Tools of the Trade-Where Do I Begin?

This is a repost of one of my most often asked questions.


Scholarship applications are available in the fall through the end of summer.  The hot season for scholarships is December-April.  To make the scholarship application process as smooth as possible you need to plan in advance.  There are specific “tools of the trade” you will need.   The tools are Resume of Accomplishments, Letters of Recommendation, Transcripts, and Personal Statement.Tools of the Trade

Resume of Accomplishments

The first tool is to prepare a listing of all of your awards, honors, extracurricular, volunteer and accomplishments from freshman year to your senior year.  You should complete this in a resume-like format. A teacher may be familiar with your work in the class room but not familiar with your work outside the classroom.  The resume helps them write the best recommendation possible.

Letters of Recommendation

Scholarship organizations usually want a minimum of two letters of recommendation from a teacher or counselor.  If you have completed a number of community service hours, or worked, you should request a recommendation from someone involved in the organization or your employer. You should give serious thought to whom you give this request. You should ask people whom you feel will give you a good recommendation. You should also give the person who is writing the recommendation your resume of accomplishments.  Make sure you give the person plenty of advance notice and give them a deadline for getting the information back to you.   Teachers and counselors have busy schedules.  If you don’t hear from them by your deadline date, follow-up with them.  You do not want to miss out on a scholarship opportunity because the teacher didn’t have time to complete it.  Don’t forget to write a thank you note.


It is so important that you are familiar with your school’s policy on transcript requests.  Some schools may charge a fee.  David and Mark would request a minimum of a half-dozen sealed transcripts at a time.   It is extremely important to have access to transcripts when you need them, particularly over Christmas break.   You may find out about a scholarship at the last-minute. An absent counselor or registrar can wreak havoc on your plans.  You wouldn’t believe the number of students who have missed out on scholarship opportunities because they didn’t have transcripts on hand.

Personal Statements

Scholarship organizations want to give money to students who can effectively write about what it is they want to do in life and why they want to do it.  Yes, you do have to write an essay.  They want to understand what it is you are passionate about and your short and long-term goals.  I’m amazed at the number of students who struggle with the questions of Who Am I, Where Am I Going, and How Will I Get There?  The personal statement or goals statement is a required essay for some colleges and universities.  The same essay can be used for your scholarship applications.  The hardest part in this process is completing the first application.  Once the first one is done, the process gets easier because the organizations ask for similar information.  David and Mark became experts at cutting and pasting essays to satisfy essay requirements.

scholarship tips

  • Maintain a calendar of scholarship deadline dates.
  • Do not wait until the last-minute to submit an application. Remember Murphy’s Law.
  • Your deadline for submitting the application should be two weeks before the actual deadline.
  • Juniors can start this process the summer going into their senior year.

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