5 Tips to Stay Organized in the College Scholarship Search
Between essays, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and different deadlines for each scholarship application, staying on top of everything in the search for college scholarships can be a major headache.
Staying organized is the key to making sure you’re not missing out on free money for college. Save yourself the hassle of trying to figure out which scholarships you’re eligible for, where you are in the application process, and which scholarships you’ve already applied to by following these tips:
1. Make a game plan.
Take some time to sit down, make a plan, and get organized before you get overwhelmed.
“First, build your list of scholarships. Spend a few hours just compiling a list of scholarship opportunities with deadlines within the next 30-90 days,” says Diane Melville, author of “The Community College Advantage” and founder of skincareox.com. Once you’ve established which scholarships you’re eligible to apply for, you can get cracking on what’s next.
2. Nothing like a good ol’ spreadsheet.
Andrew Leahey, a University of Pennsylvania alumnus and recent Rutgers Law School graduate, shares a tip from his college scholarship search. “There really is no better tool for keeping track of scholarship requirements and deadlines than the lowly (and undervalued) spreadsheet.” He also points out, “Using a shareable spreadsheet such as Google Sheets to organize the requirements of a scholarship, the deadlines, what you have submitted, what you still need to submit, and amounts offered can keep information organized and shared with parents.”
3. Track deadlines.
The most important thing is to make sure you don’t miss a deadline. You don’t want all of your hard work to go to waste, and you definitely don’t want to miss out on your chance to win free money for school! When you’re deep in the scholarship-searching process, it’s pretty much impossible to keep track of every scholarship’s deadline. Staying on top of all of these dates is a necessity.
“I use Google Calendar, and I keep a list of scholarships that I'm applying to on Google Drive. I think that it goes without say[ing], but it is incredibly important to adhere to the scholarship program's deadlines. If you miss a deadline, you can call the scholarship committee and ask them if they'll still accept your application, but your odds have likely greatly diminished,” says Neel Somani, a rising junior studying computer science and business administration at the University of California, Berkeley.
4. Create a checklist.
Whether it’s in your spreadsheet or a simple Word doc, make sure you write down each scholarship’s requirements. Melville’s advice to students: “Create a checklist of all application requirements for each scholarship (list anything that must be completed like application, essay, letters of recommendation, etc.). Be sure to request letters of recommendation and complete your essay at least two weeks before the scholarship deadline. Rinse and repeat this process every few months to stay abreast of new scholarship opportunities.”
5. Keep your supplemental materials close by.
Most college scholarship applications require a lot of the same information, like transcripts, letters of recommendation, and personal essays. Keeping all of your paperwork in one place makes having the materials you need easily accessible when you’re filling out applications. In your spreadsheet or calendar, “…you can link to Google Docs documents that contain your personal statements and other additional supplemental application materials,” Leahey says.
Getting – and staying – organized in the search for scholarships for college is half the battle. Follow these tips, and you’re well on your way to becoming a winner.