1.844.379.PREP (7737) info@bridgeseduscholarships.com

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

So, let’s remove any uncertainty in your scholarship journey. Below is an outline of major scholarship components to help you understand what to look for.

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 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. 

It’s worth noting that you should not be surprised to find scholarships with vastly different mandates. One scholarship provider may invest in student leaders, while another may offer scholarships for women. Missions differ so do your best to understand the scholarship opportunity you’re applying for. 

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 graduating high school student, that you’re involved in community service clubs, that you go to a certain, 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. 

Look for Key Words to Use 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.

One of the first places you can look for this information is a scholarship’s mission statement. 

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

Some scholarships may post previous winners’ essays. 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.

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. 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. 

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 college  and university students, you should assume that the competition will be fierce.

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 reside in a certain city or attend a specific school. 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 a 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.
  • 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?

Christopher Grafos, Ph.D., is the founder and chief scholarship mentor at BridgesEDU Scholarships.

He’s a first-generation university graduate whose life was transformed by education and winning scholarships. 

Scholarships help students financially, but they also help advance a student’s career. It’s his life’s work to champion this message and share the secrets to finding and winning scholarships. 

Read more about Christopher’s journey here