When it comes to money-making ideas for college, scholarships are the holy grail of financial aid. Scholarships provide free money that never needs to be paid back, which is hard to beat. Unfortunately, scholarships don’t normally fall into students’ laps. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The chances of winning a scholarship are about a 1 in 8 for rising high school seniors and it’s even rarer to win a “free ride,” as noted by Saving for College.
However, it’s important not to let the odds deter you! More than 1.7 million private scholarships and fellowships are awarded every year, which amounts to $7.4 billion in award money. By working hard, implementing the right research strategies, and fine-tuning your applications, it’s certainly possible for you to be one of the lucky few to get your hands on some of these coveted awards. The scholarship application process can be overwhelming, time-consuming, and downright stressful, so we are here to make things easier for you. Here are six simple tips and tricks to help you land the scholarship that will change your life forever. Let’s get started!
1. Get Outside Help
Before you even begin searching for scholarships, it’s essential to be on top of your schoolwork. While getting good grades and having stellar SAT scores are not the only factors that scholarship judges consider, your academic performance is certainly a significant portion of your application. In fact, merit-based scholarships will often include a minimum GPA in the requirements that applicants must meet to apply.
If you are worried about having good enough grades to qualify for certain scholarships, don’t despair! It’s never too late to boost your academic performance, and there are many ways to do so. If you are struggling with a particular subject, strongly consider reaching out to a teacher for extra help or hiring a private tutor. One of the best parts about private tutors is that they can provide customized one-on-one instruction and tailor their lessons to suit your academic needs, whether you need to improve your writing skills or your ACT math score.
2. Apply Locally
One common scholarship trap that many rising college students fall into is only applying for national scholarships with large rewards. While these scholarships may offer more money, there’s a good chance that more students will also be applying for these scholarships making them more competitive. Continue applying for scholarships that offer the big bucks, but also strongly consider applying to local scholarships, as well. Your odds of landing a local scholarship will be far greater because you will likely be competing against fewer students.
Talk with your guidance counselor, search outside financial aid offices, and look on bulletin boards inside churches and nonprofits to discover and learn more about local scholarships in your hometown. If you want to go the extra mile, do some research to discover more about previous winners of the local scholarships that you are applying for. While these awards may not offer as pretty of a penny, they can help with college costs like books, supplies, and living expenses. Every little bit counts!
3. Use Scholarship Search Engines
Searching for scholarships can sometimes feel like finding a needle in a haystack. With millions of scholarships available online, it can be hard to know where to start your search. That’s why utilizing the best scholarship websites is key to finding awards that are perfectly aligned with you and your interests. Many top-rated scholarship search engines will ask you to create a profile, which will inform the site about the basic information regarding your identity. By providing the scholarship site with context about yourself, the search engine will be able to send you scholarships that fit your background.
For example, if you are religious, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or from a military family, there are countless scholarships that are catered towards every one of these communities and then some. You may discover a niche group of scholarships geared towards you that you had never even known about! With the right search tools, you can efficiently hone in on the scholarships that are the best fit and that you have the highest chances of winning.
4. Pay Attention to the Details
The scholarship application process can sometimes feel like a race against time. However, it’s important not to rush through your applications and skip over important details. You could complete what feels like the best application in the world, but if the scholarship requires you to include an additional essay component that you forget about, you may be disqualified.
First things first: make sure that you meet all of the eligibility criteria for a scholarship before you begin the application. Then make a list of all the materials needed for each submission.
If you are applying to scholarships that require letters of recommendation or official transcripts, make sure to request those a month or so in advance to give yourself buffer time for those materials to arrive. Lastly, don’t forget to proofread your essay. Double-check to see that you stuck to the right word count and didn’t make any spelling and grammar mistakes.
5. Focus on the Essay
Of all the components of the scholarship application, the essay portion is arguably the most significant. If a scholarship that you are applying for requires an essay, write about something you’re passionate about or something that showcases your special talents. Writing a compelling essay can catch the judges’ attention and help you stand out from the crowd.
Whether your essay is about getting involved in your community or about a hurdle that you struggled to overcome, scholarship granters also love to hear stories about students who have conquered challenges and learned from those experiences. Strongly consider researching previous winners of specific scholarships. Looking at winning entries from the organization administering the scholarship program can provide insight into what the judges are looking for and give you a competitive edge.
6. Give Back
If you are reading this article, you know the profound impact scholarships can have on someone’s life. Giving the gift of a scholarship allows deserving students to receive higher education and ultimately fulfill their lifelong career ambitions. Whether you want to set up a memorial fund to honor someone you have lost or give back to a cause close to your heart, strongly consider starting a scholarship fund of your own to help students like you in need. If you can’t afford to start one alone, gather a group of friends and launch a fundraiser, whether it’s a yard sale or a lemonade stand. A little hard work will make all the difference when you help someone achieve their dream.