There’s something funny about being accepted to university when you come from a single-parent household. It’s exciting. It’s a challenge. Then comes the news about the cost. This is what pushed me to apply for scholarships.

In March 2022, I began looking for scholarships to see if I could win money to help me pay for university. When looking at many scholarships out there and seeing what they were looking for in applicants, I had no faith that I could win a scholarship.

Then I started to think about things a little differently. I decided to look for scholarships with eligibility requirements that matched my student profile closely. It was a simple exercise where I highlighted items that overlapped between the scholarship’s stated requirements and my résumé.

To be honest, I still had little faith that I could win a scholarship, but the process made me feel more confident. I knew this way I at least had a small chance to be the undergraduate student the scholarship committee was looking for.

In May, I opened an email that changed my thoughts about scholarships and grants. It congratulated me on winning a $2,000 prize. Receiving this grant made me truly believe that I could win scholarships and that my process of finding scholarships, applying for them, and interviewing for them works.

Applying for scholarships that you have a high chance of winning is a great way to help you acquire your desired degree without completely breaking the bank. While I once thought that scholarship money was out of reach to me, I now know it’s not. I won money and you can too. Here’s what I learned, which I hope can help you win money for school.

How to Properly Select Scholarships to Apply For

One of the most major breakthroughs I had in winning a scholarship was choosing the right prizes to apply for. Scholarships are very competitive, so when researching scholarships, it is best to find and apply for scholarships that fit your specific profile: race, financial situation, academics, and hobbies. Choosing to apply for scholarships that are looking for recipients that fit my particular profile and background made me believe that I could win a scholarship.

The Logic of College Scholarships: They Make Cents

If you’re working part-time to help pay for university, consider the following logic.

I work at a job that pays me $15 an hour. This year I won a scholarship for $2000. If I were to make that money from working my job, it would take me approximately 134 hours to earn this amount. On average, I work 20 hours per week, so I would have to work for about seven weeks to accumulate two thousand dollars from my part-time job. If done the right way applying to scholarships can allow you to win thousands of dollars in less than twenty hours every time.

How Winning a Scholarship is beneficial

This chart shows this logic visually. The hours I invested to win $2000 in scholarship money are in blue, while the hours it would take me to make that by working are in red.

Getting the $2000 from a scholarship is much easier and faster than getting it from a minimum wage job. However, chances are you will not win every scholarship you apply to. So, you have to look for and apply for scholarships efficiently and logically to make the most out of your time.

Let Us Look at How Long it Took Me to Get My Scholarship

The first thing I had to do to get my scholarship was research. I would say this can take between two and five hours, but it took about two hours for me. The next step is applying to the scholarships. Certain scholarships have an application that can be filled out in ten minutes, and others have questionnaires that may require a one-paragraph answer and maybe an essay. I believe this process can take, on average, about 3-5 hours and maybe some complicated essay topics can take about ten hours.

The last step in the scholarship process might be an interview. Some scholarships do not require an interview, but mine did. If your scholarship requires an interview, you must prepare well for it.

How to Prepare for Scholarship Interviews

The first step when preparing for a scholarship interview is reading the website of the prize and understanding exactly what the scholarship committee is looking for in an applicant. Once you have done this, you should highlight the things on your résumé that overlap with your findings. The last step when preparing for a scholarship interview is coming up with some potential questions you believe the interviewer will ask you and curating answers to those questions using examples from your résumé or application. Preparing for a scholarship interview should take no more than two hours; it just requires a bit of thought.

How Long are Scholarship Interviews?

Scholarship interviews are usually short and, most times, will not last longer than 30 minutes. I believe your application tells the interviewer the majority of what they need to know already, and the interview is usually to get to know an applicant better and maybe address any follow-up questions the committee may have. My interview was 15 minutes long.

Tips for Successful Scholarship Interviews:

1) Be Prepared

When you are prepared for your interview, you will be less nervous and have a much easier time answering the interviewer’s questions, which makes you more competitive for the grant or scholarship you are interviewing for.

2) Be Calm

Do not stress and panic over the interview. Nothing good comes from being panicked or scared. It just makes you more likely to mess up during your interview. Messing up during an interview may look like stumbling on your words or having a tough time answering the interviewer’s questions; stay calm and be prepared to avoid these mistakes. Treat it as a friendly conversation and it will flow in a natural way.

Summary: 5 Tips for Applying to Scholarships

1. Mindset 

You must have the right mindset to apply for and hopefully win scholarship prizes. The mindset you want to have is one of a winner. If you think like a winner, you will be a winner. You have to think like someone who would win a scholarship prize, which I talked about above. Someone who wins a scholarship is someone who applies to scholarships the right way and believes they can win a scholarship.

2. Only participate in scholarships that require essays if you are interested in the essay topic

If you do this, your essay will have a higher chance of turning out well because you are genuinely interested in the topic. If you win the scholarship, you can put it on your résumé and potentially publish the essay you wrote as a blog post or maybe an article somewhere.

3. Researching properly

A crucial step in applying to scholarships logically is researching the right ones to apply for. When researching scholarships, you should look for scholarships that are looking for someone like you. Most scholarships look for leaders and sometimes have specific kinds of people they want, whether that be race, nationality, economic status, or gender. Applying to scholarships that are looking for a student with your particular profile is a must if you want to increase your chances of winning a grant.

4. Understand what the scholarship committee is looking for and deliver that message in your application/essay

Tip number four is crucial. It is an absolute must to read over your scholarship provider’s website to see what they are looking for and highlight the things on your application that highly resonate with those findings. This is what a scholarship committee will like to see.

5. Prepare well for interviews

In order to receive a scholarship, you must pass the interview stage if the scholarship you applied for requires one. If you want to blow your interviewer away, you should prepare well for your interview. Preparing for your interview is similar to filling out the application for your scholarship; you want to find the characteristics the scholarship committee is looking for in an applicant and write down the points on your résumé that highlight these things so you can focus your specific experience.

Conclusion

University is quite costly. Fortunately, I believe there is a scholarship out there for every hardworking and diligent student who is willing to put in the work to receive some of the many grants out there. If someone like me, who just a few months ago believed he couldn’t win a scholarship, but received a grant of $2000 in May, can win a scholarship award, you can, too.

Author: Caleb K

I am passionate about personal finance, and I want to empower other students with knowledge to help them win scholarship money. Too many students believe they can’t win a scholarship and I want to help change this perception.

My future ambition is to be a financial analyst. When I am not working towards this goal, I am typically working on my tennis serve. I love tennis.