12 Tips for Securing Those Much Needed College Scholarships

by Monica Romero Matthews June 16, 2017

group of students in graduation

Ah, scholarship money. Those coveted checks that are awarded to ease the pain of college tuition – not to mention books, housing, food, and all the other expenses that come with university living. There are thousands of scholarships available to students of all levels of school, from elementary to currently-enrolled college students. With so many scholarships available, why is it that most students assume they will never win one? Or worse, what about the student who has applied for numerous scholarships but still hasn’t won any? Believe it or not, it’s not if you apply, but how you apply that may make or break a student’s chance of winning college scholarships. The high school valedictorian with a 4.2 GPA might seem impressive, but if his scholarship application is even a day late, he will not win. How about the student that worked in the soup kitchen, once? Is that truly a commitment to help others? Creating a scholarship application that shines in every way is the key to winning scholarship money. How is a student to do that? The following 12 unique and extremely effective college scholarship winning tips will give any student a great start:

1 | The early bird gets the scholarship

Most students will apply for college scholarships in the spring of their senior year of high school. These students have already been accepted at a college and are being pressured by their parents to find a way to help pay that huge looming tuition bill. The scholarships with fall and early winter deadlines have less competition simply because fewer students apply for them. Students need to apply early and often and let no scholarship deadline pass them by.

2 | Impress right out of the envelope

Have you ever opened an envelope sealed with extra tape, crinkled from over stuffing, and/or smudged as a result of a leaky pen or wet weather? Yikes! Use a proper-sized large envelope, seal it carefully, and hand deliver it to the post office to give an application the extra edge over the others that seem to scream: I don't care!

3 | Claim a clean email address

"Cutesexybaby@abc.com" may seem sweet and innocent, but a 65-year-old scholarship judge will probably not think so. "CarolineGSmith@abc.com" on the other hand is clean, does not make insinuations, and allows the judges to read the applicant's name one more time, which makes that student effortlessly more memorable.

4 | Use the social media Grandma test

Just like email addresses, social media usernames and postings can be searched for and seen by scholarship judges. Profanely tweeting how you hate school and then announcing how you sure hope you win that recently-applied-for scholarship will backfire. What is posted on the internet does not go away and students need to use social media to share their strengths, talents, good works, and accomplishments. If you would not want your Grandma to read it, you should not post it.

5 | Personalize each scholarship deadline

Students are so busy these days with sports, extra-curricular activities, jobs,(hopefully) volunteering, and academics. As each scholarship is found, make a personal deadline of at least two weeks before the actual one. Submitting scholarship applications consistently early will ensure that no deadline is missed and all required materials are gathered and included without any last minute scrambling and frustration.

6 | Cash in on local scholarships

Like early scholarships, local scholarships have less competition. Find as many local scholarships as possible and even create situations that qualify your student to apply. Does a local credit union offer a scholarship? Open an account, and then apply. Is the Lions Club holding a scholarship competition but no one in the family is a member? Call them and see if someone from the local chapter would be willing to be a sponsor an area student. If you are polite, eager, and excited about college, they will be more inclined to help. Many club scholarships do not require that a student or family member has to belong to the club in order to apply for their scholarship, so always check guidelines before making assumptions.

7 | Go high school website hopping

Most high schools list local scholarships on their websites. Don’t settle for just your own high school site, however. Click on over to all other area high school websites and check out their scholarship lists. Take this idea step further and visit college websites in your state. Many list scholarships for all students in that state and not just for accepted or current students of that college. Read the guidelines for each scholarship carefully and make sure all requirements are met before beginning the application process.

8 | Label yourself

Create labels with the student’s name, address, phone number, and name of each scholarship to stick on all pages of each scholarship application. When scholarship judges have stacks of applications to read, pages often become separated, and trying to find the rightful owner is an easy reason for the application to get placed into the reject pile.

9 | Read the newspaper

Most newspapers have a “Names in the News” section announcing local accomplishments and awards won by area residents. Start reading this section daily and write down the names of local scholarships won by students who live in your area. By doing this, parents will soon have a very long detailed list of local scholarships their students can apply for the following school year.

10 | Resist the urge to text-type

Although more and more people are using texting as a form of communication, students need to resist the urge to text-type in their scholarship applications. A scholarship judge will have no patience for an application filled with lack of punctuation, non-use of capitalization, and abbreviations that require guessing. YKWIM? (You Know What I Mean? See, wasn’t that annoying?)

11 | Get past the first 30 seconds

When a scholarship judge has piles of applications to wade through, the first glance at each application can make or break its chances of being placed into the possible winners pile. Having no blank spaces, all required materials in the proper order, and nice neat paperwork will keep a student’s application out of that dreaded reject pile. This tip also goes for online-only applications. All uploads need to be attached properly and each submission guideline followed exactly as stated in the scholarship requirements.

12 | Know the numbers

Unless the scholarship guidelines specify a certain income level, students can go ahead and apply for the award if they feel they truly have financial need. Don’t assume your family makes too much money to apply. Some organizations consider any income under $100,000 as "needy" and many do not ask for financial information at all. Need I say more? There’s no denying that smart students win college scholarships, but learning to smartly apply is the real key. Students need to use creative methods of finding and applying for scholarships and submit 100 percent complete applications. This will automatically increase their chances of winning and help them find even more money for college.

Monica Romero Matthews


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