College costs can be very expensive. Even students who are able to live at home and attend a local university may need financial help for tuition, fees, and books. Help is available, but many families simply aren't aware of how to find that help. While you might find yourself receiving mail on a daily basis from financial institutions offering you a multitude of student loans, you have to search for scholarships. What is the biggest benefit of choosing a scholarship over a loan? Scholarship money is yours to keep, and you won't have to pay it back as long as you follow the stipulations of the scholarship! The following steps will give you a good idea of how to apply for the millions of dollars worth of scholarships that are claimed each year.
- Getting Organized. The first step in the scholarship application process is to get organized! Gather together important information from your high school years, such as organization memberships, extracurricular activities, transcripts, standardized test scores, upper level academic courses, volunteer projects, financial aid forms, achievements, and awards. You will repeatedly refer to this information as you begin applying for scholarships. Create a separate file folder for each scholarship. Place these files in the order that the scholarships are due, so that you won't miss any deadlines.
- Applying Early. This is so important! You need time to gather all of your information together, compile a folder of references, and receive the proper application materials. Many scholarship applications must be received no later than the fall of your senior year in high school.
- Determining Eligibility. If you have any doubts about your eligibility status for a particular scholarship, contact the financial aid department of that institution before you begin the application process.
- Completing Applications. Proofread! Proofread! Proofread! Remember that you are in competition with hundreds, even thousands, of other students for this scholarship. Common spelling and grammatical errors can mean the difference between success and defeat! Sign and date everything. Be sure you've included the correct number of references, and make sure the information regarding those references is correct. You should plan on mailing your scholarship application ahead of time. A missed deadline means you won't be receiving that scholarship!
- Preparing for Essays and Interviews. Many scholarship applications require an essay. Some scholarship applications also require that a personal interview should be set up. Your essay or interview is the best way for you to express and portray yourself. This is your opportunity to stand out among all of the other applicants. With this in mind, don't go overboard! Stick to the word limit for the essay. Don't add additional materials unless they are requested. Above all, stick to the topic that has been given. Check and double check your writing. Have another person proofread it as well. Be sure your essay is organized, neatly written, and expresses your thoughts clearly. If you must set up a personal interview, dress neatly in business clothing. Don't wear a lot of jewelry. Speak clearly and confidently.
- Finding Success. The scholarship application process can be an arduous journey. However, if you focus on sending complete applications that are error free and include all of the necessary information and a well-written essay (if required), you have already stepped closer to the front of the line!