It’s no secret that scholarships are one of the best ways to pay for college, but where do you begin? With nearly every scholarship application requiring an essay, letters of recommendation, and a slew of personal information, getting started and figuring out how to get college scholarships can be daunting.
At the same time, with the cost of education rising year after year, scholarships are becoming increasingly important. Scholarships, unlike student loans, do not have to be repaid and provide free money with no strings attached. Winning scholarships can help you significantly reduce (or even eliminate) the burden of student debt and rising interest rates after graduation.
Regardless of how fantastic they are, students are frequently perplexed about how to obtain scholarships. Where should you start? When should you start? Which scholarships are worthwhile? How many positions should you apply for?
The questions can become overwhelming and even scare away some students. When it comes down to it, applying for scholarships isn’t all that difficult! With a little hard work and perseverance, you can be well on your way to earning your own scholarships. Check out our 12 best scholarship tips to make your applications stand out!
1. Go, Local
While national scholarships receive more attention and press online, local scholarships typically provide better opportunities. You’ll only compete against students in your area, rather than thousands nationwide. Not only that, but you’ll be supporting fantastic local initiatives in your community.
Your high school guidance counselor or college admissions office should be able to provide you with a wealth of information on local scholarships that are relevant to your situation. If not, try searching Google for “scholarships + your state/city” or using a scholarship search engine to find lists of scholarships. Did we mention that our blog is chock-full of state-specific scholarship articles?
Going Merry also makes it easy to find local scholarships (really, what don’t we do?). Simply go to your profile and select “scholarships” then “local scholarships” to see what’s available in your area.
2. Find Your Edge
Scholarship providers devote countless hours to reviewing scholarship applications and essays that address the same prompt. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of applications are ignored. The most memorable have a better chance of winning. Just like in marketing, look for and exploit any advantage you have over your competitors.
Begin by making a list of your strengths. What do you excel at? What do your friends constantly ask you to assist them with? Then, consider how you can highlight your strengths throughout your application, particularly in the short answer and essay questions. Show the scholarship committee why your qualifications make you an ideal candidate for the award.
Your life experiences can also help to distinguish your applications. You’ve probably encountered events or challenges that are unique to you: make a list and use it to your advantage.
3. Make Your Essay Shine
Another way to make your application stand out is to approach the essay from an unusual perspective. There are no rules that say you can’t put your own unique spin on the essay as long as you thoroughly answer the prompt and use your best writing skills (unless your application specifically says not to!).
But what does it mean to put your own distinctive spin on an essay? Basically, incorporate your own life experiences into your writing. For example, let’s imagine that the essay question is “why do you want to study medicine?”. It’s safe to assume that the vast majority of applicants will say something along the lines of “I want to help people.” While this is a perfectly valid reason, it does not make for an interesting essay.
Instead, try a different approach to the essay by telling a story about a doctor you once had, the first time you felt inspired to study medicine, or a dream you have that medicine can help you realize. It is acceptable and even encouraged, to pause and reflect before beginning the essay. The greater your ability to delve into your personal dreams and goals, the better.
Check out our step-by-step guide to applying for scholarships for more information on how to write an outstanding essay.
4. Seek Out Similar Applications
Let’s face it: scholarship applications can be time-consuming and lengthy. Who has time to write several essays a week between classes, homework, studying, and work? Fortunately, if you take the right approach, you won’t need to do anything like that.
Many scholarship applications are quite similar, and while it may appear to be cheating, there is nothing wrong with using the same responses on multiple applications (as long as they are relevant, of course). If it fits, you could even reuse or slightly modify an essay you’ve already written to fit different applications.
Applying for scholarships seems a lot less daunting when you’ve already completed half of the work! Furthermore, you will increase your chances of winning scholarships while doing less overall work.
If you’re not sure where to look for scholarships with essay topics similar to your own, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Give us a list of topics on which you’ve previously written essays, and we’ll do our best to find scholarships with similar or matching topics for you!
5. Use Another Set of Eyes
Having another person look over your application, whether it’s a family member or a friend, can save you the embarrassment of unnecessary typos and also provide you with a second opinion. Others can often notice things about our writing that we miss, such as being too repetitive, writing too much unnecessary information, or being too boring.
Family and friends can offer advice on how to get scholarships that you may not have considered.
6. The More the Merrier!
More is always better when it comes to scholarships! There is no limit to the number of applications you can submit, and submitting more increases your chances. Set aside time each week solely for searching for and applying for scholarships. You could also try setting a monthly goal for the number of scholarships you want to apply for (but keep it realistic).
If you only have a few minutes, it’s even worth it to increase your chances of winning scholarships by entering scholarship sweepstakes or applying for scholarships without essays. Check out our extensive list of simple scholarships to get an idea of where to begin.
7. Get a Head Start
In any situation, waiting until the last minute rarely works out, and scholarships are no exception. Starting early is the best way to take advantage of as many scholarships as possible while avoiding last-minute stress!
High school students can begin applying for scholarships as early as their junior year (Going Merry has a large selection of junior scholarships to assist you!). High school seniors and college students can begin applying for scholarships as early as a year or more before the semester for which they hope to win.
Scholarships are available all year with a variety of deadlines, but many of them fall in March.
8. Take Advantage of Enter To Learn
It not only allows you to apply for scholarships online for free, but it also makes the scholarship application process easier by matching you with scholarships for which you qualify. It not only requires less effort on your part, but it can also introduce you to hundreds of scholarships that you were unaware existed!
Did we also mention that it is completely free for students? If you’re wondering how to get scholarships, is a great place to start.
9. Check Yourself Out Online
Social media nowadays says a lot about who we are. Some scholarship providers may conduct a quick Google search of your name or visit your social media profiles to determine whether your online presence matches what they’re looking for. A quick Google search of your own name to see what comes up can help you avoid surprises.
Your social media profiles don’t have to be professional (except for LinkedIn), but be wary of posts that could be interpreted negatively by scholarship committees.
10. Do Your Research
On the other hand, doing some research on the scholarship provider isn’t a bad idea either. It is not only a good way to ensure that the scholarship is legitimate, but it can also help you with your application. Take the time to learn about the type of person they’re looking for and use your strengths to demonstrate that you’re the ideal candidate.
It’s also worth seeing if the profiles of previous scholarship winners are available on the scholarship provider’s website. Doing research on the types of students who have previously won this scholarship can give you an advantage during the application process. Some service providers also allow you to view the winning essays, which can be useful.
11. Plan Letters of Recommendation in Advance
When students are attempting to figure out how to get scholarships, asking for letters of recommendation is often the most stressful and time-consuming part. Leaving it until the last minute to ask your teachers, professors, counselors, and others for letters of recommendation will only stress them out. Make sure to notify them at least four weeks before the deadline for the scholarship.
allows your recommender to upload their letter to the site so that you can reuse it for multiple applications, making the process of getting Letters of Recommendation easier. This means you can request recommendations at the start of the school year and use them for scholarship applications all year!
Aside from asking ahead of time, choosing the right person to recommend you is critical. If you’re applying for a scholarship for foreign language study, a recommendation from a French teacher, for example, will be far more valuable than one from a physics teacher. It’s also a good idea to get a recommendation from someone who has seen your academic abilities and/or personal character.
12. Keep Your Eye on the Prize!
Never, ever give up hope during the application process! It may appear overwhelming and time-consuming to figure out how to get scholarships, but it is completely worth it in the end. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t receive as many scholarships as you had hoped.
Finally, your patience and time can help you pay for college while avoiding the dreaded student loan, leaving you in a much better financial situation after graduation.
Keep the momentum going by joining Going Merry! It’s quick and easy, and we’ll match you with scholarships in minutes.