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The scholarship application process can take a lot of work and organizational skills. Scholarships can seem intimidating, but if you take the time to prepare in advance and follow a few simple rules while applying, you will increase your chances of winning money for college!

Before the Application Process

  • Research potential awards: If you have a list of scholarships in advance, it will take a lot of work off your plate while applying. Talk to your school counselor, check out your college’s website, or use online resources like ScholarshipQuest to create your list of awards and arrange them by difficulty of the application and the due date.
  • Prepare for essays: Although you do need to write a new essay for every scholarship, a lot of essay prompts are similar enough that you can create outlines for future essays. Check out this page for some common essay questions.
  • Ask for letters of recommendation: Nothing can slow down your application process like trying to find a recommender last minute. Start early and ask some recommenders before you work on applications. That way, you have an idea of who you can ask when you are working on applications.

During the Application Process

  • Start early: It is tempting to put off scholarship applications, but last-minute work equals sloppy applications, which decreases your chance of winning. As soon as you find a scholarship that you want to apply for, note the due dates and what application materials are required. Give yourself at least two weeks to work on your application a little at a time, especially if there are letters of recommendation involved.
  • Read (and follow!) the instructions: The only surefire way that your scholarship application will be considered is if you meet all of the eligibility requirements and if you follow all of the instructions. Scholarship providers can be reviewing anywhere from dozens to hundreds of applications for one scholarship, so they probably won’t have time to chase you down if you forgot something. Do yourself a favor and make sure you are submitting all of the materials in the correct format to the correct place by the correct day and time.
  • Put your best foot forward: Neatness and accuracy do count in scholarships, so make sure that your application is not crumpled or dirty and that it is easy to read. Additionally, have someone proofread your application before you submit it. Last, don’t be shy about your accomplishments! You are trying to convince this scholarship provider that you are the best candidate for their scholarship. It may feel like bragging, but in this case, it isn’t.

After the Application Process

  • Keep a list of all scholarships that you applied for: If you’ve applied for several scholarships, it can be easy to forget some of them. Keep a list throughout your senior year of every scholarship that you’ve applied for. That way, if you receive contact from one of them, it won’t be a surprise.
  • Be available for contact: During scholarship season, you will need to be easily reachable. This means checking the email address you listed on scholarship applications at least 1-2 times a week (including your spam/junk folder), making sure you go through the mail, and answering your phone whenever you can (especially for numbers you don’t recognize—sorry that you will probably be picking up some spam calls for a few months!). Some providers indicate on the application when they will notify applicants, but this isn’t the case for everyone. If the provider can’t reach you, the provider can’t give you money. Don’t let missed contact be the reason why you aren’t awarded a scholarship!
  • Respond to all contact attempts quickly: If you receive a letter, email, or voicemail from a scholarship provider, reply to them right away (assuming it’s a legitimate scholarship that you applied for—click here to learn how to spot scholarship scams). The sooner you get back to them, the sooner you can get your money. Being hard to reach or slow to return contact can be frustrating for a scholarship provider, and if you miss any awarding deadlines, it may cost you a scholarship.
  • Follow all instructions set by the scholarship provider: It is not unusual for a scholarship provider to request additional action steps and/or paperwork from you after you’ve been selected to receive an award. This can include (but is not limited to) signing a scholarship agreement, sending a photo, providing additional contact information, completing payment procedures, and more. Follow these steps quickly and thoroughly in order to receive your money in a timely manner. If you’re unsure about anything related to the scholarship notification and awarding process, ask the provider! Most providers are happy to answer questions.

The scholarship application process is time-consuming, but with a little organization and prep work, you can make it a lot easier on yourself.

By Allison Ourada