It’s no surprise that every hopeful college student wants free money to help pay for it. But, not everyone knows where to find the elusive free money or how to get it.
I’m not going to lie, it takes hard work and dedication. You’re not going to win every scholarship you apply for – no matter how much effort you put into it. But, if you follow the advice below, you might just increase your chances of winning.
Have a plan in place
With so many different deadlines and scholarship websites, you’re going to need a game plan. I suggest dedicating a block of time each week where your sole focus is scholarship application. Additionally, it’s really helpful to sign-up for a new email address that’s only used for scholarships.
This way, everything is in one place, and you can keep your personal email account free from any spam or recurring emails you’re not interested in getting later.
Lastly, get a planner or set up a google calendar to keep track of important dates.
Treat your scholarship search and application like a homework assignment. You’d never want to be late or miss a deadline, right? You always find a way to get the work done throughout the week, correct? You have to do the same things when it comes to applying for scholarships
Start researching and building profiles
Now that you’re organized, it’s time to start building scholarship profiles. Here are some websites I think are great:
Use these websites as a starting point. Once you build your profile, you’ll automatically be matched with scholarships that fit who you are and what types of scholarships you’re looking for.
From there, the scholarships are at your fingertips. Start searching through them and picking out the ones you think make the most sense.
As we mentioned in a previous post, pay attention to how easy or hard each scholarship is to apply for. As you’re setting them aside to apply, consider the time it will take you. That will help you understand if the monetary value is worth the potential pay off.
Don’t skip the “small” scholarship
Many students will skip the smaller scholarships, thinking that they’re not worth their time. This means there aren’t as many applications and they’ll be easier to win! Also, if you think about it, $500 will cover books or your meal plan. That $250 scholarship could help with lab fees.
If you win multiple “small” scholarships, the money will add up quickly and cover more than you think.
*This does NOT mean that you should skip the large scholarships either. What we’re saying is, apply for everything you qualify for. In this case, more options are better.
Now that you have some scholarships in mind, it’s time to do the hard part — actually apply.
Set yourself up for success
There are a few ways to prepare yourself ahead of time and set yourself up for success in the scholarship search. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Gather letters of recommendation
One great way to get started is to get ahead of the game by gathering letters of recommendation. These will help separate you from other applicants. Make sure to give your teachers some key points to focus on in their letters that will help make you stand out in front of the judges and committees.
Spend some time on your essays
Write an awesome essay! Easier said than done, right? Wrong, it’s not as hard as you think. Write from the heart and be original. The last thing the scholarship committee wants to do is read the same essay over and over again. Try your best to stand out.
Use unique answers. Craft your answers to be deep, personal, and go a little against the grain. Everyone wants to talk about their grades or use cookie-cutter answers to “who they would have dinner with?”
The best advice I received when writing my essay applications was, “write what you know.”
Organize your deadlines ahead of time
Unlike FAFSA, scholarship deadlines can be all over the place. Keep a calendar, planner, or spreadsheet that highlights every scholarship deadline and organize them according to their due date.
Having the deadlines in one place will help ensure you get the applications in on time. After all, no one wants to put in a bunch of hard work only to realize they missed the deadline entirely. Keep yourself on track the best way you know how!
Don’t give up
When you see the first award letter come through, don’t get too excited. It’s great that you will have some assistance in paying for college but keep up the momentum. Furthermore, you’re bound to get some rejections. Don’t let that deter you from applying for more scholarships.
In fact, use the rejections as a way to bolster your resolve to get one of those “you’ve been selected” emails in your inbox. Keep putting your best foot forward, continue to apply, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not going to happen.
There are billions of dollars out there waiting for students like you to claim it — all it takes is dedication and hard work.