Scholarship season is underway at the SouthCoast Community Foundation, an exciting and inspiring time! However, we recognize that this can be especially stressful for some students and parents. So, if you find yourself wondering where to begin, look no further. What follows are seven top tips for scholarship applications to help make the most out of the application effort while hopefully taking some stress out of the process.
- Start early
When is the best time to start applying for scholarships? Now. Typically, scholarship deadlines are throughout the year. Whether you’re a high school senior, college student, or an adult returning to school, it’s never too late to start applying for scholarships. If you are applying to Community Foundation scholarships, most of our applications are due by the end of March.
- Establish a schedule
With the multitude of scholarships available today (the Southcoast Community Foundation alone has 75!) it may be overwhelming at first to even know where to begin. This is why it may be helpful to make a scholarship application “schedule,” – and stick to it. This could entail setting aside a specific time when you focus on applying, whether one night a week, an hour each day, some applications can take as little as 15 minutes. And for most of the Community Foundation scholarships, you apply using the Universal Application, which automatically pairs students with every scholarship they are eligible for, at once. Some scholarships, which are listed on our portal, have separate applications.
- Collect letters of recommendation
An effective letter of recommendation can go a long way in strengthening your application. You want to make sure recommendation letters highlight your strengths, qualifications, and future goals. For the Community Foundation’s scholarships, these letters can come from an employer, teacher, coach, counselor, or other trusted adult that can testify to your positive qualities. Be sure to give enough time and context when making your request. This could include providing:
- An overview of the scholarship
- Your key strengths related to the scholarship requirements
- A copy of your resume
- Your extracurricular accomplishments
- Apply for scholarships both big & small
Earning enough money from scholarships to pay for college will most likely come from different sources. While applying for scholarships with high rewards is great, don’t skip over those offering less money. Winning $1,000 here and there adds up quickly, and there is no limit to how many scholarships you can apply for. At the Community Foundation our scholarship awards can range from $700 to $35,000.
- Write an essay that tells a story
A compelling essay can be your ticket to stand out from the crowd. With scholarship application essays you are encouraged to tell a story, and that presents an opportunity to really let the reader know who you are and what you care about. This is also a chance to illustrate how your life would look with the financial assistance. If you don’t feel confident about your writing skills, consider working with an advisor or a trusted teacher to help you develop a strong outline and provide feedback on your draft. Once you have your essay completed, you can often reuse aspects of it for more than one application. At the Community Foundation, we don’t actually require essays but instead, ask you to write about leadership and overcoming challenges in an open response format.
- Utilize your resources & support systems
Lean on your resources and support systems, whether a school advisor, guidance counselor, mentor, teacher, parent, another trusted adult, or all of the above! They are there to help you and want to see you succeed. Every one of them can give you words of advice about the application process and in some cases, help you find locally offered scholarships. You can also find locally offered scholarships through local foundations, community organizations (wink, wink), and local businesses.
- Watch out for scams
Scholarships exist to give you money to help pay for college, not take money away from you. Keep in mind that no credible scholarship application will ask you to pay money like a “submission fee.” Also, beware of requests for highly confidential information. A legitimate organization will never ask you to provide information like your social security number. If you encounter either (or both) of these situations, it is a red flag and should be reported to the National Fraud Information Center by visiting their website at www.fraud.org.
We hope you found these seven top tips for scholarship applications helpful. We encourage you to apply to the Community Foundation’s scholarships being offered for 2022. Good luck, and happy scholarship season!