It’s a widespread myth that grades, and grades alone, is what wins you a college scholarship. Of course, good grades will always help an application. However, it’s not the most important trait you need to win a scholarship.

Scholarship opportunities are everywhere. And here’s the thing: they reward college students for very different things. Yes, some scholarship selection committees want to see strong academic performance, but others place more importance on things like community involvement or financial need.

There are other student-specific qualities, too, that can qualify you for a scholarship. For example, there are scholarships for women, scholarships for Hispanic students, scholarships for veterans, scholarships for STEM students, scholarships for high school seniors, scholarships for graduate students, scholarships for ethnicity, scholarships for race, and scholarships for gender … and these are all in addition to the more widely known merit scholarships and scholarships for volunteering. Put simply, there exist many types of scholarships and knowing how to find the right ones for you can increase your odds of winning.

So, with all of this in mind, what helps you most when you apply for scholarships? The answer: tenacity. Your motivation to find scholarship opportunities, overcome potential rejection, and continue submitting scholarship applications will be the difference maker. Let’s face it: scholarship searches can be daunting. Applications can take time (and who has that?). And, of course, nothing is guaranteed. But, your ability to overcome these aspects of college scholarship applications is what matters most. Odds are you won’t win every scholarship you apply for, but if you stick with it, you may land one … or many!

Here are several other important reasons why tenacity matters most.

Scholarship Searches

Tenacity helps you find awards when conducting scholarship searches.

As noted above, many different types of scholarships are available. Some scholarships are easy to find, whereas others are hidden in the depths of a search engine’s pages, never to be found even by the most eager college student. Frankly, you can spend hours online searching for some scholarship opportunities and still come up empty-handed. The good news is that there are a few tricks that will help you get the results you want. But it takes tenacity!

First, start early! The earlier you start looking for scholarships, the better chance you have of finding one by the time it’s due to be submitted. So get started now!

Second, be specific when searching. If you’re looking for scholarships “for women” or “for minorities,” it will make your search much easier than if you were just searching for “scholarships.” This is because you’ll receive precise results (and if these fit your profile better, you’ll also have a better chance to win scholarships).

Third, use a scholarship finder (a scholarship database that matches you with prizes). This provides you with scholarship matches drawn from a pool of tens of thousands of scholarships for college. The BridgesEDU Scholarship Finder is a great place to start. Once you have an account set up with a scholarship directory like this one, you will be able to search for awards based on scholarship requirements like school, major, gender identity/expression, ethnicity, race (including race-based scholarships), national origin, disability status (including disability-based scholarships), military service (including veterans’ scholarships), sexual orientation (including scholarships for LGBTQ+ students), and other factors such as GPA or financial need. A scholarship finder is a great tool to connect you with potentially lots of scholarship money.

Scholarship Selection Committees Love … Tenacity!

The quality of tenacity is also a huge bonus when constructing scholarship essays. This is because scholarship committees love students who are tenacious. Students who have faced adversity, but were empowered by it rather than defeated.

There are many ways to show scholarship committees that you’re tenacious. You can write about how you kept working on a project or task even after your classmates had given up and left, or how you kept at it even when it was hard—maybe even when everyone else thought it was impossible.

You can talk about how you pushed yourself to do new things, or maybe took on a challenge that wasn’t easy for you, but did it anyway.

Another way to show scholarship committees that you have tenacity is to think about what has really pushed you in the past. Did you take a class in school that required you to put in more work than others? Did you volunteer somewhere where there were challenges along the way? Did someone encourage you to do something that was hard, but ultimately worth it? Winning scholarships for college often include these themes of tenacity and perseverance.

Lemons into Lemonade: Learning from Rejection

Tenacity also helps with an unfortunate part of the scholarship application process: rejection.

It’s not a secret that rejection is an inevitable part of scholarship applications. We know this, you know this, and your parents know this. But how do you deal with it?

Here are 3 things you can do to overcome this aspect of college scholarships:

  1. If possible, get feedback. You can always ask the scholarship committee what they thought of your application. They might even be able to give you some pointers on how to improve your next application! If they are unable to do this, or you don’t hear back from them, don’t take it personally. Ask others who you trust for some constructive commentary, especially on essay questions, and try to collect some tips for winning the next one.
  2. In addition to the feedback from others, ask yourself how you can better your next application. Take the time after a rejection to evaluate what went wrong with your application and make sure that next time around, those mistakes don’t happen again.
  3. Don’t let it influence your self-worth. This is one of the most important things to remember when dealing with rejection: don’t let it change how you feel about yourself as a person! There are a wide range of reasons why a scholarship provider may choose another student, so try not to take it personally. We all have our own unique strengths and weaknesses, and the fact of the matter is: rejections will outnumber successes. So, if you’ve been rejected from a scholarship, you’re in good company. And there are always other scholarships to which you can now apply (in face, there are several good reasons to apply for multiple scholarships)!

Tenacity and Paying for College

Unfortunately, some students face large financial obstacles to attend college. However, if attending college is the right move for you, there are ways to pay for it.

When it comes to financial aid, you have to be tenacious, ask a lot of questions, and plan meticulously. With so much talk of student loan forgiveness these days, it should be clear that student debt isn’t a laughing matter. So, if you need help paying for college tuition and other education expenses, do your research!

A natural starting place is finding out what kind of financial aid you qualify for. The first step is filling out a FAFSA (Free Application For Federal Student Aid) which is an online form that determines how much money you can get from the government, and whether or not you qualify for other types of financial aid like Pell Grants or special scholarship programs.

Take note that the earlier you start applying for scholarships or grants, the better your chances of getting one. You can also consider applying for loans if you don’t think you’ll be able to cover your tuition costs. But remember that loans should always be approached with a clear understanding of terms and conditions. This will help you navigate your pathway to repayment so you can start your professional career without an unanticipated debt burden.

Final Word

You might think it’s about intelligence or luck, but a determined attitude is the biggest determinant of whether you’ll win a scholarship. You’ve got to keep applying, no matter how many rejections you get. Keep writing new drafts and know that each application is an opportunity to practice your essays and get better at them. And if you do win one? We salute you!