Top 10 (or 11) Tips for Getting Scholarships

1. Read the directions.

This would seem to go without saying, but you’d be surprised! Be sure to read the directions carefully before you start filling out your application. Don't assume you know what to do already.

2. Complete the application in full.

Answer every question. If a question doesn’t apply, don’t leave the answer field blank. Write “N/A” in the field, or, if the reason the question doesn't apply isn’t obvious, include the reason. Be sure to supply all additional supporting material, such as transcripts, letters of recommendation, and essays.

3. Follow directions.

Provide everything the application asks for, but don’t supply things that aren’t requested — you could be disqualified.

4. Be neat, because neatness matters.

Always type your application, or, if you must print, do so neatly and legibly. Make a couple of photocopies of all the forms before you fill them out. Use the copies as working drafts as you develop your application packet.

5. Make your scholarship application personal.

The key to writing a strong essay is to be personal, authentic, and specific. Include concrete details to make your experience come alive. Even the simplest experience can be monumental if you present honestly how you were affected.

6. Watch all deadlines.

To help keep yourself on track, impose your own deadline that is at least two weeks before the official deadline. Use the buffer time to make sure everything is ready on time and you don’t have to rush through the application. Don’t rely on extensions — very few scholarship providers allow them at all.

7. Make sure your application gets where it needs to go.

Include your name and follow directions on all pages of the application. Pieces of your application may get lost unless they are clearly identified.

8. Keep a backup file in case anything goes wrong.

Before sending the application, make a copy of the entire packet. If your application goes astray, you’ll be able to reproduce it quickly.

9. Give it a final “once-over.” Even better, give it a “twice-over.”

Proofread the entire application carefully. Watch for misspelled words or grammatical errors. Ask a friend, teacher, or parent to proofread it as well.

10. Avoid scams.

You can identify scholarship scams by:

  • Lack of specific application deadlines
  • Promise of a guarantee
  • Requests for credit card or bank account numbers
  • Hype (e.g., “free money,” “win your fair share,” “guaranteed,” “first come, first served,” or “everybody is eligible”)

Read these tips or this article about how to avoid financial aid scams.

11. Ask for help if you need it.

If you have problems with the application, don’t hesitate to call the scholarship foundation.