Money Matters: 5 Tips for Tackling Scholarship Application Essays

Guest post by Andrea Elzy

Andrea “Drea” Elzy recently led a National Honor Society virtual college application essay writing workshop on the topic of scholarship applications. Here, she offers valuable tips that can be shared with students.

The college admission process can be a rigorous one—and requires reflection on what schools to apply to, why to apply to those particular universities, and how students might potentially finance their education.

Scholarships can be a great resource and an often untapped way to help ease the burden of educational expenses. There is no shortage of funding through scholarships—and, in many cases, students may find that there are scholarships available for not only academics and extracurricular involvement, but also scholarships available for personal attributes, qualities, etc.

Here are five tips to help students to tackle their scholarship applications successfully:

  1. Do Your Homework
    In order to be purposeful with this endeavor, students must know what scholarships are “out there” and available for them. There are scholarships that range from academic- based merit scholarships, sports, extracurricular and cocurricular activities—to scholarships for first-generation college students. That said, students must do their homework and discern which scholarships apply to them based on the terms of the scholarship and their particular skill sets, attributes, etc.
  2. The More Applications, the Better!
    The application process can be a tedious one, but it can also be fruitful. The goal is, of course, to get as much funding as a student can to ease educational cost. There are instances where students opt to apply for one large scholarship (which is great!), but many small scholarships can add up and mean big dollars. That said, students should not limit their options. They should apply to as many scholarship programs as they can in an effort to maximize their aid,
  3. Stay Organized
    As students begin to do their “homework” and find scholarships that they feel are viable for them, it’s important to stay organized. Many scholarships have very specific requests for information, this can include transcripts, personal statements, and other materials as requested. A great way for students to stay organized as they navigate this process is to create a chart, which can be used to outline scholarship amounts, scholarship terms and conditions such as GPA requirements, requested materials, important deadlines, etc.
  4. Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines
    Deadlines are critical. Students must understand that scholarship deadlines are likely hard deadlines. If a student fails to submit his or her application within the requested deadline, it may not be read and may be rendered void. This is particularly important because scholarship applications take time. A student will want to avoid submitting an application late after spending a considerable amount of time to completing it.
  5. Read, Create, and Complete a Purposeful Application Essay
    No matter what the scholarship is for—academic merit, sports, or individual qualities or attributes—it is critical to have completely read the terms of the scholarship, provided all of the necessary information requested, and presented the application appropriately.

More than likely, the scholarship application will require an essay. That said, students should consider the following 10 questions while writing their essay together:

  • Have I outlined the reason(s) why I am qualified for this scholarship based on its terms?
  • Is my essay answering questions as outlined in the scholarship application?
  • Am I accurately and honestly painting a picture of myself and my reason for applying?
  • Does the essay express the need and/or what compelled me to apply for the scholarship?
  • Does the essay follow all guidelines (formatting, word count, etc.)?
  • Have I appropriately introduced myself to the application reader?
  • Does the essay outline and highlight my strengths? (Students want to be sure they are being competitive in their essay.)
  • Does my essay discuss my future academic and professional endeavors? (Remember, scholarship readers want to know what they are financing. What will the student will be studying and how this scholarship will help the student achieve his or her goals?)
  • Have the application and essay been edited? Are they error-free?
  • Have I reread the application and essay prior to submission? (This helps to ensure the student has not missed, or failed to provide, any necessary information requested in the application and will also help to catch any possible errors.)

These tips can help to ensure that students are being purposeful and are preparing a competitive application and scholarship essay. Remember, the money is out there. Go forth and research, find, apply, and get it! Good luck.

National Honor Society students, as well as faculty and counselors of NHS-affiliated schools, can view Drea’s workshop on demand now. To facilitate participation, viewers should get the school’s NHS affiliation number before logging on. Look for the recording “Sharing Your Story Through Scholarship Application Essays” at www.nhs.us/virtualNHS.

Andrea “Drea” Elzy, MEd, has extensive experience in postsecondary education, student affairs, and student services. She holds a master’s in higher education from the University of Southern California and is a current doctoral candidate studying higher education organizational leadership at the University of Southern California.

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