The best tips for applying for a scholarship
Be specific, honest, and yourself when applying for a scholarship. | PHOTO BY Getty Images
The high cost of a college education means that a lot of students are looking for financial aid to help pay for it. But the competition can be stiff. According to the most recent National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, only 5.5 percent of undergraduate students received non-athletic scholarships. What can students do to give themselves the best chance of receiving some much-needed scholarship money?
"Start your search and application process as early as possible," says Tiffany Turner, Program Manager at International Scholarship and Tuition Services, Inc., who manages 30 scholarship programs including Foresters Competitive Scholarship Program. "Give yourself plenty of time to find scholarships that fit your skills and needs. And most applications will require essays and letters of recommendation, so you want to make sure you have plenty of time to pull those together."
Turner also encourages students to apply for as many scholarships as they qualify for. "There aren't a lot of big, full-ride scholarships available, but many smaller scholarships can add up to a surprising amount."
The Scholarship Application
When applying for scholarships, attention to detail is an important step to success:
Follow directions carefully: Make sure you have all the supporting materials required, but don't include anything that is not requested.
Fill out the entire application: Don't skip any questions. If one doesn't apply to you, make a note of that on the application. If you're not sure how to answer, you can contact the scholarship coordinator.
Proofread carefully: Typos and grammar errors can hurt your chances. Have a parent or teacher double-check your application.
Watch all deadlines: Set up a calendar for application deadlines and make sure you meet them. If you miss one, your application won't be considered.
Many scholarship applications require some kind of written essay or letter.
Be specific: Focus on the topics the application requires. Use concrete examples rather than vague, general statements.
Be yourself: This is your chance to show scholarship providers what kind of person you are and why they should help pay for your education. Let your personality come through, and include details that reveal who you really are.
Be honest: Never exaggerate grades, skills or experience. If you find yourself feeling the need to do so, you're probably not applying for the right scholarship.
Volunteering and community involvement plays a big role in awarding today's scholarships. "More and more scholarship providers are looking for well-rounded students who not only take their studies seriously, but also have a long-term commitment to their local communities," said Turner.
For example, Foresters, an international life insurance provider committed to family well-being, offers the Foresters Competitive Scholarship worth up to $8,000 for eligible customer members and their spouses, children and grandchildren. In addition to academic requirements, applicants must have performed a minimum of 40 hours of community service in the 24 months leading up to the application deadline.
"Do some research on the organization providing the scholarships," Turner said. "You may find that successful applicants have volunteered more than the minimum, and that can make a difference in their award decisions."
You can find local volunteer opportunities by searching www.volunteermatch.org, and find or create your own teen-specific charitable projects at www.dosomething.org. Foresters also provides volunteer opportunities for its customer members.
Finding and applying for scholarships is a big process. But, when done right, it can help you achieve your goal of going to college.
Learn more about Foresters scholarships at www.foresters.com.