Scoring Scholarships

Scoring Scholarships—How to Create a Fantastic Application

Most students can win a scholarship, you just need to know where to look, how to look, and how to complete an application that will wow the judges and stand out from the crowd. Even before the scholarship criteria and/or deadlines are released you can begin to prepare so that you are ready to go when you find that scholarship that is perfect for you.

Analyse Yourself
Filling out a success scholarship application is all about knowing yourself. You can begin by writing down any: job experience, volunteering, skills, hobbies, interests, travel experience and/or ethnocultural groups that you belong to. Now create a list of what you wish to accomplish through your university career and/or your life. Compare these lists. Your experience, skills and hobbies can help you to achieve your goals. Understanding the connections between your life experiences, your interests and your future goals will help you write scholarship applications that impress the judges.

Use these lists to write a one-page statement of your skills, experience and interests. Write a second one-page statement about your life goals. You now have answers to some of applications’ questions. By preparing these personal statements in advance they will sound clearer and have fewer mistakes. **DON’T FORGET to EDIT for spelling and grammar!! You may want to get a parent or teacher to read through your statements.

Play the Numbers Game
Apply for as many scholarships as you can! The more you apply for the greater you chances of success AND you may end up winning multiple scholarships.

You will greatly increase your chances of scoring scholarships if you apply for the smaller awards. The larger the award the, the greater the competition, so don’t just go for the big money. Some of the smaller awards receive very few applicants.

Try to apply for different kinds of scholarships. Some scholarships may accent your extra-curricular activities or volunteer work. Others may focus on sports, art or your ethnocultural/religious background. Apply for them all! Some applications may ask for an essay, a portfolio or the copy of a project. Learn which applications you are best at filling out so that you can apply for the scholarships that accentuate your skills.

Build a Portfolio
A portfolio is a collection of work you have produced that is presented in a professional way. These can be helpful in applying for both scholarships and employment.

Portfolios may include, but are not limited to: writing for the school yearbook or newspaper, drawings or paintings (or photographs of art pieces that are large), an article written about you or your accomplishments, awards you have won, websites you have created, samples of your creative writing, school essays, letters of recommendation etc. etc. A great portfolio will consist of as many different kinds of accomplishments as possible.

Working now to have all of these accomplishments in one place will make it easier later if you are asked to submit a copy of your portfolio.

Be Precise
Target your application specifically to what the scholarship is looking for. Read the application carefully and think about your answers. Look for key words that are repeated throughout the application i.e. ‘volunteer’ or ‘athletic.’

Give them EXACTLY what they ask for…NO MORE, NO LESS. If the scholarship asks for a concise response to a question, e.g. answer in 300 words or less, writing 4 pages to demonstrate all that you know is NOT going to impress the judges.

Get the application in on time and don’t make mistakes. You are competing with other fantastic applicants and do not want to give the judges any excuse for putting your application directly in the reject pile.

Recycle Your Essays
This statement needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Although you are encouraged to use the same framework for multiple applications you need to make sure that your essay doesn’t sound recycled.

Step 1: Start with a generic essay that you can create using the 2 pages of personal statements you created (this is easier than starting from scratch).
Step 2: Read the scholarship application very carefully to determine the specific criteria being sought.
Step 3: Edit your generic essay so that it fits the requirements of that specific application.
**Tailor each essay to meet the requirements of EACH scholarship, this will show the judges that you care and are a serious applicant.**

Writing a Winning Scholarship Essay
When applying for a scholarship, the essay section gives you a chance to show the evaluators a little more about you as a person, to set yourself apart from everyone else. This gives the evaluators a chance to see just how much YOU deserve this scholarship.

Here are some tips to help you with the essay, whether it is a topic of your choice, a specific topic or a creative writing piece.

Before you Start
1. Read the Directions: No one is going to give you a scholarship if you cannot even follow directions. Pay attention to things like word length (i.e. 500 words), type style (i.e. double spaced, Times New Roman) and exactly what the question is asking.
2. Discuss Your Ideas: The idea for the perfect essay may not come to you right away. Discuss your ideas with friends, family or teachers.
3. Choose Your Focus: Quality is better than quantity! Describe one event or experience in depth rather than trying to squeeze too many stories into one essay. Creativity and originality are always important as the readers will have received several similar essays; however, beware that your attempts at creativity are not over the top. The most important thing is to be honest and to be yourself.

Writing the Essay
You have all written essays before and, by now, should understand the basic principles of essay writing. Here are some tips about these types of essays.
1. Start with a Bang: Try to excite your reader about the experience they will encounter when reading your essay. Draw your reader into the essay in an interesting way without simply listing what you will be discussing, or repeating the question.
2. Don’t Rehash: If the essay is the last component in a lengthy application that has asked you to fill out multiple forms, your essay is NOT the place to repeat what you have already told the reader. This is your opportunity to SHOW instead of TELL. So rather than telling the reader that you are an “energetic, dedicated, caring individual,” explain what you do that is so energetic, shows dedication or exemplifies caring.
3. Watch Your Language: Make sure you use clear, concise language. DO NOT USE SLANG. Your essay does not have to be as formal as an academic paper but, do not use slang terms, ‘teen’ expressions, msn/text messaging language or short forms.

After the Fact
Review, review, review…Edit, edit, edit

Plan ahead and know your application deadlines. This will allow you to write the essay with plenty of time to put it away for a few days and then re-read it. It’s much easier to find mistakes when you’re looking at a paper with fresh eyes. Read your essay aloud and have it proof read by someone else, or several others. NEVER rely on the spell check alone! (e.g. ‘their,’ ‘there,’ and ‘they’re’ are all spelled correctly but used differently).

Make sure that you submit your application to the correct address, with the proper postage. If you miss the deadline because of an incorrect address or improper postage you will not get a second chance.

Remember, though the essay is important, it’s only part of your application. Other forms, supporting documents (e.g. transcript), letters of recommendation or an interview may be required. The key is to allow plenty of time to complete EACH section of your application carefully and thoroughly. Make sure you give at least 2 weeks notice when asking for a letter of recommendation and at least 2 days notice to get a copy of your transcript.