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Scholarships: How to Get One and Tips to Land the Best One

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When you think about how you’re going to pay for college and tuition that can cost more than $40,000 a year at some schools, it can be terrifying. Luckily, there are scholarships available to help offset the cost. These are generally paid directly to you, not your school, and can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.

If you’re shooting for a degree in any STEM field or plan on attending an Ivy League school or similar, you should consider applying for an essay contest instead of the typical application with a resume and transcript. The reason is simple:

Many such contests have a preference for students who write well. If your grammar and syntax aren’t your strong suit, create a document that details why you are the perfect fit for their program instead of submitting a resume.

How to Get a Scholarship

There are three basic ways to get a scholarship: You can be an exemplary student with lots of academic potentials, have specific skills (such as playing a sport) that can be translated into scholarship money, or have a personal connection to the organization awarding the money.

The best way to start looking for potential scholarships is to visit your college or university’s financial aid office. Ask if they have a database to which you can upload your information to start searching for scholarships in your name. If they don’t have this, check out a few scholarship websites online.

The best ones are straightforward to use and don’t spam you with ads or spam emails. These websites typically allow you to search for scholarships that meet your criteria. Some are very specific and only accept applications from a certain region or from people with very specific circumstances (like being the child of a fallen soldier). Some are broad and accept applications from anyone who meets the basic requirements.

Steps to Landing a Scholarship

There are a few steps you’ll want to take to land a scholarship that matches your skill set.

  • Make a list of places to apply. Start with the organizations or companies with which you have connections (friends or relatives who work there, organizations you volunteer for, etc). Then, go to a scholarship database and look for scholarships that match your academic or extracurricular interests (like a music scholarship or one in political science).
  • Create a list of your skills and assets. Be as specific as you can. If you can’t think of any assets that are applicable, try studying up on subjects that might be useful and relevant.
  • Create a list of potential scholarship essays. This will require some research into the style of essay that these organizations and institutions prefer for their scholarship application.

What You Should Know Before Applying for Scholarships

Make sure you’re eligible. Some organizations and companies award scholarships based on being a member of a particular ethnicity. Others award scholarships only to residents of a certain state. Make sure you meet all the requirements before applying.

  • Keep track of everything. As you search for scholarships, you’ll start to notice that many of them ask you to submit the same information. Make sure you have everything ready to go and organized on a spreadsheet. This will make it much easier to track what you’ve sent out when you sent it, and what you need to send out next.
  • Be persistent. This is a very common piece of advice, but it’s important. Even if you don’t win the first time, you can apply again. (And you might win the second time around.)

6 Tips for Landing the Best Scholarship

  1. Be persistent. We mentioned this above, but it bears repeating: Be persistent. Apply to as many scholarships as you can, and keep track of the ones you send applications to. When you receive a rejection notice, send out another application.
  2. Be creative. Many scholarships have very specific requirements. If you don’t seem to fit the mold, try writing an essay that doesn’t focus on your grades or extracurriculars. Instead, focus on how the award will help you achieve your personal goals.
  3. Start early. The earlier you start, the more time you have to find scholarships and apply for them.
  4. Make an effort to connect with your scholarship representative. This person exists to help you find and apply for scholarships you qualify for. If you treat them like an enemy or a nuisance, you won’t get any help. Be friendly and personable, and take an active role in the application process.
  5. Be prepared to write. Several scholarships require you to submit an essay, and others will ask you to complete a short essay test.
  6. Apply to a variety of scholarships. For every scholarship you apply for, you can usually list three or four alternate ways you can benefit the organization or company that is awarding the money.

4 Final Tips to Apply for Scholarships and Win

  1. Be proactive. If you only apply for scholarships when you’re already in the throes of senior year, it will be incredibly difficult to win one. Start looking now and apply for as many as you can.
  2. Participate in activities. Get involved in extracurriculars, join clubs, and pursue hobbies that let you demonstrate a skill or ability. Then, when it comes time to apply for scholarships, you can show how your activities have prepared you for the future.
  3. Network. Talk to people in your life who might have connections to organizations that offer scholarships (friends or relatives who work at a company that offers scholarships, coaches or managers at a company that offers scholarships). Ask if they can put in a word for you.-
  4. Be honest. Don’t make up false information in your application. Your scholarship committee will almost certainly find out, and you’ll be disqualified from the award.- Stay organized. Maintain a list of all the scholarships you’ve applied for, the due dates for each, and the results of each application.


Scholarships are a great way to offset the cost of higher education. Landing one, however, can feel like a wild goose chase. Follow these tips to make your scholarship hunt easier, and you’re sure to win.

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