Scholarship Application Tips: 5 Ways to Stay on the Right Track

by Ben Kissam

Scholarships can help make college more affordable and boost your résumé, but they’re often competitive. A well-crafted essay is a great way to stand out in a sea of other applicants.

If you’ve started writing a scholarship essay, you know it’s not always easy; it takes thoughtful consideration, multiple drafts, and a lot of proofreading. But it isn’t impossible!

Consider these five scholarship application tips to increase your chances of winning a scholarship.

1. Identify the Right Scholarships for You

There are many scholarship opportunities out there to fund your education. The more general the scholarship, though, the higher the competition will be.

Thankfully, you can increase your chances of receiving a scholarship by researching specific opportunities. For example, financial aid is available for certain academic subjects, athletics, and creative endeavors.

Here are some questions to help you brainstorm:

  • Which department(s) or subject area(s) might offer scholarships?
  • Could your cultural background qualify you for specific scholarship opportunities?
  • Does your state or region offer any scholarships?
  • Do you have extracurricular skills, such as musical or athletic talent, that may qualify you for a scholarship?

2. Plan Ahead to Submit on Time

You know making a good first impression matters, and that attitude and timeliness make a huge difference to a person who doesn’t know you. When it comes to scholarships, your essay is your first impression! The people reading your essay don’t know you yet, so little details, such as on-time submissions, matter.

Colleges can accept (or offer financial aid to) only a certain number of students. A late submission suggests you aren’t serious about the institution. While each school has its own submission policy (i.e., a “hard” deadline versus “rolling” admissions), it’s best to submit everything ahead of schedule.

Consider creating a document with application deadlines and other important details for every scholarship you’re applying for. This can help you successfully stay on track.

3. Write About Something Important to You

Some colleges want you to outline your career goals. Others ask you to describe a triumph or struggle. Regardless of the topic, tying personal experience into your essay will help.

That’s because most people—including those reviewing scholarship applications—love good stories. Writing about something meaningful helps your passion shine through.

For example, the Math and Physics Fellowship at Azusa Pacific University asks applicants to describe their math background and career goals. Which stands out more: a bulleted list of facts about math classes you’ve taken, or a short story about what you hope to be doing in the field of mathematics 10 years from now?

Think big picture, but be yourself. Even the best scholarship application tips won’t help if your essay is dull or crammed with big words. If possible, write about something you connect with, not what you think colleges want to read.

4. Read the Prompts Carefully

Even the most passionate essay won’t matter if you don’t follow the guidelines. Review the essay prompts and application requirements for each scholarship, and add them to your deadlines document. Some schools may even provide sample essays or other resources; consider adding these to your document too! Reference these guidelines as you work on your application so you don’t miss anything.

5. Know the School’s Values

Last, but not least—consider what each prospective college looks for in its students. Know the school’s core values. If community and service are woven into a school’s purpose, how does that connect to your studies?

Instead of thinking about how you can earn money, ask how you can create a “win-win” for you and the school. How can you help the college reach its potential?

Interested in learning more about scholarship opportunities at Azusa Pacific University? Visit the school’s website for a list of scholarships and application requirements.