How to Win Scholarships for College: Verified Expert Tips

how to win scholarships

Securing financial support for your college education is a top priority. Unlike financial aid or grants which consider financial need, winning scholarships demands extra effort beyond completing a FAFSA. With most awards reflecting merit, meeting eligibility requirements alone won’t cut it – you’ll need to impress the selection committee. Luckily, there are myriad ways to demonstrate merit, presenting ample opportunities to shine.

The Education Data Initiative estimates an annual offering of around 1.7 million scholarships. Surprisingly, ThinkImpact reports that 30% of scholarship winners obtain GPAs ranging from 3.0 to 3.4. This illustrates that you don’t necessarily need to be at the top of your class to clinch significant funding. Instead, a strategic mindset, hard work, and persistence are all essential. To guide you in this quest, we have curated a list of 20 tried-and-true strategies for your college scholarship success.

20 Winning Strategies for College Scholarships

Seeking additional financial assistance? Discover these 20 game-changing strategies to secure scholarships and alleviate the burden of college expenses.

Begin the Process Early

Boost your chances of success by starting early and allocating ample time to prepare and perfect your applications. Similar to SAT preparation, it is never too soon to commence your scholarship search. While many scholarship contests target high school juniors, seniors, and current college students, numerous programs welcome applicants of all ages. Even if you are not planning to enroll in college in the immediate future, you can initiate the research and organization process today.

Leverage Going Merry

Efficient scholarship hunting poses a significant time investment. With over a million awards available, the task of locating eligible opportunities can seem overwhelming. However, with the aid of Going Merry, you can receive high-quality scholarship recommendations tailored to your eligibility profile – directly to your inbox.

Once you have completed your profile, a robust scholarship-matching software will connect you with a curated list of scholarships perfectly suited to your needs. What’s more, you can apply to the majority of these awards directly through Going Merry. Say goodbye to managing multiple logins and repeatedly uploading transcripts or documents! Everything is conveniently consolidated in one place, poised and ready for submission.

Compile a personalized inventory of college scholarships

On platforms like Going Merry and other scholarship websites, you have the opportunity to explore numerous scholarship offerings. However, the mass of listings may start to blend together in your mind. To streamline your application process and optimize your time, create and maintain an exclusive record of scholarship opportunities that cater to your eligibility. (Most scholarships have their eligibility requirements stated alongside them. On Going Merry, you can also filter scholarships using your individual criteria, such as gender, race, state of residence, or GPA.) Endeavor to include a diverse range of scholarship types, including national scholarships, merit-based scholarships, and local awards. It is beneficial at this stage to have an extensive list.

Discover awards tailored to your profile

Initially, you may add numerous general scholarship opportunities to your inventory. However, it is equally vital to seek out awards where you hold a competitive edge. There exists an array of scholarships, including those targeted toward artistic individuals, student-athletes, students pursuing specific majors, and even highly specialized niche scholarships. Reflect on your unique interests and then embark on a search for awards tailored to your profile.

Conduct research on local organizations

As your inventory expands, explore local organizations that offer distinctive scholarships relevant to your area. Going Merry aggregates an assortment of awards, including national, local, and state-specific scholarships. However, there remain numerous small businesses and nonprofits that provide under-the-radar local scholarships. Typically, these scholarships aim to assist local students in offsetting college expenses, either within their home state or beyond. The notable advantage of local opportunities is that they often attract a smaller pool of applicants, thereby potentially increasing your chances of securing an award.

Engage with your chosen colleges

If you are a high school senior and have already decided on the university you wish to attend, consult the college’s financial aid office. Many universities offer their own specific scholarships, and those can be incorporated into your inventory. If you are still working on your college applications and/or haven’t yet chosen a particular school, reach out to your high school guidance counselor. They might be aware of exceptional scholarship opportunities that you may have overlooked.

Prioritize your scholarship list

Once you’ve compiled your extensive array of scholarship opportunities, it’s time to devise a strategic game plan. First and foremost, categorize your list based on different criteria. You may opt to classify them according to the monetary value, the perceived likelihood of success, or the time investment required to complete the application process. While prominent national scholarships offer hefty rewards, they also attract a voluminous number of applications, intensifying the competition. Conversely, local scholarships may not offer lavish awards but present a higher probability of being selected. Both categories deserve equal consideration. Compose a list of your top ten coveted grants, ensuring representation from each category.

Establish a comprehensive deadline calendar

Missing a deadline is the surefire way to disqualify yourself from scholarship consideration. Develop a dedicated calendar, either in digital or physical form. Document the due dates for each award on your top-ten list. Place the calendar in a prominent location, such as your bulletin board or desktop, to maintain constant visibility. Additionally, include self-imposed deadlines to stay on track. For instance, aim to submit your letter of recommendation requests a month before the relevant scholarship’s due date and have the initial draft of your essay ready two weeks ahead of the final deadline. Clearly label all these milestones on your calendar.

Begin with easy scholarships applications

If none of your deadlines are pressing, prioritize the easy scholarships on your agenda. These are the programs that demand fewer specific documents, essays, or letters of recommendation. (Some scholarships even operate on a sweepstakes model, requiring only a sign-up for application.) By tackling these straightforward applications first, you can lighten your workload and devote more energy to the more intricate submissions.

Pursue scholarships in bulk

Increasing the number of applications you submit increases your chances of winning. A highly effective approach to maximize your output is to apply to scholarships in bulk. On platforms like Going Merry, you can streamline the process by applying to multiple scholarships with a single click. Look for scholarship “bundles” on the main search page – these are collections of similar awards with corresponding requirements.

Be aware of scholarship scams

Don’t waste time applying for a fraudulent award when you could be applying for legitimate scholarship money. Therefore, a crucial aspect of a savvy scholarship search is learning how to avoid scams. Reputable scholarship platforms, such as Going Merry, ensure that every advertised scholarship is genuine. On other websites, verify the provider, the information they request, and whether or not they charge fees. Legitimate scholarships never require payment. If they do, stay away.

Explore the scholarship providers

To make your application stand out, connect with an organization’s mission. Before writing your essays, research the scholarship provider. If the award is sponsored by an organization focusing on climate awareness, emphasize your involvement in beach clean-ups or highlight volunteer activities on your resume. Taking a few extra minutes to personalize your essays can significantly increase your chances of winning.

Prepare a comprehensive resume

Create or update your resume before starting the scholarship application process. A well-crafted resume not only serves as a required document for many applications but also helps your teachers and mentors write recommendation letters more efficiently. Since recommendation letters can often create a bottleneck in the scholarship application process, streamlining this step can greatly enhance your chances of meeting deadlines and winning free money. Utilize various resume templates available and include information about extracurricular activities, employment history, community service work, awards, and honors received to showcase your achievements.

Secure exceptional letters of recommendation

Letters of recommendation present a valuable opportunity to elevate your application. Choose carefully the individuals you request to write on your behalf, such as your guidance counselor, homeroom teacher, or trusted coach/mentor. The ideal referees would be capable of addressing your character and academic competence. Additionally, take note if the scholarship application specifies a particular type of letter (e.g., a STEM-related scholarship may require one from your science teacher). Assemble a comprehensive packet of supporting materials, including your resume, grades, test scores, and any completed personal essays or statements for the scholarship. Most importantly, allow your reviewers ample time to compose their letters by making the request at least a month before your application deadline. If you are pressed for time, acknowledge this fact upfront so that your letter-writer understands the situation.

Dedicate time to crafting an exceptional essay

For highly competitive scholarships, the scholarship essay carries utmost significance. It provides an opportunity to showcase why you deserve the award and can truly make your application stand out. While numerous guides are available to assist you in getting started, here are key tips to remember:

  • Start early: Avoid leaving the essay for the last minute. Scholarship selection committees review countless essays and can distinguish those written hastily right before the deadline.
  • Read the question thoroughly: Ensure that you fully comprehend the essay question before beginning to write.
  • Conduct research: Familiarize yourself with successful scholarship essays to understand the format and how to execute it effectively. You may also find templates helpful in creating a strong outline.
  • Brainstorm: Compile a list of your unique qualities and jot down reasons why you are qualified for the award. Explore ideas and thoughts related to the essay topic.
  • Write a first draft: Your initial draft does not need to be perfect; the crucial aspect is completing it with sufficient time for editing. Several days later, revisit your essay to confirm that you have adequately addressed the question. If something is missing, add it.
  • Share your draft: Have a trusted friend, parent, or mentor review your first or second draft. Remember that meticulous attention spent in this phase often yields significant dividends.

Sharpen Your Interview Skills

For more competitive scholarships, a scheduled interview may be part of the application process. Even if not yet requested, it’s wise to prepare. Research typical scholarship interview questions online and brainstorm your answers. Jot down your preferred responses to help you perform well under pressure. When you feel ready, ask a trusted friend or teacher to conduct a mock interview with you.

Thoroughly Review Your Application

After gathering all the necessary documents, composing an exceptional essay, and collecting letters of recommendation, take a step back. Carefully review each document, including your address and contact information, for accuracy. Look out for typos or anything that might raise concerns for a selection committee.

Submit On Time — or Ahead of Schedule

As you work on college applications and scholarship essays, refer to your calendar to ensure timely submissions. Moreover, aim to submit your applications early if possible. Many scholarship programs take note of submission dates, and applying in advance demonstrates your enthusiasm for a specific award. Additionally, early submissions help prevent last-minute rushing and allow ample time for completing all aspects of the application.

Polish Your Online Presence

In today’s digital age, much of our lives are intertwined with the online world. A simple Google search can reveal a great deal about a person. Before submitting your application, meticulously review your online presence as if you were a college scholarship selection committee member. Consider deleting any tweets expressing distaste for essay writing and removing any photos that may portray you negatively. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and minimize your online presence. It may even be worth considering adjusting your privacy settings. For highly competitive scholarships, any questionable posts can potentially harm your chances of success.

Expressing Your Appreciation

Take a moment to acknowledge those who have cheered you on, be it a teacher, coach, or friend who has advocated for you or proofread your essays. A sincere thank-you note goes a long way in showing your gratitude. While an email gets the job done, a handwritten card adds an extra spark. Plus, after any scholarship interview, don’t forget to thank the interviewer for their time. This gesture showcases professionalism, humility, and maturity, elevating you above the crowd.

Final Thoughts

When chasing college scholarships, dedication and strategy become your loyal companions. This article has shed light on 20 expert tips to conquer the scholarship battleground with finesse. Embark early, harness the power of platforms like Going Merry, and curate a personalized collection of scholarships to lay the foundation. Tailor your applications to suit your unique profile, explore local opportunities, and actively engage with your prospective colleges to stand out from the pack. Prioritize scholarships, set deadlines, and tackle easy ones first to manage your workload with panache.

Stay sharp by being aware of scholarship scams and aligning yourself with the mission of scholarship providers. Craft stellar letters of recommendation, masterful essays, and polish your interview skills. Carefully review your application, meet deadlines, and refine your online presence.

Lastly, expressing gratitude through thank-you notes demonstrates your maturity and professionalism. By adopting these strategies, you’ll boost your chances of securing valuable scholarships and accomplishing your educational dreams. Wishing you the best of luck on your scholarship journey!

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