How to Increase Your Odds of Winning a College Scholarship

4 Ways to Increase Your Odds of Winning a Scholarship for College

Winning a scholarship for college usually doesn’t come easy, but if you think you have to have straight A’s or be a star athlete to win money for college, think again. There are tons of scholarships out there, for everything from weird hobbies to specific majors. Keep these pieces of advice in mind to tip the odds in your favor!

1. Read the scholarship instructions

You might be thinking, “Well, yeah,” but it’s worth noting. It’s easy to overlook an important direction or forget something in your scholarship application by the time you’re ready to hit submit. Double (and triple) check everything!

“A big part of winning scholarships is not giving them a reason [to] deny you,” Shirag Shemmassian, founder of Shemmassian Academic Consulting, says. You can be automatically disqualified just for not following the directions, so make sure you’ve gone over every step of the application and include everything that’s required!

2. Get personal

Have fun with it! If there’s a scholarship essay or personal statement involved, write about something that excites you. The more personal you get, the more your passion will come through. (Just keep it appropriate!) If you love it, it’s likely the scholarship committee is going to love it, too.

“We want to hear your story! Don't be afraid to show your personality or your passion...Our team isn't expecting a prolific research paper - we want to connect to your story,” says Brad Leahy, co-owner of Blades of Green, which sponsors a $1,000 scholarship for graduating high school students every year. “Our scholarship is open to students pursuing a degree related to environmental studies, so when we review applicants we look for commitment and interest in that area. Some of our past winners have shared how a childhood passion has led them to this career, how they hope to change their field 15 years down the road, or what they've learned through high school and their hobbies that has inspired them to pursue environmental studies.”

Get creative, share your story, and stay focused, and you’ll write a winning scholarship essay.

3. Look for local college scholarships

“Local scholarships are typically smaller, but they also have less competition and these smaller amounts can add up quickly!” ScholarPrep founder Jordan Schanda advises. Your high school counselor, college advisor, or financial aid office are all good places to check, and they might know of other places to look, too. Don’t underestimate the power of a simple Google search for local companies that sponsor college scholarships, either!

Related: 3 Ways to Use Your School as a Resource for Scholarships

4. Follow up on your scholarship application

“Ultimately we want to know that our money is going to go to good use and to somebody who is motivated and has the initiative to be fast and exercise follow up,” says Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal, which gives away a $2,000 scholarship every year. Following up on your scholarship application is a great way to demonstrate this - if you do it right.

“If you go overboard, you can sink yourself before your application is even reviewed. We've had applicants in the past who have send [sic] impatient emails before the deadline asking us when they'll hear back, asking questions that are answered within the application, or sending in updated pieces of the application once they've already applied,” Leahy cautions. Wait a week or two after submitting your scholarship application, and then send an email to the scholarship provider to make sure they’ve received your application or any other materials that are required.

Keep it professional. You wouldn’t send a potential boss an email asking if you got the job right after an interview, so don’t do it here, either. (And if you would do that…er, well, now you know.)

Ready to tackle those scholarship applications? Check out our tips on how to stay organized in the scholarship shuffle in 5 Tips to Stay Organized in the College Scholarship Search.


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