persist working through the process – securing some funding still pays off!