Scholarship applications are available for submission year-round. The hot season however is September-May. To make the process go smoothly, you need a plan. There are specific “tools of the trade” you will need. The tools are resume of awards, honors and accomplishments, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and personal statement.
Resume of Accomplishments
The first step is to prepare a listing of all your awards, honors, extracurricular activities, volunteerism and accomplishments from freshman 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 résumé helps them write the best recommendation possible.
Letters of Recommendation
Scholarship organizations usually want a minimum of two letters of recommendation from a teacher, counselor or community member. If you have completed community service hours, or worked, you should ask for a recommendation from someone involved in the organization or your employer. You should give serious thought to whom you give this request. Ask people 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 plenty of advanced notice and give them a deadline for getting the letter 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 did not have time to complete it. Make sure 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. You should request a minimum of 6 transcripts to have on hand. 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 available.
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 you are passionate about and your short and long-term goals. I am 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.
- Maintain a calendar of scholarship deadline dates.
- Do not wait until the last-minute to apply. Remember Murphy’s Law. (things can go wrong)
- Your deadline for submitting the application should be a minimum of two weeks before the real deadline.
- Make sure you follow all the application guidelines.
- Juniors can begin this process the summer going into their senior year.