Scholarship Application Writing Tips

Many high school students are graduating soon. Are your children applying for college or college scholarships? Do they need advice and help with what to write? Not only have I written multiple college and scholarship applications, I’ve been able to sit on committees that help disperse funds. Most recently, I was on a committee that read over 80 applications for college scholarships and I began to see a few trends. Here are some easy tips that may help your child stand out (or not stand out--depending) to those people reading the applications.

1.Type your application: If you don’t own a computer, do your best to get a library, school, or county Extension office. If you let them know you’re using the computer to write an school or scholarship application, I’m sure they’ll let you borrow it.

2.Spell check and grammar check: Please know when to use then versus than, your versus you’re, there versus their, etc. Scholarship committees and donors don’t like popular vernacular such as “IDK” or “OMG”.

3. Answer all parts of the question: Often, the applications I read had questions only partially answered. If the question asks about community service involvement and how you’ve changed because of it; you list in detail all the community service you’ve complete and how each specific project changed or affected you.

4. Use ALL of the space provided (when possible):If the question asks what your future plans are; do not write “I want to be a vet”. Instead write something like “Since I was 12, I have been working toward a career in veterinary medicine.  I have taken four years of science and four years of mathematics while in high school.  For the past two years, I have volunteered at Perfectville Animal Hospital and have been able to assist with six canine surgeries and 12 equine surgeries.  I also have been trained to provide post-surgical care for animals. I’ve researched many schools that offer a pre-veterinary option and have decided Montana State University will suite me best. This is due to its high graduation rate and number of graduates accepted into Veterinary School. Upon completion of my pre-veterinary studies at Montana State University, I will apply to Vet School at both Colorado State University and at Washington State University.  While I have enjoyed the small animal practice, working with horses is my passion and I will pursue an equine specialization while in vet school” In this case-more is most often better.

5. Try not to use start all your sentences with “I”: Instead of writing “I am, I did, I have this quality…..” Think about as if you’re thanking everyone and every organization that has helped you become the wonderful person you are. Instead of saying “I am organized” try “Being secretary taught me useful skills such as organization, timeliness, and parliamentary procedure.”

6. Proof read: Writing and reading your own application over and over gives you a biased and blind viewpoint. Have someone (or two people) read over your application. If no one is available-put it down for a day or two and then come back to it for review.  You will most likely see things that you hadn't seen earlier.  This leads directly into my next tip...

7. Give yourself plenty of time: You’ll want to work on it over the course of a few weeks. This will allow you add, delete, and move things around. Print it and mail it early. Inevitably, we scramble at the last minute and something happens-our printer breaks, our car won’t start, we forget today is a holiday and the post office is closed. Often times application deadlines are strict and if you don’t get it in-you don’t have a chance of getting the money.

8. Ask for letters of recommendation early: Provide a detailed resume to the person writing your letter. If you're applying for multiple scholarships, ask that they write a general letter. Don't send in a letter to one organization if information in that letter is specific to another organization. Give that person plenty of time so they are able to write an outstanding letter for you.

Good luck and be proud of yourself. You are your biggest advocate!