- Get organized and apply early. I began applying for schools in the last semester of my junior year. Some colleges have early admissions programs that allow you to be admitted on a conditional bases (providing that you have pretty good grades and graduate as planned). Getting the admissions process out of the way allows you to spend the early part of your senior years doing scholarship applications instead of admissions applications. Also note deadlines! Most institutional scholarships (money that comes directly from the school or private endowment funds) have early deadlines, some as soon as mid-October/ early November.
- Create a “General Essay”. Develop a great essay that you can tweak for different applications. Remember that no one wants to hear a sob story but personalization is key. A strong personal statement includes your obstacles, achievements, future goals and how you plan to realize them. Include what you hope to accomplish with the help of the scholarship. Are essays fun? No, not for most of us, but think of it this way… If you spend 3 hours doing an essay and you get a $60,000 scholarship, then you just made $20,000 per hour. (True story) You can’t get much better than that.
- Don’t overlook what’s right in your backyard. Local stores, banks, churches, businesses and clubs offer scholarships ranging from $200- $5000. Check with places that you frequent and even online. A few small scholarships can really add up. Search engines such as www.fastweb.com can also provide valuable resources.
- Check eligibility/ application requirements thoroughly. Of course you don’t want to waste your time applying for scholarships that you are not eligible for, so please read carefully. Look for GPA, ACT/SAT, gender, college major and income requirements especially. As a former scholarship evaluator I will also caution you to adhere to essay length minimums/maximums. Hundreds of essays are tossed out on the bases that the person could not follow simple instructions. Don’t let this be you.
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