Image from PicJumbo.
Ugh, do we really need to talk about scholarships and scholarship advice?
Alert: College costs a fortune. Warning: You may not be able to afford it. Tip: You need all the advice you can get.
Even if you believe that you’re incredibly low-income and would gain a full ride anyways, scholarships can sometimes do more good than harm. Scholarships can provide networks you never had access to as well as money for materials that your college (that may or may not be giving you a full ride) can’t provide. In addition, if you think about it, applying to as many scholarships as you can is like working and your job is using what you know to earn money for college.
You’re most likely reading this right now because you’re currently a senior incredibly lost in the scholarship search process, a student completely ahead of everyone else, an incredibly curious person, or a critic. Either way, this article is for you. Join me as I encounter enlightening and charming incoming college freshmen woman who just went through the scholarship search process to pay for their undergraduate (and graduate) education.
School: Incoming Freshman at University of Pennsylvania
Major: Hoping to major in Biological Basis of Behavior with Minor in East Asian Culture and Civilization
Financial Background: only child, first generation (first to apply and go to college), low-income
“My parents work in production factories but nevertheless, raised me with whatever they could earn. I took advantage of all opportunities that were free and scavenged the internet for cheap used goods to study for the SAT and here I am!”
School: Incoming College Freshman at NYU
Major: Computer science/Engineering
Financial Background: Need-based student
School: Incoming freshman at Harvard
Major: Hoping to major in Economics, Pre-med track
Financial Background: Single-parent household (father died in a house fire a few years ago before high school), learned to become financially independent
School: Incoming freshman at University of Central Florida
Major: Double major in English and International & Global studies
Financial background: Low-income, first generation student
School: Incoming freshman at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL
Major: Computer Science/Aerospace engineering; Honors Program
“I also work on rockets and stuff.”
How did they approach the scholarship SEARCH process? Learn about their hunt for scholarships and how they organized the abundance of information!
“I realized early on that college is financially challenging…earn as much money as possible and…take advantage of all opportunities.”
I realized early on that college is financially challenging. Even before that, registering for the ACTs, SATs, and AP tests required money. I realized early on that I should try my best to earn as much money as possible and to take advantage of all opportunities.
“I started looking for scholarships that fit me…Then I made a Google Doc for each application…deadline in the title.”
I started looking for scholarships that fit me. I Googled Hispanic scholarships, STEM, Women in Science, Engineering, Need-Based, etc. Then I made a Google Doc for each application and named it with the deadline in the title. That way way when a new month started I could just search “July” and all the July scholarship docs would pop up.
“Learning how to write the perfect essays were things I worked on for years before turning in my first major application.”
I started in the 9th grade actually. I looked up the requirements for most major scholarships while I was ninth grader and planned many of my high school activities and accomplishments around the hopes of getting these scholarships. Things like have hundreds of volunteer hours, holding multiple leadership positions, and learning how to write the perfect essays were things I worked on for years before turning in my first major application.
“The earlier you start the better…I spent several weeks compiling a spreadsheet of scholarships.”
I started searching for scholarships the summer following my sophomore year. Unfortunately, I was under the incorrect impression that the best time to begin applying was my junior year. (NOT TRUE!) While most scholarships are open to high school seniors, and college students, the earlier you start the better. Though my understanding was misguided, it served as the motivation for me to begin gathering my resources during a period where the applications were close- and allowed me time to prepare. Thus, I spent several weeks compiling a spreadsheet of scholarships to apply with as much detail information as I could gather (scholarship name, eligibility requirements, link to apply). I’ve made the spreadsheet public because the information the information that isn’t relevant to me, is helpful to my peers, and my mentees. I want to make sure the relevant info reaches its audience. Here is the link: compilation of scholarships.
“My start was actually pretty panicked…I started applying to everything I could…and emailing professors…to ask about merit scholarships through their departments.”
My start was actually pretty panicked; I sort of had this revelation in June of 2014 or so that my mom and I probably weren’t going to be able to afford college — I had just accepted a summer internship and moved away from home to do it, so I had to be self-sufficient, and living off of that (relatively low) income made me worry about our situation come college. I started applying to everything I could — pretty much every opportunity listed on Fastweb, Zinch, etc. — and emailing professors at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to ask about merit scholarships through their departments (I only applied to two schools, MIT and ERAU, and I knew MIT doesn’t give out merit scholarships).
How did they approach the scholarship APPLICATION process?
“I took up every opportunity I could find.”
I started by just googling a lot… for scholarship opportunities open to Asian Americans, women, and honor roll students. I even applied to those raffle scholarships. I took up every opportunity I could find. I let peers on the Questbridge Facebook page to edit my essays. (Questbridge Match is a scholarship opportunity for low-income, high achieving seniors to get their four undergraduate years at a “partner” college paid for; Questbridge CPS is a program for junior students to familiarize themselves with the college application process and the partner schools themselves)… I also used Scholarship Junkies and current college students to help edit my essays. No matter who edits your essay however — you are the one in control. You do not have to take their edits if you feel that it removes your tone of voice from the essay… Being yourself is a great part of writing a good essay. Write in your own tone of voice, while being grammatically correct as possible. Play with the format to show your story. Experiment with different writing styles and formats to make the essay more interesting. The people who judge you and read your essays read 100000+ essays a day. If you’re that different person, they’re going to be like, “Much uniqueness!! Must accept!” That’s why I think it’s key to stay away from the typical five-paragraph, intro, body, conclusion, essays and to do more creative things to express yourself. They’re judging you by your essays after all. Being yourself is a great part of writing a good essay.
“The only things that would keep me from applying are time and resources.”
I applied to anything that had any semblance of a relationship to me and my situation (African American, S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, and math) student, female, student with a single parent, student who has done scientific research, test score based, GPA based, Valedictorian based, etc…). The only things that would keep me from applying are time and resources. I applied to almost everything I saw. I won my first scholarship in 10th grade from Georgetown University’s alumni association. Since then I have applied non-stop. I won a scholarship, which I applied to during the summer, two weeks into my senior year of high school. I always have no more than 3 people read my essays and no less than 1. I recommend previous scholarship winners, school counselors, AP language/Lit teachers and, as strange as it sounds, social studies and drama teachers. Grammar comes second to content. Grammar will not let it win, but it CAN keep you from winning if all other things are equal.
“Grammar is important, but not to a make it or break it point, so don’t stress.”
I would advise to start your essays as soon as you find out the topic…brainstorm. But let’s be honest, I do all my essays either the day before they are due, or that night… If you are like me and procrastinate on these essays then take a quick glance and turn it in before it’s too late. It’s better to turn something in that’s not perfect, than not turn anything in at all.
To edit my essays I turned to Facebook where I found thousands of worrisome high school students who needed essays to be looked over. There are thousands of groups out there. My favorites were the ‘Questbridge’ and ‘Gates Millennium’ pages as well as the college applicant pages. This is also a great way to meet friends from all over the country and even the world! We all swapped essays and tips. I also found a lot of college students who were willing to help. I had a lot of people looking at my essays, which can get hectic because you can lose your voice. I even had to rewrite an entire essay because I felt like it was no longer MY essay but the compilation of a bunch of other people’s opinions. I think it’s best to stop at 5 per essay. Of course this number can change with each individual depending on how you take criticism. Depending on how attentive your teachers are, they can be a good resource, but in my experience it is best to get advice from people who were in your position last year or currently going through it too. Grammar is important, but not to a make it or break it point so don’t stress.
“The more time you dedicate to your essays, the more you can enhance the quality.”
I looked for basic eligibility restrictions (age, grade level, citizenship status, ethnicity, GPA requirements (if applicable)). At first, I searched for scholarships that were not restricted by major. As I narrowed down possible majors, I then included major-specific scholarships.
I started my essays about two weeks before the scholarship deadline. When I did not time manage well enough, I did the essays the day the application was due. (AVOID!) The more time you dedicate to your essays, the more you can enhance the quality.
In addition, when I did my essays early, I had the opportunity to receive feedback from a few peers. Three people is typically enough to give you multiple perspectives on the impact the content makes. When you ask someone for feedback, make sure it’s as clean (grammatically) an essay as possible. You don’t want typos, or incorrect usage of punctuation to deter someone from the message. Due to the personal information that essays typically require (such as adversity), I would suggest you have your friends, or someone else you trust with the details, to read them.
“If you’re going to try for outside scholarships at all…apply to everything but the essay contests, or competitions that require you to create something…that you don’t already have…once I got over my initial panicked phase, I just started applying to all the application-based scholarships I could…”
My initial approach was to just apply to everything; in reality, I think the best approach — if you’re going to try for outside scholarships at all — is to apply to everything but the essay contests, or competitions that require you to create something (a video, whatever) that you don’t already have. This is not a good time/reward ratio. Instead, once I got over my initial panicked phase, I just started applying to all the application-based scholarships I could (ie, “fill out an application and we’ll see if we like you” ones like Coca-Cola, GE-Reagan).
Summarizing the Points
Actively search (Google, counselor’s office, local programs in your school, or city programs) for scholarships relevant to YOU.
Organize your scholarships (in Google Docs (Refer to Marilu’s response) or spreadsheet or whatever way is effective for you).
Don’t be afraid to ask for peer edits (recommended a maximum of 3-5 peers), but also don’t lose your voice in YOUR essay.
Peers can be close family and friends or people who are going through or went through the same process (students on college applicant pages, applicants in Facebook groups dedicated to certain scholarship applications, college students, scholarship winners, etc).
Give yourself TIME to work on your essays and applications.
Show, don’t tell.
Persist and work hard.
How did they brainstorm essay topics?
“I think it’s best to just not worry about the grammar…write whatever comes to mind and then edit the grammar afterward.”
I wrote a list of various events in my life that may apply to the prompt. If I particularly like one, I’ll start speed writing about it and then I rearrange and fix the essay afterward. I think it’s best to just not worry about the grammar for a second and just write whatever comes to mind and then edit the grammar afterward.
“ So I looked deep within….even things that happened a few months ago that seemed insignificant, but were actually an important time…then I just got to writing…it didn’t have to be neat or even spelled correctly, as long as I understood it, I was golden.”
I heard a tip that everyone writes about cliche topics like their trip to Africa helping the needy, or how they read to the blind. Though great endeavors, they are, again, cliche. So I looked deep within myself and even asked my parents about times in my childhood or even things that happened a few months ago that seemed insignificant, but were actually an important time in my life. I wrote about a summer camp I went to where I learned to code as well as cultural experiences during my childhood that made me who I am. Then I just got to writing, I started writing whatever I could remember. It didn’t have to be neat or even spelled correctly, as long as I understood it, I was golden.
“I kept a journal and kept it color coded by topic such as family issues, happy moments in my life, and physical things that meant a lot to me and why.”
I kept a journal and kept it color coded by topic such as family issues, happy moments in my life, and physical things that meant a lot to me and why. I also spent my entire senior year summer asking people, “If you could define your life with one item, what would that be; why?” This sort of gave me different perspectives on the world and made me a better writer overall as I was able to relay their answers in my journal in the closest way possible to the way they answered.
“With a good old pen and paper…when I draw blank after blank, I ask a few friends for advice…gives me more angles…”
With a good old pen and paper, which reduces the temptation to multitask and browse through social media. When I brainstorm, I start off by identifying a word or phrase that answers the question. If it asks for an experience, or a time, I tend to stare at a wall reminiscing about relevant experiences to the question. Even if it’s only loosely related, I jot down my thoughts on paper. It gives me a general idea of where to start; and often, when I revisit the brainstorming plan, it triggers a more developed idea.
When I draw blank after blank, I ask a few friends for advice on how to approach the question. This sometimes gives me more angles from which I can mold my answer.
“I think the takeaway here is that sometimes our biggest life events are so ingrained in our personalities that they don’t even crop up when brainstorming for things to write about…things that may be such a part of your everyday life that you’d never think to write about them (when, in reality, these things are what make us human).”
Brainstorming for scholarship essays wasn’t straightforward for me for a long time. I started applying for opportunities (not just scholarships) in January of 2014 or so, and I remember writing my MIT WITs application and trying to figure out what to write for my biggest challenge in life. Academic struggles kept leaping to mind, but I really didn’t want to write about anything like that — just seemed too insignificant. Then a friend reminded me that I had had major back surgery when I was younger — and that was something that was super incredibly challenging for me, both in terms of self-perception, physical pain, and socially (middle school is a rough time). I think the takeaway here is that sometimes our biggest life events are so ingrained in our personalities that they don’t even crop up when brainstorming for things to write about. So, in short, take a good hard look at the fundamental things in your life — your family situation, your medical situation, things that may be such a part of your everyday life that you’d never think to write about them (when, in reality, these things are what make us human).
What exactly is this advice I keep hearing? “Show, don’t tell”?
Master the ‘show, don’t tell’ technique. To create a strong essay that sticks out, you need to describe the occurrences with action verbs, thoughts, senses, and feelings versus using solely adjectives to make your point. (Ex. “The hairs on her neck raised at the thought of a red F on her paper” vs. She was afraid to have failed her math test.) See the difference?
Showing instead of telling is complicated to explain…hmmm…The best I can come up with is for every paragraph, if you and two other people cannot picture the situation clearly, you need more description words or rhetoric. Also writing how you speak is important. It helps to give the narrator a personality and further make the story interesting.
Their Success Stories/Scholarships Creds
I applied to the Gates Millennium, Asian American Womens’ Coalition (Philadelphia residents), and Ronald McDonald House Charities scholarships and were recipients of them all. I was a finalist of the APIASF scholarship but did not win the scholarship. Even so, because I won the Gates Millennium, I could not receive the scholarship anyway. I also applied to other scholarships such as the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship and the MENSA scholarship but was not receive them. Other scholarships include the raffle drawing scholarships that were not based on essays. There were also many other scholarships that I ended up withdrawing my application from because I found out I won the Gates Millennium scholarship.
I don’t remember all the ones I applied to, but I am sure I must have applied to over 150 or so. Some were just the put your name in the raffle, and others were more thought-out and required recommendations, essays, resumes, and transcripts.
Here are some I won:
William S. Harvey ($2,000) – Local Scholarship, Comcast Leaders ($1,000), Society of Women in Engineering ($1,000), Tomorrow’s Leaders ($1,000) – Local Scholarship, Hot Rods ($1,000) – Local Scholarship, Gates Millennium (Valued at $250,000 for undergrad), Buick’s Achievers Scholarship Program ($100k), Cognizant Making The Future Scholarship ($5,000), Lulac ($700), Rasor Law Firm ($1,000), Finalist for Church’s Chicken ($1,000), University Tutor ($1,000), SYF Scholarship ($1,000), NYU Promise Scholarship, NYU Engineering Scholarship
I applied to so many that I’m not going to name them all, but I applied to as of right now 298 scholarships. I have won approximately 50 total. The largest ones I have attained are the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship and the Ron Brown Scholarship which add to about 200,000 total.
After the hectic senior year, and countless applications, I’ve lost count. The only thing I’m sure of is that it was way over 50. I’ve received four, but are still waiting on some notifications late summer, and in fall.
I applied to almost every scholarship I found. There were a few I missed out on because I found out late; however, most scholarships I did not do, fell into one of the following reasons: because I procrastinated to the extreme and COULD not complete the detailed requirements, I mistook the deadline for postmark when it was supposed to be received by that date, or I could not get to the post office.
I kept a spreadsheet for a while, but that fell by the wayside after like 60 or so scholarships/fly-in programs/fellowships/etc apps. I would say — if you count all the sweepstakes and sketchy looking ones — I probably applied for over one hundred. In terms of super reputable programs (i.e. from major corporations/foundations), probably between 40-50. Apart from the institutional merit scholarships I received ($127,050 in total), I won the following outside scholarships:
AXA Achievement Community Scholarship
Brad Feld Aspirations in Computing Scholarship
Burger King WHOPPER Scholarship
Coca-Cola Scholars Scholarship
Elks Most Valuable Student Competition Scholarship
Harry E. Arcamuzi Aviation Scholarship
Jack Kent Cooke College Scholarship
National Space Club Keynote Finalist Scholarship
VIP Women in Tech Scholarship
CCA Scholarship (from her high school)
What did they think make them stand out in the applicant pool?
“I think what made me stand out was how detailed my essays were.”
For the Gates Millennium scholarship, I think what made me stand out was how detailed my essays were. The prompts were fairly vague and allowed for various answers. You could probably say anything and call it an answer. Because of that, I struggled writing the essays. I remember thinking, “Do they want me to say this? Would I win if it sounds sad? What if I said this?” But soon enough I realized, they don’t want me to say or do any of that. They want to get to know ME. And what better way to get to know me than me digging into my darkest memories and writing from my heart and soul (I call it binge writing). I just wrote whatever I felt like and let my heart and soul take over. I wrote what I felt and what I wanted them to know: me. There was a question asking about leadership experience. At first, I wrote about my position as vice president of the Red Cross Club. It was a boring essay. That was because I was writing what I thought they wanted me to write. But — outside of my vice presidency, I have no other leadership roles. Wrong! After much thought, I realized that I’m a leader in my family. I translate and I help my family get through this world of English speakers. I lead them through a convoluted world and make things clearer through the power of language. Sure, anyone can translate for their family. But I think it was my realization of how large my contribution was, even if it was a small everyday activity for me. I think it’s really important to self reflect and know who you are and what makes you, you.
“I think my extensive resume/activity sheet really helped for all the scholarships.”
I think my extensive resume/activity sheet really helped for all the scholarships. My activities varied from being a fellow for the ANNPower organization to interning in the Dominican Republic at a tech center. Even when the scholarship did not state to include my 4 page long resume, I did it anyways. When it comes to scholarships, more is always better. For a BIG scholarships like Gates Millennium, I think what helped was showing (through my volunteering and activities) my passion for my culture and the Hispanic community. I spent time at Hispanic cultural camps, and attending Latino conventions and events. All of my passion came through in my essays. For another big one like Buick’s Achievers scholarship made for this going into STEM fields, I think what pushed me over the edge was the fact that I already had experience in the automobile industry. I worked with Toyota to bring awareness to minorities in STEM and was their first teen sponsor for their campaign. I think this really intrigued Buick.
“I think first exceeding the core requirements made me standout as a finalist…also my essays.”
I think first exceeding the core requirements made me standout as a finalist (if the requirement was a 30 ACT I had my 33, if the GPA was a 3.7 I had my 4.0) also my essays helped too. Having an essay that answers the question first is key, and then is entertaining, and lastly makes you appear to be a great investment to people is also key. Being able to pull this off in one essay is difficult but sort of required to be in the finalist circle at least.
“I think I stood out because my short responses highlighted my desire for an education, as well as how I want to use mine to help others obtain theirs…[also] meet the minimum requirements.”
For the Simon Youth Foundation Scholarship, I think I stood out because my short responses highlighted my desire for an education, as well as how I want to use mine to help others obtain theirs. I value the power words hold, and as such, recognize that information is integral to bridging the education gap in the world. In order to ameliorate this issue, I offer my assistance in mentoring students who do not have enough guidance or access to information. Seeing as how my goals, and the goals of the Simon Youth Foundation are similar, I believe they wanted to help me obtain my education.
For the Bright Futures scholarship, I meet the minimum requirements for the highest tier (Florida Academic Scholars) after retaking the ACT in October, while maintaining at least a 3.5 GPA, and documenting at least 100 community service hours. Most of my community service came from mentoring, and tutoring.
Courtney appealed to different aspects of each scholarship.
AXA Achievement Community Scholarship – $2500 – You can only talk about one thing you’ve done, so I talked about one of the non-profits I founded that gives young people (particularly young women in tech) a leg-up in finding mentors. Tied this in with very closely related volunteering that I’d done (I was sorta toeing the line of no longer just talking about one activity — you really gotta be careful with these essay prompts. I’m pretty sure being too unfocused/broad is the reason I lost AXA Achievement — I modified my AXA Achievement Community essays after that.)
Brad Feld Aspirations in Computing Scholarship – $1,000 – Got this for winning the 2014 NCWIT National Aspirations in Computing Award
Burger King WHOPPER Scholarship – $50,000 – Work experience for sure. In fact, this is the only award for which the Burger King Scholars program looks at work experience. It doesn’t factor into their lower level awards. You also need an SAT of 1700+ for this (not needed for the lower awards).
Coca-Cola Scholars Scholarship – $20,000 – Pretty sure community service and high general stats (GPA, SAT) helped with this. The average among the 2015 scholars was somewhere around 1200 volunteer hours in high school.
Elks Most Valuable Student Competition Scholarship – $4,000 – This is like the only scholarship that really weighs the SAT highly. It also weighs financial need pretty significantly.
GE-Reagan Scholarship – $40,000 – Again with community service. I also feel like GPA and the essays played a super significant role just from who they picked as scholars, but I have nothing but intuition to support that.
Harry E. Arcamuzi Aviation Scholarship – $500 – Won for being super into aviation/having lots of aviation-related achievements.
GoEnnounce Scholarship – $500 – Won for having an active page on GoEnnounce.
Jack Kent Cooke College Scholarship – $160,000 as needed + a probable $200,000 towards grad school as needed – You can only apply if you have a 3.5+ GPA and test scores in the top 15%. Beyond that, they look for super low income students, but I actually don’t really fall into that category. I think in reality you need to either be super low income and/or a survivor of super difficult life circumstances. So, not your typical achievement scholarship, though all the scholars end up being superstars anyway. Essays play an enormous role.
Lint Center Scholarship – $1000 – Won for achievements in national defense.
National Space Club Keynote Finalist Scholarship – $1,000 – Wrote a speech to give at the Goddard Dinner, made it to the finalist round, got a scholarship.
SanDisk Scholarship – $10,000 – Achievements in technology.
VIP Women in Tech Scholarship – $1,000 – Achievements in technology & advocacy for women in STEM.
What is their additional scholarship process advice for you?
Be as honest as possible. Don’t try to make your life story a sob story. Tell it as it is and make the best of it. Self reflect on your actions and realize what it special about you and what makes you a deserving winner of the scholarship.
Research the company giving out the scholarship! I have seen people time and time again, not list the proper activities on their scholarship and end up not winning it. If you apply to engineering scholarship list ALL your STEM related activities, if you are applying to a Tennis scholarship, list everything related to Tennis. If it is a smaller scholarship then try and research the CEO of the company or organization. Maybe get in contact with them and let them know you are interested and ready to learn. Connections and networking can come in handy for future endeavors. I even had one scholarship offer me a job before I even applied just because I reached out and showed my interest!
DO NOT GET DISCOURAGED. KEEP TRYING AND KEEP GOING. I LOST SO MANY SCHOLARSHIPS, BUT I WON SO MANY AS WELL. YOU WILL LOSE #Sorry BUT IT IS TRUE. JUST PERSEVERE AND KEEP GOING, DON’T STOP UNTIL ALL OF YOUR SCHOOLING IS PAID FOR.
Start early! Not every application will be a winner. However, by starting earlier, you give yourself more time to master the scholarship game, to test the waters with what works and what does not.
Persevere! For anyone who’s received unpleasant news with scholarships, and programs, please don’t fret too much. If you started early, you have some wiggle room since there are a lot more opportunities to pursue Senior year. I won’t tell you to deny how bummed you’re feeling, because you shouldn’t pretend. But realize that this is the beginning, not the end.
Stock up on scholarship apps for next year over the summer. Make a list/spreadsheet/organized bookmarks of stuff to apply for. Ask your counselor/senior about local scholarships. Use scholarship search engines such as fastweb.com as a launching point.
Work on essays that most scholarships ask for (career goals, volunteer service, adversity-obstacles). These essays are typically 500 word max, and can be recycled for most scholarships– with modifications. Work smarter, not harder.
Make an essay feedback group with a few friends. They should be dependable people who will give you insightful feedback on your essays to help fortify the content, and impact. Of course, you’d return the favor for anyone involved.
Apply to every one you qualify for. Those $500 and $100 scholarships can add up fairly quickly if you don’t forgo them for larger ones. Ideally, you want to apply to national scholarships if you meet the requirements. However, don’t ignore smaller scholarships simply because they offer a smaller amount. Unless you already have a full ride, or your parents will pay for your whole education, you cannot afford to miss out on these opportunities.
You should not put your eggs in one basket. Never assume your will get a scholarship, especially a nationally recognized one. The scholarship process is as unpredictable as the college application process. Every success should be a nice surprise. The last thing you want is to expect to receive a scholarship and planning your financial aid around it, only to discover you don’t have it.
Use any feelings of disappointment to propel you to fight harder, prep harder, and work harder. Keep moving forward. Remember: you lose every battle you don’t fight.
Don’t procrastinate! You will spare yourself anxiety, and sleepless nights if you budget your time. (Even if you wave your hand and say you’ve “got this”, don’t underestimate procrastination. Many of us fall prey to it, and regret it.)
Write like hell. Scholarships like Gates and Jack Kent Cooke will require thousands and thousands of words for their applications — in total, you’ll probably have written a small novel or full-length dissertation. Embrace it. Learn to convey what you really want to say; writing is a skill. The “personal voice” thing gets beaten to death, so I won’t tell you to find your personal voice, because that doesn’t tell you anything. I think everyone knows when their writing is coming from a genuine place and not forced — if you need to ask whether or not it sounds like you, then it doesn’t. If there’s any doubt at all in your mind, rewrite until there isn’t. A free (or greatly discounted) college education is worth that level of effort — and so is your reputation.
Wow, that was a lot to process. What is their last, additional scholarship essay writing advice for you?
“You just have to be yourself and realize what you have done to get to this point today, and be able to express your confidence in your essays.”
You don’t have to be the girl who volunteered in Africa or the boy who found the cure to cancer to win a scholarship. You just have to be yourself and realize what you have done to get to this point today, and be able to express your confidence in your essays. Show change and development in your essays. “What is your favorite subject?” shouldn’t be simply, “Math. I’ve had an A in the class since forever.” It should be something like, “Math. I used to have a C average in the class but I enjoy climbing up higher and higher every year. Now I have an A but I’m still not done learning.”
“I, personally, never put quotes by famous people, they are cliche and boring…DO include dialogue…double check your spelling.”
I, personally, never put quotes by famous people, they are cliche and boring. You might mean well, but it will seem like you just needed a transition or something. Avoid quotes. DO include dialogue which is how the famous “show, don’t tell” comes in. Depending on the essay, dialogue can add depth to your essay. All of my essays include dialogue and so far it has worked well. Also, double check your spelling. A few missed periods and commas won’t hurt you, but misspelling ‘laughter’ for ‘slaughter’ won’t look so good.
“Always include how you will benefit the future.”
Always include how you will benefit the future in your essays (whether they ask for it or not). Slip it in there. That’s what separates finalist and winners.
“ANSWER THE QUESTION!”
It may seem obvious, but this is where most people fail before they submit: ANSWER THE QUESTION! Before you start adding style, and constructing a narrative, make sure you have the simple response to the question. If it asks you about
Be authentic. Don’t write what you think the organization wants to hear. Write what you feel best answers the question and reflects you as a person.
Take advice cautiously. You are the writer, the one whose name will go on the application. You should definitely seek feedback on your essays, but ultimately, it’s up to you what advice to heed, and which to dismiss.
As a general rule, do not go over the word count. If a word count exists, it’s typically how much the organization expects will
Revise, revise, revise! Your first draft should never be your submitted essay. The more you revise, and edit, the more concise and stronger your essay will become. The more you write, the more mastery you obtain. Though, be careful not to go overboard. After a certain point, you should realize when your essay is the best it can be.
What are some resources they recommend? How can you reach out to them personally for questions?
“The Prospect…Facebook groups with like-minded people…mentoring programs!”
The Prospect is a great resource for articles. For essay editing, use scholarship junkies or your friends! Join Facebook groups with like-minded people (Questbridge applicants facebook group 2015-2016, Gates Millenium Applicants) and if a group doesn’t exist, you could make one! It’s great to connect with others and bounce ideas off of each other. Also take advantage of mentoring programs! A mentor could help you edit essays and provide college help.
If you need any advice or more information, feel free to contact me at Lamqueenie96@gmail.com.
I have a blog (STEMLatina.Com) where I post scholarships, tips, and general student life advice. I would be more than happy to help anyone who is looking for scholarships, or needs help applying to college/internships/programs etc.
You can also reach me at STEMLatina@gmail.com, or find me on twitter/instagram/facebook/snapchat: @STEMLatina
“Schoolsoup.com…Ultimate Scholarship Book…www.aurielwright.com”
I don’t really like Fastweb. www.Schoolsoup.com is a good one; also The Ultimate Scholarship Book.
My website is also a good resource as I put my scholarship resources and school prep info on there as well: www.aurielwright.com (if you have any more questions I can also answer them there).
“Unravel Education…Fastweb, Cappex, Unigo, College Greenlight, Niche, The Collegiate Blog, and Bound for College”
I co-founded Unravel Education with Odalis Flores and Ana Yanes as a tool to help students prepare for the college process and all it entails– including creating a college list, financial aid, essay writing tips, scholarships. internships, programs, and much more. Articles are published at: Unravel Education. Our Facebook page is constantly updated with information about relevant information. Here is the link: Unravel Education’s Facebook
Other resources to use include: Fastweb, Cappex, Unigo, College Greenlight, Niche, The Collegiate Blog, and Bound for College.
If you have any question, feel free to message the FB page, or website, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“College Confidential…the financial aid [section]…and [her scholarship consulting service]“
College Confidential is surprisingly not that bad for financial aid advice. I wouldn’t recommend posting — or viewing any other section BUT the financial aid one — but their advice is usually good stuff (at least as far as financial safety schools/loan questions/etc go — definitely not so much in terms of outside scholarships).
I also run a scholarship consulting service, which you can learn more about (and/or contact me) here: http://www.courtneythurston.com/scholarship-consulting.html. Email is email@example.com.
Not a big deal, because I just saved our [financial] lives…
If you were able to get through all of that, I seriously commend you and your efforts. Hopefully now you are more confident than before on tackling scholarships since you now have people, resources, and advice. Like with anything, take other people’s experiences and suggestions with a grain of salt because not everything they say will apply to you or work for you. You are your own best mentor and ally, so hurry, get on that scholarship grind, and conquer the scholarship process.