A college scholarship is the best way to get help paying for college.
Getting a scholarship isn’t always easy though. Competition is often stiff depending on the kind you are applying for, what qualities they are looking for, and how many other people are applying.
Whether the scholarship you are applying for is for general – i.e. anyone one in need can apply – or specific and niche – hello, unicyclers living in the Midwest! – being more prepared that other candidates will always help your chances of getting the reward.
Here are the things you need to have to succeed in your college scholarship application.
With a few exceptions, each item on this list is a requirement of most college scholarship programs.
Update Your Resume/Curriculum Vitae (CV)
Your resume is a key element of the college scholarship checklist.
It gives the awarding committee an idea not just about your qualifications, but also your interests and where you tend to spend your energy.
Many people mistake the term “CV” – aka curriculum vitae – for a cover letter. But these are not the same thing.
The technical explanation of a CV is “a written overview of a person’s experience and other qualifications for a job opportunity.” Or in this case, a scholarship opportunity.
When putting together this CV, it’s important that you add details that will let the scholarship committee know you’d be a worthy recipient. This means including things like:
- Academic achievements
- Awards or recognitions
- Lists of organizations or clubs
- Community service projects
Some students assume a cover letter is just a formality that no one reads. But don’t underestimate the power a well-written cover letter can have in influencing the scholarship decision committee.
Think of it as your first opportunity to get noticed.
In your cover letter, you’ll want to highlight a number of important things:
- Attributes that make you a desirable candidate for the scholarship
- Why you’re a great fit
- What you plan on doing once you are the successful scholarship recipient
It can be nice to include a personal story or anecdote to also give the committee a sense of who you are as an individual.
Take the time to make a letter that stands out; that will give you a head start over other applicants – just be sure to double and triple check spelling and grammar!
Letters of Recommendation
You’re going to need all the help you can get to secure the college scholarship – or scholarships – that you want.
Stellar recommendation letters are key to that process. And one of the most important steps is picking the right people to write them for you.
Great people to ask include teachers, supervisors, coaches, pastors, and other people that you’ve worked with professionally or on a community level.
It’s not a bad idea to think about two people who know you in different parts of your life to give the committee a good sense of your whole self.
Some scholarships don’t require you to secure letters of recommendation, but it’s always helpful to have at least one in the mix.
Transcripts are pretty much always a general requirement for students applying for college scholarship programs.
They serve as a record of the grades you’ve received in school, and also show the committee what kind of courses you’ve taken, and how many requirements you’ve completed.
It’s important to note that sometimes getting official transcripts can take some time, so make sure you are planning appropriately. Have them on hand well before you’re ready to submit finished applications.
SAT or ACT Score
As you know, your SAT or ACT score is important for determining your chances of getting into the school of your dreams. But you may not know that your SAT score can also impact your chances of securing scholarships, or how much money you end up getting.
A high score on these exams is important; but they aren’t always deal breakers for scholarships. There are normally other parts of your scholarship application that can help you in the selection process.
This is why things like recommendation letters, CV’s and cover letters can go a long way in painting the full picture of you as a student and a person.
If your grades leave something to be desired, put extra effort into all the other little details of your application.
Some people see this as a minor detail, but it is often recommended that you include a professional photo yourself for your application. And no, we’re not talking about selfies.
Try grabbing junior or senior yearbook photo, or even going to a local studio to get a quick headshot taken, to make the entire application seem more formal and complete.
The list above are the basics of a scholarship application, and double checking all of your forms before applying is a great idea.
While these are the main items that scholarship committees usually require, the particular scholarships might require additional information or materials.
Make sure to read the list requirements of each scholarship opportunity thoroughly; you wouldn’t want to be dismissed for simply not following direction.
Utilizing this guide will save you time and trouble when applying for college scholarships, and help you get that positive first impression you’re aiming for.