With the cost of college going up every year, being prepared to apply for scholarships should be on every college bound student’s agenda. Unfortunately, most students don’t give it much thought until their senior year. By then, they are often too busy with school work and college applications to put in the extra effort it takes to submit scholarship applications that are likely to get you noticed.
While most scholarship applications start appearing in the fall, summer is a great time to start putting some things together that will make the application process a bit easier and possibly improve your chances of getting a well-earned scholarship. However, you should know that most scholarships that come from private organizations are about more than good grades. Most of these scholarships, especially the larger ones, are looking for students who have taken initiative and are involved in their community. (In some cases, the quality of your community service is even more important than your grades, so don’t shy away from applying just because you’re not at the top of your class.) Many private scholarships also ask for an essay that is somehow related to the type of scholarship it is, as well as for letters of recommendation. Keeping those things in mind, here are a few things you can do during the summer to get a jump start on scholarships.
Get involved in your community by volunteering. I mean really get involved. Find something you’re passionate about and put your heart and time into it. Don’t be afraid to be creative. If you see a need in your community, look for a way to answer that need. Get your friends and family involved. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. You will take away far more from a volunteer experience that you were truly committed to than just a possible scholarship.
Put together a resume. A resume that tells what you have accomplished and what you are passionate about is useful for anyone whom you may ask to write you a letter of recommendation. Be sure to expand on the type of service you have done and what responsibilities you may have had.
Ask for recommendations. Your college applications will ask for academic recommendations, but scholarships are often looking for a different perspective. They want to know how well you get along with others, if you are responsible, if you go out of your way for people, what makes you stand out, etc. They also want examples of things you have done. Usually a general letter which covers the above, as well as talks about your character in general, is what they’re looking for. By asking someone for a letter of recommendation well in advance, you give them time to really think about it and do a good job for you. Not sure who to ask for a letter? Consider asking someone like the supervisor of your volunteer experience, employer, youth minister or director of any special program you may be part of outside of school. Avoid asking relatives and friends unless they were your supervisor. If you will be applying for numerous scholarships, be sure to ask for several copies of each letter.
Sign up with a scholarship search engine. I like www.fastweb.com. They allow you to set up your own profile. When there’s a scholarship you are qualified for, they notify you. There are other scholarship search sites out there, too. Take a little time to find the ones that work best for you.
Spend some time going through scholarship books. There are lots of books you can buy or even borrow from the library that list tons of scholarships. A little effort on your part to find lesser known scholarships could really pay off. Because scholarships tend to come and go, be sure the books you are looking at were published recently.
Check to see if your school has a list of local scholarships and their requirements. Go through the list to see which ones you may be qualified for and make note of the deadlines, so you know when you will need to apply for them.
Consider possible essay topics. Once you’ve done some research, you will have a better idea of what kind of essays the scholarships you are considering will be asking for. Spend some time brainstorming about topics for those scholarships. Be sure to write them down.
Make a plan. Set up your own time line using the approximate due dates of the scholarships you plan to apply for. Give yourself plenty of time to write the essay, if required, and gather all supporting materials like transcripts and recommendations.
In my experience, your persistence and the quality of your scholarship applications usually pay off. And don’t forget, myUsearch.com dedicates at least 10% of profits to its scholarship program. Check out the eligibility requirements for our scholarships.