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How to Increase Your Chances on Landing a Scholarship

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Scholarship organizations have quite a tough job.  How do they choose winners?  How do they sift through the pile of applications to determine who has potential and who doesn’t? NerdScholar did a Scholarship Study in which 5,865 verified private scholarships were analyzed from NerdScholar’s scholarship search tool.   With this data, NerdScholar determined the most requested items from scholarship organizations.  Here are the top 3 most requested materials and tips on how to land a scholarship.

The Top 3 Most Requested Materials:

(1) Transcript 

The transcript is the most requested item.  Scholarships were originally created to help students overcome financial obstacles on their road to higher education.  It then makes sense then that these organizations would reward academic achievement.  

Student Tip:

Students should try their best to apply themselves in the classroom.  While grades certainly aren’t everything, scholarship organizations do take it into consideration as a reflection of the student and their potential.  Any student receiving an award is a reflection of the organization and its values.  They ultimately want to see their recipients succeed and grades are often seen as a good sign of school success down the road.

 (2) Essays

It’s not surprising that essays are the next most requested item.  Essays are the quickest way for organizations to get an idea of what a student ideas they stand for and what they represent.  Essays are the window into an applicant’s character and their ambitions.  Often essay prompts will be centered around the applicant’s goals for the future or about a topic pertinent to the organization.

Student Tip:

Get involved in afterschool activities/activities outside of school.  Essays often ask for you to pull from experiences that have affected you in a positive way, have changed the way you look at the world or have shaped who you are today.  Hypothetical examples are never as powerful as actual experiences and not many essay competitions want to hear about how you watched a 20-hour marathon of your favorite show one weekend.  So, get up off the couch and find an activity you enjoy, volunteer for your community or start a club.  Whatever you do, commit and get involved.  You’ll gain great experiences, meet new people and gather further insights into yourself that will help with your essays.

(3) Letters of Reference 

Letters of reference are the ultimate key to character evaluation.  They are the strongest addition to how a scholarship organization sees its applicants because it reinforces the image developed in the student’s essay.  More powerful than what a student says about himself is what others are willing to put their reputation behind and say about him.  Letters of reference seal the deal for many organizations and help complete the picture of who the student is and how they work in their community.

Student Tip:

Get to know your leaders—teachers, community leaders, coaches or club advisors, etc.  When you commit to any extracurricular activity, it’s important to get to know those higher up than you.  This is not just about a letter of reference either.  Ultimately, letter or not, you want these people on your team.  They’re veterans in their field and have helped students before you, so they know what they’re talking about and are great sources of advice for school related and non-school related matters.  They’re here to help, so don’t be afraid to get to know them, or rather, let them get to know you.