Scholarships are essentially “free money” for school. If you’re trying to pay for college on your own, scholarships can greatly reduce your financial burden. However, there are many more students looking for scholarships than there are available scholarships. That means that when you're applying for a scholarship, you need to know how to make your application stand out above the rest to ensure you’re chosen as an award recipient. That requires an understanding of basic scholarship applications.
Most scholarship applications will ask the same essential information. This will include your name, address, phone number, Social Security number and date of birth. If the scholarship is for high school students transitioning to college, you’ll also be asked where you attended high school, what your grade point average is and the name of your guidance counselor, as well as the high school address and phone number. Additionally, expect to see a question about where you plan to attend college, whether you’ve already been accepted and your planned major. If you’re a college student, you’ll be asked about your grade point average, the college you’re enrolled in and your major. Be prepared to provide supporting documentation.
If the scholarship is awarded on the basis of financial aid, you’ll be required to provide information such as whether you work, how much you make and your total household income. You may also be asked to state how many people are in your household. It’s important to be honest, as you may be required later to provide documentation of your income. Additionally, you may need to supply information about your current bills, such as rent or mortgage, utility and car payments.
Your grade point average will come into play when applying for merit-based scholarships. However, merit doesn’t always have to do with academic achievement alone. You may be asked to explain what extracurricular activities or clubs you’re involved in and whether you regularly perform any type of volunteer work. This is where you can really shine, by showing that you take an interest and active role in bettering your community and helping others. Supporting documentation, such as letters of recommendation from groups you volunteer with, may be needed.
Some scholarships are for students who belong to specific groups, such as individuals with disabilities or people of a certain race or national origin. You may need to supply information such as what specific disability you have or your race or national origin. There are specific scholarships for almost everyone, from first-generation college students to military veterans to individuals whose parents belong to a certain profession or trade union. Be prepared to answer such questions and provide supporting information when applying for these types of scholarships.
Essays and References
The scholarship essay is common. Essay questions can vary widely from one scholarship opportunity to the next, as can essay requirements such as length. However, the essay is where you can give scholarship application reviewers a sense of who you are as a person, so it’s important to take your time to craft a well-written and well thought out essay that demonstrates you're a person of good character and worthiness. If you're asked to supply references, provide the names of people like former teachers, employers and staff from groups you volunteer with who can attest to your strong moral character and help make the case that you deserve the scholarship.