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How to boost your chances of getting the best scholarship

More students than ever enroll in U.S. colleges and Universities every year - nearly 20 million. Close to 12 million of them, or 60%, borrow annually to help cover costs. For the 1 million international students in the US, the issue is even more severe, whereas most of them (65%) need to fund their education by themselves or with the help of their family. Simultaneously, the job market is becoming less secure for college graduates and it takes longer for students to find a well-paying job. Having students loans to repay creates extra pressure for college graduates who are frequently forced to settle for a job that will help them pay off their loans rather than have the career they truly want.

By Sgt. Gabriela Garcia 
Simultaneously, more and more scholarships are available on the market. Many companies and institutions establish scholarships as a part of their corporate responsibility programs. The great part about these scholarships is that many of them don’t require a high GPA or standardized test scores. Many of them make decisions based on essays and recommendations, creating opportunities for students who generally heavily rely on loans to finance their education.

There are two challenges associated with private scholarships: finding and securing these opportunities. There are various sites, such as ScholarshipOwl, that aggregate scholarship offerings and help navigate and streamline the application process. Once students find a scholarship that matches their profile, such as their location, major or ethnicity, they need to create an application that will be worthy of scholarship consideration.

Here are a few tips on filling out those scholarship applications:

  1. Don’t rush into it. Allow at least a week to process your answers and several weeks to perfect your essay.
  2. Write your answers using a word processing software first rather first, rather than directly filling in the application form. This will allow you to spell check instantly and think over your responses. After spending some time on editing your answers, go over them with someone who does essay editing for a living, e.g. your English teacher, a guidance counselor, or you can hire an English tutor to work on these with you. Don’t get someone else to write these for you - the answers will not be genuine. You need to own your responses, making sure they are well-written. Once your answers are finalized, fill in the forms online.
  3. Write the most amazing, emotional and effective essays you can. Unsure what to write about? In order to write good essays, you need to have positive real life experiences. How do you get those?
    1. Volunteer
    2. Teach
    3. Hike across the U.S. in the summer or get your family to go on a road trip
    4. Get a hobby that allows you to interact with people; maybe even help people
    5. Raise money for a good cause
    6. Start a company
    7. Become ridiculously good at something

By Adegante - Own work, GFDL,
When you have those life experiences, you will easily find something to write about on a variety of topics.

  1. Get really good at writing. Spend 30 minutes each day writing a blog or an essay. Get help editing them and going over them. Take writing courses at school and online. Join writing groups. You will need this skill way beyond high school and college, and now is the time to develop the discipline of writing. Once you are used to writing, you overcome the infamous writer’s stumbling block and take half the time to write those essays.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Get friends, teachers, guidance counselors, parents and everyone else on board. Get them to review your applications and give you feedback.

ScholarshipOwl, an automated scholarship search and application service that matches students to hundreds of scholarships, offers an opportunity to high school, college and grad school students to reduce the burden of student loans by sourcing and automatically submitting relevant scholarship applications.