I Apply for Scholarships but Never Win: Top Strategies to Mastering Scholarship Applications

Applying for scholarships isn’t fun. But neither is paying off tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. I earned over $60,000 in scholarships throughout my four years in college, after I realized that getting thousands of dollars to write an essay wasn't so bad after all. But trust me, I didn’t get nearly all of the scholarships that I applied for. It can be extremely frustrating when you find yourself applying for tons and getting rejected from them all. But after applying for so many scholarships, I realized that there isdefinitely a strategy to winning.

Read each step and tip carefully.

Think of the scholarship application as cash.

You absolutely have to shift your mindset. Sounds trivial, but it’s true. This is money. You cannot lose sight of that. Putting a few hours a week towards completing applications can save you years and years of paying off thousands of dollars. Don’t think of it as a tedious task, think of it as cash.

TIP: Write the dollar amount of the scholarship at the top of your rough draft copy (in big, bold numbers). This always helped me put my best effort into the essay, video, or whatever the requirements were. It also prevented me from complaining and developing negative thoughts. Positivity and confidence will come through in your application.

Think outside the box, but don’t over think.

Tell your story in the most unique way possible. You are you, and that sets you apart. Even if you’re telling a basic story about going grocery shopping, put effort into giving the small but relevant details. Jazz up the story. What’s simple to you is a huge glimpse inside of your life to the people on the other side of your application. You always want to tell your story by painting a vivid picture. 

TIP: As you’re writing, ask yourself: If I wasn’t me would I think this is interesting?

Don’t spit out your resume. Stir up emotions.

Whether its humor, sadness, inspiration, or joy – know that people may forget what you said to them, but they will always remember how you made them feel. Reveal things about yourself that make you special. Talk about experiences more than you talk about accolades or awards. Be your true self. Type how you would talk to your best friend. I mean, don’t get ratchet or use profanity, but be natural and simple in your diction choices. Your goal is to form a connection, not to brag or to bore. Have personality. Be you, boo! They read thousands of essays, make yours stand out…

TIP: Begin with a short story, a memory, a joke, an unusual statement, or a very impactful sentence that will pull them in immediately. Let someone read it in front of you, and pay attention to their facial expressions as they read.

Read the directions.

You can get away with not reading directions when you’re putting together a blender. Scholarships… not so much. A lot of times, the instructions are intentionally tedious just to see if you’ve read them; and furthermore, to weed people out. Think about it like this: the fewer applications those judges have to go through in-full, the happier they are. So they are LOOKING for a reason to disqualify applications and make their lives a little easier. If the directions say enter your valid school email address and you enter your personal email, you just disqualified yourself. You just wasted all of your time. Please, just take your time and read. It can be the best application in the world, but they’ll never know.

TIP: If the application is online, print out the guidelines and go through them with a highlighter. Then, after completing the application, go back through the guidelines to make sure you’re good!

Answer the freaking question… and do it Laymen terms.

Make sure you clearly answer the question. Don’t get too caught up on being wordy that you miss the objective. Stop trying to sound “smart” by using big words – I promise that’s not what they’re looking for. You can be flavorful with your word choice occasionally, but be direct and get to the point.

TIP: If you’re writing an essay, write the question at the top of the page and make sure that every paragraph develops the answer to that question.

Have someone proofread.

This is a tip for life, not just scholarships. But grammatical errors and typos are distractions. Get at least two to three sets of eyes on your application before you submit.

Paint the best picture of yourself. And this doesn't mean being something that you're not. If you're funny, let your humor shine! If you're energetic, let that come through the page. The point is for scholarship committees to get to know the person whom they're about to invest a whole 'lotta money into. My biggest tip is: DON'T STOP APPLYING. You will never win, if you don't apply.

Be Easy,

Erin