How to Apply for a Scholarship
Remember your Strengths
Take on the Girl Guide motto and be prepared! Make a list of all your academic, sporting and artistic achievements to keep your best qualities fresh in your mind so you won’t forget in an interview, or when filling out applications. Don’t stop at your school successes though, many scholarship boards will look at extracurricular and community service as well, so make a list of these too; what community, social or environmental causes have you involved yourself with? Have you held jobs or other positions of responsibility? Have you represented your community in any way or have you acted as an ambassador of any group? Asking yourself all of these questions will put you in the right frame of mind to begin the application process with confidence and with your achievements at the forefront of your mind.
Now is also a good time to contact former employers, teachers and community leaders to ask for letters of reference. Keep these together in a safe place. Now compile your awards and certificates, your financial details, academic records and your personal information into a folder so it’s all right there when you need it. Call it your fantastic funding folder and keep it up to date and handy.
Cast your Net Broadly
Now that you are feeling confident and aware of your success it’s time to look at what these achievements can get you in the way of a scholarship. Apply for any possible category you think appropriate. Scholarships are available for leaders, academics, athletes, artists, disadvantaged, specific study – there is a lot to go for. You may find you fit obviously into one or two of these categories but don’t limit yourself. For example, if you are an obvious choice for an academic award but you have also done a lot of community service, you may want to apply for a leadership award as well. Or maybe, you feel you will be successful in acquiring a scholarship on a financial needs basis but you also have a great art portfolio, cast your net as wide as possible and apply for both.
Beware the Scams!
There are a lot of organizations that will offer seminars about scholarships, scholarship search services and scholarship dollars. At best these people are charging you for something readily available for free. At worst they are operating an illegal business which will attempt to scam money or identification from you.
Legitimate sources of information and funding are easily available, simply accessible and very helpful.
FAFSA is the name of the form to be completed for any person considering a federal scholarship. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Aid and the title says it all. It is a free, no obligation opportunity to see if you are eligible for federal funds. This application form is necessary for any and all federal education funding and often colleges will want this as well, as part of the application process. The forms can be filled out on hard copy or online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/. This website also has everything you need to know about the government application process and it is an excellent place to begin your search.
Other scholarships are available through educational institutions directly, societies or trusts and also private philanthropists. The application process for these is slightly different and the opportunities available will vary from state to state.
Most college applications are completed directly through the college. Forms are usually available in the college office or from your high school guidance councillor.
Other scholarships are usually recommended by coaches, tutors, professors or community leaders. If you are involved in such endeavours and you haven’t been approached, be confident and make the approach yourself. It really doesn’t hurt to ask if there is a scholarship within the field of your skills or interests.
Many Colleges will request an essay as part of the application process. They may request a certain topic, formatting style and word length. If you will be submitting several applications it makes a lot of sense to get started on these essays early. If possible, produce a generic essay which can be adapted to individual College criteria.
So now you have your application forms, your essays are written, all of your information is neatly assembled and so completing the forms is easy; you have included all of your references and achievements and the documents are ready to go. Pay attention to deadlines, once the application is complete get it in, because some funding institutions will not accept a late arrival under any circumstances. Once your scholarship is approved it is usually paid directly to your financial institution but this will vary and it makes sense to read through the application documents to find out exactly the terms of the scholarship.