Introduction: What is a scholarship?
A Scholarship Is an Award Given to Students Who Have Demonstrated Extraordinary Ability in the Pursuit of Their Education, Research or Creative Work. Scholarships Are Available for All Types Of Educational Programs
The absolute worst thing you can do is wait until the last minute. For one thing, obtaining recommendations or other supporting data in time to meet an application deadline is incredibly difficult. For another, no one does his or her best thinking or writing under the gun. So get off to a good start by reviewing scholarship applications as early as possible— months, even a year, in advance.
If the current scholarship information isn’t available, ask for a copy of last year’s version. Once you have the scholarship information or application in hand, give it a thorough read. Try to determine how your experience or situation best applies to the scholarship, or if it even fits at all. Don’t waste your time applying for a scholarship in culinary arts if you hate making breakfast.
If possible, research the award or scholarship, including past recipients and, where applicable, the person in whose name the scholarship is offered. Often, scholarships are established to memorialize an individual who majored in hotel management or a related field, for example, but in other cases, the scholarship is to memorialize the work of an individual. In those cases, try to get a feel for the spirit of the person’s work. If you have any similar interests, experiences, or abilities, don’t hesitate to mention them.
Talk to others who received the scholarship, or to students currently studying in the same area or field of interest in which the scholarship is offered, and try to gain insight into possible applications or work related to that field. When you’re working on the essay on why you want this scholarship, you’ll have real answers—“I would benefit from receiving this scholarship because studying hotel management will help me become a better leader and improve my customer service skills.”
Take your time writing the essays. Make sure that you are answering the question or questions on the application and not merely restating facts about yourself. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Try to imagine what you would think of if you had to sift through hundreds of applications. What would you want to know about the candidate? What would convince you that someone was deserving of the scholarship? Work through several drafts and have someone whose advice you respect—a parent, teacher, or school counselor—review the essay for grammar and content.
Finally, if you know in advance which scholarships you want to apply for, there might still be time to stack the deck in your favor by getting an internship, volunteering, or working part time. Bottom line: The more you know about a scholarship, and the sooner you learn it, the better.
Think of it this way: Many of the organizations that offer scholarships devote 99.9 percent of their time to something other than the scholarship for which you are applying. Don’t make a nuisance of yourself by pestering them for information. Simply follow the directions as they are presented to you. If the scholarship application specifies that you should write for further information, then write for it—don’t call.
Pay close attention to whether you’re applying for a grant, a loan, an award, a prize, or a scholarship. Often these words are used interchangeably, but just as often they have different meanings. A loan is financial aid that must be paid back. A grant is a type of financial aid that does not require repayment.
An award or prize is usually given for something you have done (built a park or helped distribute meals to the elderly); or something you have created (a musical composition, a design, an essay, a short film, a screenplay, or an invention). On the other hand, a scholarship is often a renewable sum of money that is given to a person to help defray the costs of college. Scholarships are given to candidates who meet the necessary criteria based on essays, eligibility, grades, or sometimes all three. They do not have to be paid back.
Supply all the necessary documents, information, and fees, and meet the deadlines. You won’t win any scholarships by forgetting to include a recommendation from a teacher or failing to postmark the application by the deadline. Bottom line: Get it right the first time, on time.
Once you have the application in hand, don’t dawdle. If you’ve requested it far enough in advance, there shouldn’t be any reason for you not to turn it in well in advance of the deadline. You never know, if it comes down to two candidates, your timeliness just might be the deciding factor. Bottom line: Don’t wait and don’t hesitate.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep. There are plenty of hefty scholarships available, but if they all require you to study something that you don’t enjoy, you’ll be miserable in college. And the side effects of switching majors after you’ve accepted a scholarship could be even worse. Bottom line: Be yourself.
There are many sources for scholarships, beginning with your school counselor and ending with the Internet. All of the search engines have education categories. Start there and search by keywords, such as “financial aid,” “scholarship,” and “award.” But don’t be limited to the scholarships listed in these pages.
If you know of an organization related to or involved with the field of your choice, write a letter asking if they offer scholarships. If they don’t offer scholarships, don’t stop there. Write them another letter, or better yet, schedule a meeting with the executive director, education director, or someone in the public relations department and ask them if they would be willing to sponsor a scholarship for you. Of course, you’ll need to prepare yourself well for such a meeting because you’re selling a priceless commodity—yourself.
Don’t be shy, and be confident. Tell them all about yourself, what you want to study and why, and let them know what you would be willing to do in exchange—volunteer at their favorite charity, write up reports on your progress in school, or work part time on school breaks and full time during the summer. Explain why you’re a wise investment. Bottom line: The sky’s the limit.
Conclusion: Scholarships can give students an opportunity to explore new interests while still attending classes. They also provide opportunities for networking with people who have similar goals and aspirations.