Scholarships 101: Navigating the Application Process Like a Pro

Scholarships 101: Navigating the Application Process Like a Pro

Does everything feel more expensive these days than just a decade ago? Well, it seems that way because it actually is. And that's not just because of inflation. Buying a property is more expensive. Renting too. Even books, clothes, and food come at a higher price.

Education is more expensive too. For instance, 50 years ago, a four-year stint at Harvard would cost you around $10,400. Today, a single year would set you back more than $43,000. That's why many people are turning to scholarships to help lighten the load.

There's no need to accumulate tons of debt if you don't have to. But do you know what you need to get a scholarship? Or where can you find one? Don't worry, we got your back. Today, we will discuss everything you need to know about the application process and help you nail it.

What Do You Need to Get a Scholarship?

First things first, you need to understand the criteria for eligibility. Every scholarship has its own set of requirements, and that's why it's important to research each one thoroughly. Most of the time, you will need to meet a certain grade point average and financial need criteria.

Besides that, you may also need to answer certain questions about your future goals, submit letters of recommendation, and prepare an essay. Depending on the requirements, you may even need to include a resume or portfolio.

When you start searching for the right scholarship, you need to make a list of everything that makes you YOU. That includes listing:

  • What are your academic interests
  • What sports did you play in high school
  • What's your background and heritage
  • What are your after-school clubs and hobbies

Why is this important? Because there are scholarships for just about any trait you can imagine. That's why you should list things you need to look up. For instance, you can find scholarships for your heritage, language proficiency, and volunteer work.

Go over your student portfolio, search for scholarships that match your profile and get ready to apply.

How to Find a Good Scholarship for You?

Once you create a list of your qualities, it's time to start looking for actual scholarships. There are a few things that can help steer you in the right direction:

  • Talking to your counsellor - Of course, you should talk to your school counsellor first. They have an abundance of knowledge and resources that can help you get started.
  • Look through the literature - There are a lot of books with scholarship information out there. For example, there's The Ultimate Scholarship Book you can easily purchase on Amazon. It can help you find scholarships, deadlines and requirements.
  • Check out scholarship search engines - One of the most convenient ways to find scholarships. Platforms like ScholarshipOwl help you match scholarships to your portfolio, and sites like Studocu list all the available scholarships.
  • Research companies and organizations - Lots of businesses offer scholarships for students in certain fields or with certain backgrounds. It's worth it to do some research and see if there's something you can apply for.

How to Navigate the Application Process

Once you find a couple of scholarships that match your profile, it's time to send them in. Here are a few tips and tricks to make sure you do everything right:

Prioritize Your List of Opportunities

You may have created a list of scholarships, but your job is far from done. You need to organize them so you know which ones to apply for first. The order should be based on a number of factors, including:

  • The deadline for applying for the scholarship
  • How good of a fit you are for the scholarship
  • The amount of money that comes with it

While smaller college scholarships might be easier to apply for, don't ignore the larger ones. Still, it's best to start with smaller ones and work your way up to higher-paying ones.

Create a Scholarship Schedule

Your goal is to apply for as many scholarships as possible. To do that, you need to create a timeline and stick to it. Remember, not only do you need time to research the scholarships, but you also need time to write the essays too.

A good essay can really make you stand out, so give yourself plenty of time to write. Make sure you also account for any unplanned events like holidays or exams that may delay your progress.

You can't apply for one or two scholarships a month. That would significantly diminish your chances of getting one. Budget your time accordingly and create a scholarship schedule to ensure you're applying for enough.

Build an Information Toolbox

An information toolbox? Now what in the name of learning is that? It's actually quite simple. It's a simple folder with all of the necessary information and items you need to apply for a scholarship.

What you need to realize is that you'll need basically the same information to apply for any scholarship. Once you gather all the documents, it's best to keep them in a folder where you can easily access them instead of digging around for them every time you apply.

Your information toolbox should contain:

  • All of your personal information
  • Your school's information
  • Letters of recommendation from teachers
  • Past scholarship essays
  • Your parents' tax returns
  • SAR and FAFSA reports
  • Loan lender information
  • Your personal photo

You probably won't need all of this information for every single scholarship. However, it's better to have them prepared and on hand just in case.

Send Applications on Time

Another important factor is the deadline for sending the applications. Considering that you'll be applying for multiple scholarships simultaneously, it is safe to assume that you'll have multiple deadlines to worry about.

And when you're juggling many different deadlines, it's easy to get tangled up and miss out on a few. To make sure this doesn't happen to you, create an updated deadline list so you know exactly when everything is due.

You should also create multiple reminders and alerts to make sure you don't forget a single deadline. 

Track All Of Your Applications

Organization is the name of the game, even after you send your applications. You want to ensure you know where each application is going. To do this, create a spreadsheet and keep track of all the scholarships you're applying for.

The spreadsheet should include the name of the scholarship, the date you sent it in, and any updates or responses you've gotten so far. That way, you won't have to keep searching for the scholarship website later on.

Ready to Start Applying?

And that’s basically it. You should now be familiar with the application process for any scholarship. All you have to do now is research and apply for as many scholarships as you can. Treat the process seriously and be patient. 

It may take some time before you have a full list of potential scholarships. There’s no such thing as a free lunch in this world so be prepared to do your due diligence. But don’t worry - if you do everything right, you’ll be rewarded. Your future self will be thankful for it.