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7 Tips and Tricks for Winning a Scholarship for College

Winning a scholarship does not have to be rocket science, but learning what past scholarship winners have done is just plain SMART. Today I have a guest post from a successful scholarship recipient, so keep reading!

Winning a Scholarship for College - Interview with a WINNER

Learning what strategies that successful scholarship winners have used is key in preparing an application that gets noticed by the judges.

Today I would like to welcome Jessica Stebing to my scholarship blog. Jessica is a public school teacher who is happy to share her success with parents and students because winning scholarship money made a huge difference in her life. She graduated from a four-year school with just $10,000 in student loans and shares that she only had student loans because she needed to complete an extra semester due to changing her major. Jessica was able to pay off the loan within 1 year of graduating.

Welcome, Jessica, and thank you for sharing your experience with my scholarship blog readers. Everyone needs to know these tips for winning a scholarship!

Winning a Scholarship for College – 7 Tips and Tricks

Winning scholarship money can be such a big help when it comes to paying for school.  I won several academic scholarships and it not only helped pay for my college, it set me up to be financially successful as a young adult. Scholarships can range in value from a few hundred dollars to covering your entire school bill.  Every bit helps!  Here are 7 tips and tricks that I used when applying for scholarships:

1) Start Early– it is never too early to start getting your student ready for college. College visits, even at a young age, allow your students to see what opportunities are available and can help with the decision making process. Colleges themselves can be an important source of scholarship money so if your student knows where they would like to attend, you can start scoping out their scholarship pages. Begin applying for scholarships at the very start of the school year at the local, college, and national level.

I never wanted to miss a deadline so I started as early as I could. Keep your eyes out for scholarships that are available to students in younger grades as well. 

Even if your student is not a senior, knowing what scholarships are available during their senior year can help them be prepared.

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 2) Get Organized– there is certainly some work involved with applying for scholarships. There will be applications to fill out, essays to write, and resources to collect such as transcripts and letters of recommendation. Developing an organization system is key to your success.  Know when your deadlines are and plan to have the scholarship filled out and completed a week before the deadline.  I always liked to leave myself a buffer in case something didn’t go as planned.

In addition to writing down your deadlines, give yourself deadlines for pulling together your resources such as your transcript and letters of recommendation.  Don’t miss out on submitting an application because you were not able to acquire all the necessary materials to apply.  Acquiring all your resources (and making copies of letters of recommendation and transcripts) will help make applying for your next scholarship much easier.

Be sure to read:  Get Organized to Win More College Scholarships

3) Make a List of Activities you have been involved in- scholarship applications will always want to know what you have been involved in as a high school student. They may ask you by category such as “list your volunteer experience” or “leadership activities”.  I found that making a list helped me succeed in applying for multiple scholarships as I did not have to brainstorm for every application and possibly leave some activities out that I had forgotten. 

Looking for community service ideas? Read 30 Awesome Activities for Volunteering and Community Service

Some common categories to brainstorm for would be Volunteer Experience, Leadership Experience, Athletics, and Extracurricular Activities. Volunteer Experience could be working with the National Honor Society while an example of Leadership Experience could be Team Captain of a Sports Team. Athletics would include participating in sports such as Basketball or Track.  Extracurricular Activities would allow you to list Clubs or church groups.

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4) Identify your (Human) Resources– There will come a time in every scholarship search where you will need the help of at least one trusted adult.  Here are some examples of adults who can help you with your search:

  • Guidance Counselors– working with your guidance counselor can be so beneficial as they are the ones who will most likely be hearing about local scholarships. Guidance counselors can also help to provide you with the transcripts you will need for your applications.  When requesting a transcript, make sure to ask them to print more than one if you plan on applying for multiple scholarships.
  • Teachers/Coaches/Mentors– Most applications will require you to submit at least one letter of recommendation if not more. Securing these letters of recommendation from a teacher, coach or mentor will be essential to completing your application. It is never too early to start building positive relationships so that your mentor will be able to write a nice letter of recommendation on your behalf.
  • Parents Parents are wonderful sources of support during your scholarship search. They can assist you in searching for scholarships as well as encouraging you during your application and interview periods.  Have your parents check with their places of employment to see if college scholarships are offered.
  • Scholarship CoachesScholarship coaches can assist you in searching for scholarships as well as edit your essays and provide interview coaching. It can be helpful to work with someone who has specific experience in this field and can guide you through the process.

5) Find Scholarships and Apply– There are two sources that I particularly recommend when applying for scholarships. The first is through your college or university.  Many colleges and universities offer scholarships to incoming freshmen as well as upper-level students.  A lot of times these will be academic, athletic, or based on some other achievement.  Individual departments may offer scholarships pertaining to your specific major.  Often, there can be less competition for these scholarships as they are not open to everyone. Another source I recommend for finding scholarships is at your local or community level.  Many organizations will fundraise and award scholarships to local high school seniors.  I won several scholarships at the local level and they can be such a blessing as they may allow you to choose the school you would like to apply it to. Winning several small scholarships can add up and greatly help you reduce your student loan debt.

Winning a scholarship is all about presenting yourself in the best way possible!

6) Prepare for Your Interview– many scholarship committees invite their top applicants to interview for the scholarship. You may interview in front of one or two people or the entire committee.  When you get invited for a scholarship interview, research the organization giving the scholarship before attending so you know a little about their background and qualities that could be important to them.  For example, if the organization giving the scholarship emphasizes the community service hours of their members then make sure to talk about the community service that you have participated in. 

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Related:  Scholarship Interview Questions – Impress and WOW the Judges

Before interviewing, have a parent or friend run through some practice questions with you.  Some common ones I have heard are: “What are your goals?” “Who do you most admire?” “What are your plans for after high school/college?” Make sure you can articulate your goals and explain what you are hoping to study in college.  On the day of the interview, make sure you get plenty of rest and dress professionally.  You will most likely be interviewing in front of adults who are used to working with professionals.  Dress up more than you would for a day of school.  A suit would be awesome but dress pants and a nice shirt would work as well.  Interviews are your chance to sell the committee on yourself as a scholarship candidate.  Make sure you make a good impression.

Be sure to read:  How to Dress for College Scholarship Success

7) Send Thank You Notes– When you have been successful in winning a scholarship, make sure to send a thank you note! Organizations and schools work hard to raise money to support education and sending a thank you note helps show your appreciation.  This is important with every scholarship won but especially important if you have won a renewable scholarship (a scholarship that provides you with money for more than one year.) You will want to make sure to maintain a good relationship with the organization that is helping to fund your education.

If possible, send a thank you note or thank you email for scholarship interviews as well.  This can help you stand out as a good candidate.  Your guidance counselors should be able to get you mailing information or email addresses for local organizations.

What tips and tricks have you found helpful in your scholarship search? Leave a comment below sharing your best advice for winning a scholarship.

Don’t apply for any financial aid or scholarships until you read How to Win College Scholarships! Click here now to claim your copy.

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