Would you rather spend hours applying for scholarship opportunities or years paying off student loan debt? Same here. Here are our best recommendation for finding free scholarships and creating the most successful submissions.
Apply for local scholarships
Many communities offer local scholarships through organizations, clubs, small businesses, and benefactors. The odds of winning these scholarships are higher because they are open to a smaller group of students. Here’s how to search for local scholarships:
- Check with your guidance counselor and teachers
- Check community portals
- Search local media websites, like radio stations and televisions
- Use geographical specific Internet searches, like “scholarships in California”
- Ask people who recently graduated
- Use a personalized scholarship tools such as Scholarship Match or the Scholarship Search tool in the premium version of the MONEY College Planner
Apply for scholarships with smaller awards
Many students look for scholarships that guarantees the biggest bucks—but those can be the most competitive. Scholarships with smaller awards usually have fewer applicants, so you have higher chances of winning. These scholarships can help cover college costs like books, supplies, and even living expenses. Paying off those smaller expenses can add up to big savings.
More work equal to fewer applicants equal to better chances
Many students avoid scholarships that comes with a lot of work, such as videos, essays and projects. As a result, the applicant pool is quite smaller, which means bigger chances for you. Scholarships with essays of over 1,000 words often have less than 500 applicants, compared to the 5,000 students who enter much easier scholarships.
Rather than burning yourself out applying for every scholarship you might qualify for, have some fun! Apply for scholarships that fit your personal interests and that you will enjoy. There are scholarships for everyone under the sun: vegetarians, zombie lovers, Magic: The Gathering players … the list goes on. The more personal the scholarship, the likelihood that your passion will show through, resulting in a much better submission.
Don’t introduce yourself in your essay
It’s cliché but this may even get you disqualified. Many scholarship committees undertake blind readings, and essays that may include names or other identifiers are immediately disregarded. Go straight to the point.
Do not repeat the essay prompt
No one wants to reread the same sentence multiple times a day. Try to be original! Use the beginning of your essay to tell about your personality and set yourself apart from the rest. Try starting your essay by setting the scene for a story or by going directly into your answer.
Do not use quotes
Your essay should focus on you. The best essays are unique and stand out from others, so be original and use your own words.
Satisfy all the requirements
You can write the best essay in the world, but if the prompt asks for a list of four things, and you only list three, you may be disqualified. Make sure you answer every question accurately and meet every requirement.
Stick to the word limit
Get as close to the word limit as much as possible, but do not go over. Exceeding the word limit may sometimes disqualify you.
Spelling and grammar mistakes may also get you disqualified. Make sure to proofread your essay a minimum of two times and ask your parents and friends to look it over as well. The more eyes that goes over the essay, the better.
Do not wait until the due date before submitting, just in case there’s a problem with the site, the Internet connection, or your computer in the last minute.
Apply for as many scholarships opportunities as you can
The tip we hear the most from scholarship winners is that they apply for as many scholarships as possible. Treat it like a part-time job and dedicate several hours every month to look for scholarships and apply to them. You should keep applying for scholarships for as long as you are in school.
Do not give up!
If you do not win, don’t take it personally, and NEVER GIVE UP! Like most things in life, the most successful scholarship winners are the people who keep trying. Find scholarships that you are indeed passionate about and keep applying. Good luck to you!