The question of what to look for in college scholarships is an important one. Knowing this answer can be the difference between you wasting valuable time constructing applications and actually winning.

Some factors to consider when looking for scholarships include: the type of scholarship, the organization offering the scholarship, the eligibility requirements, the deadline, and the amount of money offered. You should also assess how many people are likely applying for the scholarship and your chances of actually winning. By taking all of these factors into consideration, you can narrow down your search and focus on scholarships that are more likely to be a good fit for you. The better the fit, the easier the scholarship is to win.

Scholarship programs are a great way to help pay for college. To help you impress any scholarship committee, ensure that your research of any prize considers the major points discussed in detail below.

Scholarship Mission

One of the key factors you should investigate when researching any scholarship is its mission. The mission of a scholarship can give you important insights into what the organization is looking for in its recipient. For example, a scholarship that focuses on academic performance is likely to place more emphasis on your grades and test scores than one that emphasizes community service. Understanding the mission of a scholarship can help you determine whether you are a good fit for the organization and whether your application will be given serious consideration.

It’s worth noting that you should not be surprised to find scholarships with vastly different mandates. One scholarship provider may say that they established their scholarship fund because the world needs to invest in students who need a study abroad scholarship, or in scholarships for leaders, scholarships for women, scholarships for Hispanic students, scholarships for veterans, scholarships for engineers, scholarships for science students or students enrolled in a particular undergraduate program or research project, scholarships for students with great communication skills, scholarships for academic achievement, or a whole set of other reasons. There is also a huge number of scholarships for financial need.

Scholarship Requirements: Always Check Eligibility for the Award

It’s always important to read the eligibility requirements for scholarships. You’ll want to ensure that nothing in the fine print disqualifies you from winning the scholarship before you apply. For example, some applications require that you have a minimum GPA, that you’re a high school senior, that you’re involved in community service clubs, that you go to a certain school or have a particular employer, or that you be enrolled in a certain degree program. If you don’t meet those criteria, then you won’t be eligible for the scholarship. So it’s important to read over the eligibility requirements carefully before you apply for any scholarships.

Use Key Words in Your Scholarship Application

In order to increase your chances of being awarded a scholarship, it is important to use key words throughout your application. Some key words to use include: academic excellence, leadership, community service, and financial need. By including these words in your application, you will demonstrate to the scholarship committee that you are a well-rounded and deserving candidate. Furthermore, be sure to tailor your essay to each specific scholarship by including keywords from the scholarship’s mission statement. By doing so, you will show that you are a good fit for the award and increase your chances of being selected as the recipient.

Are Previous Winners or Scholarship Essays Posted? Examine What Helped Them Win a Scholarship

Some scholarships may post previous winners’ essays as a way to help future applicants understand what made those essays successful. Other scholarships may not post essays at all, for privacy reasons. If the scholarship you’re applying for does post previous winners’ essays, take the time to read them carefully. See what common themes and approaches those successful applicants took, and see if you can incorporate some of those elements into your own essay. Even if the scholarship you’re applying for doesn’t post previous winners’ essays, try to find similar scholarships that do, so you can get a sense of what makes a winning essay.

Additionally, information about past winners presents an opportunity for you because a previous winner may go to the same school as you or come from the same city. If this is the case, you may want to send a quick courteous note on social media or through email and ask if they have any tips on what makes a great application. At worst, you won’t get a reply. However, you may get some great tips that can help you get a scholarship.

Are Scholarship Committee Members Posted?

If a scholarship prize posts its scholarship committee members, that means you can see who will be reading your application. This can be helpful because you can research the committee members to see if they have any particular preferences or requirements for applicants. Additionally, knowing who will be reading your application can help you tailor your essay to their specific interests. For example, if you notice that all committee members are passionate about a particular idea (e.g., environmental sustainability), you may want to ensure that you mention how your profile fits with this theme.

Remember, it will always be people reading your application. The more that you speak to their interests and passions, the more likely it is that you’ll be remembered.

Level of Competition: Comparing Your Extracurricular Activities, GPA, Test Scores, Financial Need, to Other Applicants

When examining any scholarship award, it’s always a good idea to assess how much competition there may be and consider this in relation to the award amount. The more competitive the scholarship, the more impressive it will look on your college application. However, you also need to be realistic about your chances of winning. A $5,000 scholarship with only 10 applicants has a much higher chance of being awarded to you than a $5,000 scholarship with 1,000 applicants.

It’s likely that scholarships with broad eligibility requirements will will receive more applicants. For example, if a scholarship provider states that a scholarship is open to all American college students studying at any American college, you should assume that the competition will be fierce. This example would be open to pretty much all students applying for scholarships.

On the other hand, if the eligibility criteria for a prize is much more specific, you may have a better shot. For example, a competition may say that eligible students must be in their junior year, or identify with a certain ethnicity, race, gender, or live in a certain state. These narrow criteria will immediately disqualify many students and decrease the competition you’ll face. Of course, this is a great thing.

Summary: Making the Most of Your Scholarship Search and Application

Here are the key things you you should note about scholarship opportunities to to better your chances of winning.

  • Examine the scholarship’s mission and/or objective and ensure that it’s a good fit with your profile
  • Read the eligibility criteria carefully and ensure there is nothing in the fine print that disqualifies you from winning the scholarship. For example, do you need to qualify for financial aid, already have student loans, be an international student, be a school senior, or have a particular set of extracurricular activities for the application process?
  • Take note of key words on the scholarship website or in the scholarship provider’s announcement and try to use some of this language in your scholarship application
  • If previous winners and essays are posted, examine what made them successful and apply those lessons to your application
  • Are scholarship committee members posted? If so, who are they and can you tailor your application to their specific passions?
  • What is the level of competition for the scholarship prize? Are eligibility criteria broad and open or will there be less competition because of highly restrictive scholarship qualifications?