In spite of our best efforts to reach out to as wide an audience as possible, the turnout for our recent inaugural My University Money Scholarship Contest was a little tepid (ok, so we had exactly one entry). This confirmed what J.B. and I have found out about a lot of scholarships, bursaries, and grants – that no one wants free money. No matter how many times students are told that they would make great candidates for a certain handout of free money, the convenient excuse to avoid the application chore is to say, “I’m sure there are a ton of people out there more qualified than me.” The truth is that there probably ARE people out there more qualified than you, and they are probably saying exactly the same thing you are. See how this ends up? They don’t take advantage of any scholarship applications! Both J.B. and myself were given fairly substantial amounts of money throughout our education journey, and this is coming from a couple of guys who should hold shares in the campus pub they donated so much money there! This isn’t a self-help pitch, or a cliché, when we say, “We did it, so can you,” we literally mean exactly that!
Eight Quick Tips For Filling Out Scholarship Applications
1) The more you write, the easier they are. Often, you can use the same introduction (or a slightly adapted version) for many different applications. After all, how many different ways do you need to describe how awesome you are?
2) Say it with me, “I… deserve… free… money.” I know it would be more appropriate to say, “My educational pursuits are worthy of being supported,” but somehow it just isn’t as motivational. Likely, the biggest thing stopping you from raking in easy dough is your own procrastination (the student special) and disbelief that you could be the one accepting a sweet cheque one day.
3) Be “creative” when your write your application. I’m not advocating for anyone to make anything up or lie, but you need to understand how effective language is used. For example, who would you give a scholarship to, a person that wrote: “I worked at McDonalds for two years,” or, “I built my practical business and communication skills in an entry level position, while learning how to positively contribute to building a team atmosphere. I learned the value of hard work, team support, clear directions, multitasking and clear communication from a variety of perspectives while being trusted with rising levels of responsibility?” See the difference there? When in doubt, give your old ELA teacher a call, we love to help with this crap, it gives us the warm fuzzies.
4) Don’t just use “flowery” language that doesn’t mean anything. Don’t overuse words like: team-oriented, hard worker, smart, capable, fast-learner etc. Try to tie these nice buzzwords into specific situations. What makes you team-oriented? Maybe you picked up these skills through various athletic activities, or maybe working at McDonalds as in our above example. Oftentimes creative description will be enough on a scholarship/bursary/grant application, whereas it wouldn’t be on say a job application, simply because there are fewer people applying and there is much less at stake for whomever is picking the “winner” (no major repercussions for picking someone who didn’t deserve free money, whereas if you hire a bad employee, that’s a world of headaches for an administrator). The real good scholarships will require you to tie in some real substance as you dress it up a little (it’s really not that hard once you do it a few times).
5) Check the application and any information shown with the scholarship. There are often great tips on what buzzwords administrators will be looking for as they scan over applications. Often these are in the “criteria” section. Some common examples are: citizenship, diversity, leadership etc. Simply take the description, language, and organization you have used from other applications and tailor it to the theme of the new one. I was a big fan of proving whatever I wanted by saying, “I was able to maintain a full course load with a ____ GPA, while doing ____.” Then I would simply fill in an activity that pertained to the group, club, organization or theme of the scholarship.
6) The obvious writing mechanics shouldn’t be ignored. Watch out for word limits and minimums. More often now applications have shorter word maximums which will require you to make every word count. Get someone else to proofread your application, or try reading it backwards to pick up any minor mistakes. Don’t give anyone an excuse to throw your application away.
Anyone with another tip to add to the list for our readers to benefit from?