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Scholarships Guide and Resources

How to Write an Excellent Personal Statement:

Tips from A Previous Scholarship Winner

By Sarah O’Brien, 2014/2015 Synergy Scholarship Recipient 

  1. Please be sure to read the prompt(s) in order to determine what the question is asking of you.

  2. The prompt asks about a struggle or trial you overcame, be sure to include not only what the struggle was, but also how you overcame it and where you are at now. Go in to depth don’t simply say what the struggle was. *Just because a struggle or trial happened does not mean that it automatically affects a shot at a scholarship. It gives the reader a chance to see personal growth despite a rough period.

  3. Avoid generalizations. Be as specific as possible and answer each question. *The goal here is to tell the reader what makes your application stand out.

  4. Tell your reader(s) what you plan to do with the scholarship and how it will benefit you both short term and long term. Be sure to mention your chosen degree and your chosen career path.

  5. Make sure you plan ahead allowing yourself to produce a quality application. If you wait to the last minute to write an essay then there won’t be enough time for drafts, feedback, or proof reading.

  6. When asking for a letter of recommendation, be sure to give the letter writer at least two weeks to write their recommendation.

  7. Remember that the Writing Center is also a great resource. Students can schedule an appointment with the Writing Center or visit with a consultant in the STEP Center or Satellite located in the basement of Washakie. *Be sure to bring the prompt that discusses the essay with you. By doing this it will help the consultant best help you.


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Additional Tips

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Start the scholarship search process sooner than later
If you’re debating on when to start applying, the time is now. You can apply for scholarships you qualify for as early as you’d like and the rule of thumb is always the earlier, the better.

The process can often be very slow, so be patient and continue applying to new scholarships while waiting to hear back from those you’ve already applied to.

Apply for scholarships in different categories
Don’t limit yourself to one type of scholarship. Balance it out, applying for any merit, athletic, and artistic scholarships you qualify for.

Complete the Application Entirely and Accurately
Follow all instructions given in the application and answer all questions completely. Review the application more than once to make sure all fields have been completed and that all answers are accurate. If you don't want to, there will be others that will. Scholarship providers are often looking at subtle clues to determine what kind of a student you are. The applications that frequently make it to the final round of considerations and awarder are those that are completed, accurate, free of mistakes, and show a solid command of Standard English.

Include letters of recommendation
A good letter of recommendation can make all the difference in your scholarship application. Make sure that the letters you include are relevant and that you are confident in the person writing the letter for you – there is nothing worse than a lousy rec letter!

Also, give the person writing the letter significant time and a copy of your student resume so that they can easily reference your student activities.

Don’t count out scholarships with lower award amounts

Some students only apply for scholarships with significantly large award amounts. The problem with that methodology is that you are going to have a lot more competition than with lower scholarship amounts.

Whatever you can do to decrease your competition will be in your favor, so applying for all award amounts is a good way to ensure that you have a better chance of winning.

Remember, there is no limit to how many scholarships you can apply for or win, so winning several smaller awards can really add up and serve the same purpose – paying for school – as one large award.

Don’t become discouraged if you don’t win right away.
It’s important to keep in mind that applying for scholarships is a numbers game. The more you apply to, the better your chances of winning – so apply for as many as you qualify for. There are millions of scholarships and they are refreshed daily, so don’t give up if your efforts aren’t rewarded immediately.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult at times to win a scholarship, and not everyone is guaranteed to win one. It’s vital that you never give up applying for scholarships – because then you’re guaranteed to never win one.

Don’t avoid scholarships that require essays
Many students avoid scholarships that require essays and, for those that are strong writers, focusing on those opportunities can be a smart decision. Yes, they do take more effort but once you have several essay applications under your belt, the process gets easier.

Stay organized, keeping deadlines in mind
Always aim to complete your applications before the deadline so that you have plenty of extra time to fix your application should any issues occur. Application deadlines aren’t suggestions – they are final. Keep a calendar that outlines your application deadlines.

Make a scholarship application schedule and stick to it
Set aside a specific time that you’re going to focus on applying for scholarships. It can be one night a week, an hour each day or whatever works with your schedule.

Beware of Scholarship and Financial Aid Scams
Familiarize yourself with the warning signs for scholarship and financial aid scams. They’re easier than you think to spot! Here are some scholarship scam warning signs you should be aware of:

  • Fees: True scholarships are there to aid you, not the other way around so never pay to apply for scholarships or financial aid.

  • Guarantees You’ll Win: Legitimate scholarship sponsors will never guarantee that you’ll win. If an offer is guaranteed, it’s exactly as it seems: too good to be true.

  • You’re already a winner! You didn’t apply, yet you’ve won. Legitimate scholarship offers are those you need to put effort into winning through the application process – you aren’t just awarded money for no reason.

  • Personal Information Requests: A legitimate scholarship sponsor will never request personal information that you shouldn’t be giving out, like your social security number. If you’re ever uncomfortable with the type of information requested, it’s likely not a legitimate offer.

  • Missing Sponsor Information: When a scholarship sponsor is legitimate, you will always be able to access their contact information in some form. If it seems like a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” type of situation, look at it as a red flag.

 

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