3 Ultimate Strategies on Applying for Scholarships
By Jessy Huang
After the first few, in only gets easier (MUCH easier).
Why should you apply for (lots of) scholarships?
- If you know simple arithmetic, working 10 hours on minimum wage job (you’ll take any job when you struggle to pay off your student loans) will get you <$100, but working 10 hours on a scholarship could potentially get you >$1000 and much more if you can leverage them (using my strategies).
But, if you have crazy rich parents or you are down to work with a minimum wage job, please don’t apply to scholarships. Save them for people like me who’s parents won’t pay for any of my college expenses 🙂
How you should approach applying for scholarships:
- Have a scholarship calendar.
• I use Google Sheets, and I’ll find scholarships beforehand and bookmark them and organize them in folders by month.
• I will then go through them before the month of its deadline and organize them into its name, essay requirements, rec letter requirements, deadlines, status (submitted/needs attention/dropped), reason (if dropped), and hear back date.
• Then, scholarships with earlier deadlines in the month will get higher priority (which I’ll highlight sections of the approximate week I should start doing them). I always use Wordcounter.net + Grammarly for every prompt I write.
• At the beginning of each month, I will see which scholarships need rec letters and email the designated recommenders (I had 5) to write my letter. It’s best to inform them about what to touch on so they will compliment your essay topics. If I got a scholarship, I would send a thank you email to the recommender who wrote my letter. At the very end, I will handwrite a thank-you note and a gift to all the recommenders who wrote rec letters for me.
• See my scholarship calendar here.
- Apply to all the local ones. With more time, then apply to the ones that are national/found on scholarship sites.
• For in state scholarships, you can check on in-state scholarship sites. Texas, for example, has Communities Foundation of Texas (www.cftexas.org).
• Also, ask your counselor about sending you scholarship information and be sure to thank him/her (positive reinforcement). Some school districts will also compile a list of local scholarships. Check your school district and other districts near you (e.g.).
• For scholarship sites, I subscribed to Unigo, Fastweb, and Cappex. They sent me an email about scholarship opportunities once every other day or so, which I’ll look at, maybe save it to my bookmarks folder and put into the calendar to do.
• Bonus: search “scholarship name + Cappex” on Google, Cappex will tell you how competitive it is. I usually drop the ones that say “There will be a lot of competition for this scholarship.”
• I also never do the ones that require you to fill out surveys (many are fake, and I don’t rely on chances), the ones that only require you to fill out a 250-word essay or film a short video, and the ones that are sponsored by scholarship websites (due to large competition).
- Quality at first, the quantity over quality.
• When you are just starting out with scholarship essays, you want to spend A LOT of time, making them as perfect as possible and let many to proofread them. One thing I wish I had done more was collaborating with my friends who were good at writing essays and get inspired by their ideas.
• Who should proofread them? Here’s the order of people who would be most qualified to proofread: professional scholarship/college application specialists (if you have money to hire them, they will be well worth the money) > students that have gotten a lot of scholarships/successful with applying to colleges (if you have $ to hire them (e.g. Chegg) or have personal relationships with them) > counselors/teachers with prior application experience > yourself > your peers/family members.
• Once you are around your mid-stage of applying to scholarships (i.e. you’ve done more than ten scholarships that require essays, which is not hard to do), you can basically just copy, paste, and edit according to the prompt (which probably take less than 30 min to do). The same goes to your recommenders; it’ll probably take them less than 10 min to do a rec letter. By this time it’s a shame that you don’t apply to LOTS of them.
o Most scholarships will ask you the basic things like: what’s your educational goal, how do you envision yourself in the future, how will this scholarship help you, what’s your background, etc.
o The more specific ones may ask: how do you demonstrate your leadership, how has volunteering helped you, what hardships have you overcome.
o The even more detailed ones that reward a particular major may ask: how small business ownership has shaped you today, or why should more women get involved in STEM.
o The most specific ones will make their own prompt like: “What lessons or insights did you draw from the 2016 U.S. Presidential election?” “The older you get, the less you know. What don’t you know?” “Imagine that you have the opportunity to travel back in time. At what time would you like to stop, and why?” these are the type of scholarships you’ll have to rewrite, but they have the best reward and least competition.
- Bonus: by this time, you probably have everything you’ve ever done written out. It’s time to make your LinkedIn profile so you can start a network and connect to people! Remember to emphasize on statistics (# people you impacted, $ you raised, etc.).