If you’re applying for scholarships (and you are, right?), you may be wondering how to stand out from the competition. Although every Scholarship Committee has their own unique criteria by which they select and award recipients, there are some general guidelines that committee members look for when reviewing scholarship applications.
1. Organization, Following Directions, and Attention to Detail
Show the committee that you can follow directions by making sure you’ve sent all of the required documents they’ve requested (application, essay, transcript, resume, test scores, personal statements, letters of recommendation, photo) and that you submit on or before the deadline. Failing to submit all the documents on time is a sure-fire way to lose out on the scholarship opportunity as your application will be rejected without review. I recommend you submit typed documents rather than hand-written. Make sure you mark all your documents with your identifying information (i.e., name, application number, etc.) and label, title, and number each submitted page of your application.
2. Strong Academics
You don’t have to be the class valedictorian, but most Scholarship Committees will take into consideration your overall commitment to academics. Some scholarships will require a minimum GPA, but many don’t. That said, a strong GPA indicates that you take your education seriously and that’s something committees care about. After all, you’re asking for money to fund your education, right? If you don’t have a good overall GPA, maybe you excel in a particular subject, such as computer science, perhaps it’s even the subject you plan to major in. If this is the case, you might focus on applying for scholarships in computer science where you’ve demonstrated academic excellence.
3. Work Experience
Even if you’re not the best student, you can still impress Scholarship Committees with your work history and internships. These experiences demonstrate your commitment, responsibility, and willingness to work hard and exemplify a strong work ethic. Securing an internship in your field of study shows you’re dedicated to pursuing that career path. An added bonus is that your supervisors and coworkers can write great letters of recommendation on your behalf.
4. Community Service
Many scholarships require participation in community service or ask you to write about it on their application or in an essay. Serving over a longer period of time is better than a day or two here or there. Scholarship committees favor students who demonstrate a commitment to community service. It shows them that you can stick with long-term goals (like graduating college). It demonstrates that you believe serving your community is important and that you share the same values as the committee. (Remember, they serve the community by providing scholarships to deserving students). If you haven’t engaged in community service yet, check out this valuable list of possibilities from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
These are activities that you engage in either at school or after school that demonstrate your leadership ability. Obvious examples are captain of a sports team, student council member, or president/secretary/treasurer of a club. If you didn’t hold any of these positions, don’t panic. You’ll just need to consider your involvement in various organizations and activities, and how you participated. Ask yourself what your role was and then decide if you “took the lead” on something. Spend some time thinking about (and developing) this area because scholarship committees look for leaders when awarding scholarship money. They like to see applicants with leadership skills because these students are more likely to take initiative and inspire others. The committee also wants to see how you utilize your leadership abilities to help others or bring about change.
The documents required by the Scholarship Committee are where you will show them you have these 5 qualities. Be sure to include examples of them in your essay, personal statement, application, and resume.