Recommended Guidelines for Maximizing Your Chances to be a Scholarship Recipient

You can maximize your chances of receiving scholarships by following best practices and recommended guidelines.

Begin searching for scholarships as early as possible

  • Don’t wait until January of your senior year to start looking.
  • Pay attention to scholarship deadlines and keep a checklist of application closing dates.
  • File your FAFSA early. Many scholarships require it. FAFSA opens Oct. 1.
  • Don’t submit at the application deadline to guard against computer or other technical issues.

Plan for letters of recommendation

  • Choose your recommender carefully. It should be someone who knows you well and can speak to your accomplishments.
  • Give them plenty of time and include a student bio or resume outlining your accomplishments and activities.
  • The best letters of recommendation show the student’s personality and character.

Apply for local scholarships

  • Many communities offer scholarships through clubs, organizations or small businesses.
  • The chances of winning a local scholarship may be greater because they are open to a smaller group of students.
  • Check with your school counselor for scholarships tied to your school and community.
  • Ask relatives if they know of scholarships through their employers, clubs and organizations.

Apply for scholarships with smaller amounts

  • Don’t overlook smaller scholarships. Several $500 scholarships can add up.
  • Larger scholarships can be the most competitive.
  • The amount of scholarships you can apply to or win is unlimited.

Don’t avoid scholarships that require an essay

  • Some students avoid scholarships that require more work. That could shrink the application pool and improve your chances of winning.
  • If you have two to four really good scholarship essays, edit and reuse those essays for multiple scholarship applications.
  • Edit the essay for each new scholarship essay question.

Write a winning scholarship essay

  • Follow the essay word limit. Exceeding that might disqualify you.
  • Proofread the essay to ensure you have no spelling or grammar mistakes.
  • Answer any questions in the essay prompt.
  • Find a unique perspective on the essay prompt and make your essay stand out. Be personal and passionate.

Apply for many scholarships and stay organized

  • Apply for 20 to 30 or more scholarships.
  • Treat applying like a part-time job. It’s an investment in your future.
  • Set aside regular times to look for and apply to scholarships, once a week, an hour each day, whatever works best for your schedule.
  • Stay organized. Use a calendar and a checklist. Know the scholarship deadlines.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t win right away

  • Not everyone is guaranteed to win a scholarship.
  • The more you apply for, the better your chances of winning a scholarship.
  • Keep searching for scholarships.
  • Apply for scholarships in different categories that you may qualify for, such as merit, athletic or artistic.

Beware of scholarship scams

  • Requests for personal information: A legitimate scholarship will never ask for personal information such as a social security number.
  • Fees: A true scholarship will not charge a fee to submit an application.
  • Guarantees to win: A legitimate scholarship will not guarantee that you will win. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Application is missing sponsor information: You should always beable to find a sponsor’s contact information in the application. If you can’t find that information, be wary.