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10 Tips on How to Win College Scholarships

Getting into and graduating college is definitely not an easy feat. From long application procedures to countless entrance exams, it can be difficult to juggle everything.  It’s also worth noting that higher education is costly–tuition and other college fees increase significantly every year. Thus, many students turn to scholarships.

Most parents and students cover college costs by taking on loans or applying for some sort of financial aid. By finding scholarships, you won’t have to be burdened by student loans. 

However, with hundreds of thousands of high school students sending out a scholarship application, how do you increase your chance of winning? Most students and parents assume that winning scholarships is not a possibility for them, but it’s probably more likely than they think.

In this scholarship guide, you will learn how to come up with a winning mindset and accomplish applications efficiently.

  1. Submit Applications Before the Deadline

Being late when submitting applications for scholarships is crucial. If you send in your application late, you will likely end up in the rejected pile or blocked out of online application systems. Your achievements and awards won’t matter at all if you fail to adhere to deadlines.

Keep track of due dates by using a planner or calendar. If you forget the deadline, you can always contact the organization through their email address and ask for important dates. Do whatever it takes so you’ll never be late.

  1. Stand Out from the Crowd

You need to create a personal statement that will capture the attention of scholarship judges. Explain how your experience is aligned with the mission or vision of the organization.  According to Monica Matthews, a mom who helped her son win $100,000 in college scholarship funding, it’s important to market your skills and personality.  Talk about why you’re the best person for the scholarship money–use the organization’s background and how it relates to you.

  1. Start with a Small, Realistic Goal

Many students make the mistake of applying to dozens of scholarships in one shot. Setting massive goals may be exciting at first but once you realize how daunting it is, you might suddenly give up. Thus, small but realistic goals are the way to go.

For example, you can find four scholarships with deadlines that are within the next five to six months. Make them your priority in your scholarship application efforts.

Why is this a good idea? First, it’s easier to look for four scholarships that you are qualified for. You have a greater chance of winning these scholarships compared to other ones.  Next, this gives you enough taste of the application procedure to help you figure out if you like to keep doing it.

If you enjoyed the scholarship-hunting process or if you actually end up winning one, then you can begin applying for many more. Until then, keep your choices small.

  1. Don’t be Discouraged if you Don’t Win the First Time

Keep in mind that it’s a numbers game when you’re applying for scholarships. The more applications you send, the better your chances of winning. If you don’t qualify for your first application, don’t worry! It’s not the end of your journey. Millions of scholarships are being posted and updated daily, so there’s no reason to give up if your hard work is not rewarded right away.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to win a scholarship and not everyone is guaranteed to have one. But what’s important is that you never stop trying–if you do, you’ll never get closer to getting your dream scholarship.

  1. Prove your Claims

Crafting a well-thought-of essay talking about your accomplishments is easy but backing up your claims is another story. Scholarship winners generally give proof that their assertions are true. One way to do that is by obtaining stellar recommendations from your professors or employers. These letters can be attached to your personal essays for better chances of being accepted for a scholarship.

  1. Beware of Scholarship Scams

It always pays to do your research before applying for a scholarship from any organization or individual sponsor. Getting scammed might discourage you from trying to apply again, so it helps to know which scholarships to avoid.

For instance, true scholarships never ask you for fees. Organizations are there to help you and not the other way around. Beware of guarantees that you’ll win, as legitimate scholarship sponsors will never do that. If an offer seems too good to be true, then it most likely is.

Also, don’t fall for emails or letters that claim you’re already a winner even if you didn’t apply. Real scholarships require applicants to exert effort before they are rewarded–you are not just awarded financial aid for no reason.

Avoid giving scholarships asking for personal information that you should never be giving out, such as your social security number. If you are not comfortable with the details requested, then you might be better off applying to another scholarship.

There are many additional resources online to help familiarize you wit scholarship scam guidelines. Use them to be more aware of the warning signs to prevent falling prey to various scams.

  1. Show your Passion

Allowing your personal voice to come through is essential when crafting a well-made scholarship essay. Incorporate lots of details in your personal statement that helps show who you are and what you’re passionate about. For instance, you can discuss a certain problem in your life or in your community and how you helped solve it. You can also share a story about how you overcame adversity, and how you can use what you’ve learned as you embark on your college journey.

  1. Follow Guidelines and Proofread before Submitting

Having missing pieces on your application and committing spelling or grammatical mistakes will immediately land you a spot in the “no” pile. You’re trying to market your best self in these submissions so double-check your application, statement, and other supplemental materials.

It’s also good to ask help from someone grammatically gifted, like your parent, professor, counselor, or even an older sibling. You can have them read through everything and give you feedback on your flow, punctuation, tone, and grammar.

  1. Consider Local Scholarships

With local scholarships, you will likely compete with a smaller number of applicants. This increases your chances of winning one. There are lots of communities that offer local scholarships through benefactors, small enterprises, organizations, clubs, and so on.

Here are a few ways to find scholarships that are locally available:

  • Get information from alumni of local colleges
  • Find personalized scholarship search tools online
  • Search via community portals
  • Limit online searches geographically (e.g. “scholarships in California”)
  • Ask your high school guidance counselor or teachers
  • Search through local media platforms like radio stations and TV
  1. Don’t Hesitate to Send Your Application

It’s normal to feel unsure right before you send your application. Maybe you think your essay could have included better words. Or maybe your resume seems a bit lacking. You stop midway through the application, get lazy, and then completely neglect it. Before you know it, the deadline is a few days ago and you failed to apply for the scholarship.

Never let this happen to you. If you don’t try, you’ll never have a shot at winning. Push through any feeling of fear, frustration, and don’t hesitate to ask help if necessary. Whatever happens in the end, you’ll be glad you did.

How to Win College Scholarships: What to do Next

The cost of attending college isn’t getting any cheaper. By applying for scholarships, you are sure to get a chance at entering your dream university without a hefty student loan weighing you down even after graduating.

Once you get accepted in a scholarship, it’s time to celebrate! You are now one step ahead of a myriad of your fellow students in terms of paying for your college education.

But the work does not end there. If your goal is to win scholarships or simply excel in academics, you don’t always have to be the smartest person in the room–you just need to be willing to do the hard work.


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