Winning an outside scholarship can be surprisingly hard, and a small $500 scholarship may not seem like much when applying to schools. Yet each small chunk of money means getting to work fewer hours at your part-time job and focusing more on school. Or consider how much more that $500 becomes when you consider the interest you’d pay on it if it were part of your student loan.
My goal is to graduate debt-free, and I was inspired to do so by many students who have won hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside scholarships. But the only way to receive such a high sum in scholarships is to apply for hundreds of scholarships, so my goal is to apply for 150 scholarships by the end of this year. If you want to graduate debt free, applying to outside scholarships and winning them may be the key to doing so. Here are some tips to make the process seamless.
1. Gather the Requirements
Scholarships will typically require a combination of an essay, your transcript, your resume, or a letter of recommendation. Save a copy of your unofficial transcript, and if you’re in college, try to save both your high school and college transcript, as a small number of scholarships will require both. The more accessible these things are, the more likely you’ll end up sending out that application.
2. Start Local
Your greatest chances of winning a scholarship are at the local level. If you are currently in high school, ask your counselor for a list of local scholarships, or check your high school’s website for a list. Even if you are out of high school, it’s worth checking your old high school’s website or the website of a high school in the area that you live in to see if any accept applications from college students.
3. Get Specific
Many people believe that lots of scholarships are open only to minority students, but in fact, that’s just one of the thousands of categories that are available. Start off by making a list of categories you fall into. These can be the county and state you live in, the sorority or fraternity you’re a part of, the clubs you’re in, your nationality or immigration status, your level of financial need, your major, if your parents are or were in the military, your religion, or organizations you are a part of. Even scholarships specific to tall people exist. The more specific the scholarship, the narrower the pool of applicants is, and the higher chance you are likely to win. The most specific scholarship I have applied to so far is a scholarship for students that hold a life insurance policy from a certain company. I have applied to scholarships for Polish students as well and one specifically for students that aggressively apply for scholarships. Proper research is pertinent to narrowing down scholarships by category.
4. Use the Internet
Websites such as Scholly ($3 a month), Fastweb (free), Scholarships.com (free), or Unigo (free), are great places to look for scholarships you may not be aware of. In my experience, Scholly has provided the most scholarship matches and the most relevant ones. Through using it, I received a $1,000 scholarship. I was also a finalist for a $20,000 scholarship I found through Unigo. Exploring various websites will help you find the most scholarships.
5. Apply Everywhere
If you’re eligible to apply for a scholarship, do it! Ask a friend, teacher, or writing center tutor at your university to review your essay, and each time you apply for a scholarship, save the essay you used. Many scholarships have relatively simple questions like what is your major, explain a hardship in your life, what are your career and educational goals, and what do you want to do after graduation. After sending out a few applications, you’ll have responses to these basic questions and can quickly fill out other applications quickly, making it easy to apply for fifty or more scholarships in a short amount of time. Take an hour a day, maybe in the morning or before bed, to identify scholarships you’re eligible for and apply for them.
6. Don’t Get Disheartened by Rejections
Scholarships are extremely competitive and can sometimes be much more competitive than elite college admissions. Yet rejection means nothing and your life is not adversely affected by a rejection. One woman I look up to, who won thousands in scholarships, said she applied to several scholarships a day and start winning them until eight months later. Persistence is key in applying for outside scholarships.
Patrycja is a rising sophomore studying computer science at Yale University, who is currently studying abroad in Paris on a scholarship. Her hobbies include rock climbing, reading, and applying for scholarships.
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