The secret to being a scholarship winner!
Monday, February 13, 2017
By: Chellee Nemec, Advancement Officer, Southeast Tech
Now that you have made the decision to get a quality education you have to figure out how to pay for it! Insert student loan here! Take it from me, a non-traditional student that racked up a hefty student loan bill, do everything you can to get that student loan reduced because you will be paying for it for a very long time. You don’t want to be strapped down by a large monthly loan bill. Wouldn’t you rather use that money for other things like a new home, a great vacation with friends or upgraded vehicle?
Lucky for you, you’re coming into education at a time when there are abundant resources to help you pay for your education. All you have to do is go find it! A well-written essay can bring in thousands of dollars, trust me! I’m going to share with you my tips on getting your application to the top of the scholarship pile.
Tip One: Start early!
They say the early bird gets the worm and they’re right. If you are graduating high school in May, don’t wait until April to start looking for scholarships. You need to start at the beginning of your senior year, sometimes even your junior year. Scholarship periods vary, but if you get started early you increase your chances of getting a scholarship.
Tip Two: Optional is not optional
If you come across a section of the application that says optional to complete, this is a test. It’s not optional. The purpose of putting it as an option is to see how many will take the time to fill out that section. If you are willing to put in the time, so is the person that will be reading your scholarship application. If you chose not to fill it out, then you are running the risk of costing yourself that scholarship. Even if you have a 4.0 GPA, it is still not optional. A great GPA or ACT isn’t enough, you need to give them what they are asking for, even if they leave the choice up to you.
Tip Three: Toot your own horn!
You need to treat each scholarship application like it is an interview for a job. Why should they pick you over the other thousands of students that they will be looking at? You need to be prepared to answer this question and then some. I recommend creating a word document that has a couple of paragraphs about yourself. You will want a long version and a condensed version. In your essay talk about your accomplishments, awards you have received, student organizations you have served on, volunteer service, work experience and career goals. Reviewers of scholarships are looking for people who are driven, ambitious and have a desire to succeed. They are looking for people with a clear career plan and will likely stay in school and complete the program. In your essay, you need to communicate your commitment to your education.
If you don’t have any work experience, volunteer experience or served on a student organization, that’s ok. It’s never too late to get involved in your community. In your essay, write about your plans to volunteer. They key though is follow through. You must do what you say you will do, or you will lose the opportunity for future funding. Remember that helping a neighbor, a family or a friend is still volunteering. If this is something that you are doing, then write about it.
Tip Four: Get a little personal
Not every life lived is a fairytale with a happy ending. Many people go through struggles in life and that’s ok. It is ok to ask others for help. It is ok to share what struggles you have been through and how receiving a scholarship would impact your life story. Maybe you are a single mom, have a parent that is deployed or have parents that have struggled to make ends meet. Whatever the case may be, don’t be afraid to open up a little in your essay. Donating and granting money is a very emotional act. A reviewer is more likely to donate because of your personal story rather than you school accolades. Don’t get me wrong your school success is still important, but the emotional side to your story could have a much larger impact.
If you haven’t had major challenges or struggles in your life that’s ok too! You don’t have to go through this to deserve a scholarship. In this situation, you would celebrate your story! Bring out the joy, happiness and encouragement that you have received to get you to where you are in life! Communicate that receiving a scholarship would be the thanks that you have always wanted to give back to your family for the wonderful life they have provided you. You still need to tap into the emotion of the reviewer, so leave them feeling inspired when they read your essay.
Avoid any political topics in your essay. There are other platforms to share your political views, but this is not one of them!
Tip Five: Review and Save
It is best to have someone review your essay and check it for spelling and grammar. Save a copy of your long and short essay in a word document that you can cut and paste into each application. Always keep a copy of each application so that you can refer back to it if you need to. You will also want to send a follow up after you complete it.
Tip Six: Clean up your online profiles
We live in a digital world where information about you is available by typing your name into Google. This is why it is important for your virtual profile to match the one on paper. You need to clean up your social media accounts. Remove any posts or pictures that you would not want a potential employer to see, because chances are they will! Reviewers will also look at your profile because they are choosing you to represent them and they want to make sure that you will do so in an appropriate, professional manner.
Tip Seven: Volume = $$$$$$
Applying for scholarships can be tedious, however if you already have your story crafted and ready to go in a word document, it will make filling out multiple applications easier. Find as many scholarships as you can and apply for them. This increases your chance of receiving scholarship funds. At Southeast Tech, we have over 226 scholarships to award each year! We are a great resource but you do have to be an accepted student to apply. We also publish third party scholarship opportunities. Some other great resources include; your local city government, high school, community foundation, or service organizations. If you know your career path already look at companies that fit within your career path, many of them offer scholarships. Don’t forget to ask your parents about scholarships with their employer as well.
Tip Eight: Be Gracious
Whenever you can, send a follow up thank you note for the opportunity to apply for the scholarship. If you get awarded the scholarship, then be sure to write a thank you! This is the second most important part of scholarships. It reiterates your commitment to your education and reassures the reviewer they made a good choice in selecting you to receive the scholarship.
If you follow these tips you will dramatically increase your chances of getting awarded multiple scholarships and reducing your overall student debt. All of your hard work will pay off, literally. Good luck!