Scholarship Strategies for Success - This information will help you prepare to be a strong scholarship applicant. It includes information on OSAC, Lane Foundation, and The Ford Family Foundation scholarships, with tips on developing your unique story, writing powerful essays, being wary of scams, and next steps for researching and applying for scholarships.
Federal Financial Aid Resources - Some scholarships require that you have first applied for Federal Financial Aid. Links are provided below for your convenience. Lane Community College students should work with Lane's Financial Aid office.
Research scholarships and other funding sources. The more scholarship applications you complete, the better you will become at it, and you will have more opportunities to be awarded a scholarship.
- One year in advance, contact all colleges that you are applying to for the next academic year and request a list of their scholarship opportunities. Access each college's website for scholarship listings and financial aid resources.
- Budget time to research computer databases for scholarship opportunities (U of O, Lane, Oregon Career Information System and internet sites such as Cappex.com) and through books in libraries.
- View a "research questionnaire" to help you get started.
- Track all scholarship possibilities, including information about where to write or call for applications.
- List the helpful resources you come across. It is likely you will want to look at them again.
- Use a variety of internet search engines to help you find scholarship websites and resources. By typing in keywords (example: Oregon, scholarships, biology) that apply to you, you'll uncover additional potential resources.
- You may want to register with one or more of the internet scholarship database sites that will then notify you of appropriate scholarship opportunities.
- Be wary of "scholarship scams" and organizations that will do your search for you for a fee. You can find out more information about "scams" at the following website: go to The Smart Students Guide to Financial Aid
- Use a tracking chart to organize the process.
- When transferring to another college, research scholarships on that college's scholarship website at least one year in advance.
- Many scholarships will require you to include a transcript. Learn how to get your unofficial transcript.
Organize your scholarship portfolio to track tasks, timelines, documents, and materials. Create a scholarship file on your computer, or on a flash drive. Keep any papers in an expandable file with separators, for example.
- Put all of your scholarship application-related materials in your portfolio (information, resources, websites, applications, calendars, transcripts, recommendation letters, essay drafts, resumes, notes, lists, etc.). Don't put off organizing the documents and materials in your portfolio – it will save you lots of time and headaches.
- Get a monthly calendar that has room for writing in tasks and due dates.
- Write down due dates for all scholarship applications on your calendar. Note time, time zone and date the application must be received.
- Use a form or checklist to keep track of each scholarship application and all the related tasks. Sample Tracking Chart
- Read ALL application instructions, follow the directions precisely, skip no steps, and leave no blanks. Otherwise, your application will likely be rejected.
- NEATNESS is important. Keep your materials clean, dry, and neat. Your application materials will make a first impression, so make sure it is a good one. If you must handwrite an application, make sure it is neat and legible.
- Give yourself enough time so that you can check over and ensure that the application is complete. Remember, all steps in the application process are likely to take longer than you think they will.
- Keep copies of all application materials. Materials can get lost. If you have copies, you can easily resubmit applications if necessary.
- Note date and time of submission in your records.
Most scholarship applications will request current college or high school transcripts. Lane Community College Foundation and OSAC ask for unofficial LCC transcripts which are available free of charge from ExpressLane. If you need help converting your transcripts to PDF, go the Student Help Desk in the Center Building/2nd floor, across from the library.
- Some applications will require official transcripts. If your school does not offer electronic official transcripts, you will need to request a copy of the transcript. Official transcripts must be in a sealed envelope that states that the transcript is official unless the seal is broken. To keep a transcript official, do not break the seal. Fees may apply for official transcripts.
- If you are recently out of high school, or have attended other colleges, you may want to have a number of those official transcripts on hand.
- Be sure to follow your school's guidelines for ordering transcripts.
- Many schools allow individuals to print unofficial transcripts from the school website. Can you print unofficial transcripts from your school's website?
- Always keep one unofficial transcript from each school in your electronic or paper portfolio. Then, if you need unofficial transcripts, you can always make copies.
- If you need to obtain your GED transcript, contact myGED.com, allow plenty of time. Fees may apply.
- High School Students: When available, add SAT/ACT scores to your portfolio.
Need help uploading a transcript?
View the "Student Academic Records and Transcripts" link on the My Enrollment tab of ExpressLane. Visit the knowledge base article for step-by-step instructions.
Contact potential references now to see if they are willing to write letters, or be contacted by phone when needed. Think of teachers, counselors/advisors, coaches, employers/supervisors, community leaders, etc. who know you well.
- There are two types of recommendation letters: confidential and open. A confidential recommendation is often sent by the reference directly to the scholarship committee, or may be in a sealed envelope with the reference's signature across the seal. Be sure to submit the type of recommendation letter that is requested in the application.
- Make copies of all open recommendation letters for your portfolio.
- It is critical that your recommendation letter appears professional (typed, grammatically correct, and has accurate spelling).
- Ask your reference to comment on – and provide specific examples of – characteristics most relevant to the scholarship; for example, motivation, leadership, integrity, judgment, responsibility, honesty, diligence, common sense, potential in career field, academic ability, and other qualities that make you a successful student, future contributor to society, and a good investment as a scholarship recipient.
- Provide your reference with information on your activities, accomplishments, life experiences, goals, and, of course, relevant information about the scholarship criteria. This could be in the form of a resume, personal statement/essay, or activities chart.
- Tell references what you hope they might include in the letter. Be specific.
- It is beneficial (often required) to have recommendations from instructors, especially teachers who have known you over time.
- Sometimes the application specifies exactly who should write a recommendation letter.
- Make the request at least two weeks in advance of when you need the letter, and collect letters by the required deadlines. Avoid using general recommendation letters, or letters written for another scholarship opportunity. Request that your reference write a specific letter to the organization.
- If references must mail letters, supply them with an addressed, stamped envelope.
- Send your reference a thank you note and let them know the outcome of your application.
Create an activities chart and/or a resume listing your school activities, community activities, volunteer work, paid employment, accomplishments, honors, awards, etc.
- If you have not done any volunteer or extracurricular work in the past, this may be a good time to start. Check with a local group that you are interested in, such as your local animal shelter, animal rescue, crisis support, environmental group, social justice group, human rights group, helping the homeless and hungry, political group, etc..
- Even if this type of document is not required, it will help you begin to identify and describe significant experiences and accomplishments for essays and other personal statements.
- Begin immediately to list all work and volunteer experiences, extracurricular activities, hobbies, clubs, organizations, and special recognition you have received. Think of involvements, experiences, and accomplishments throughout your whole life–even early experiences may be important, if they're relevant to your goals and interests.
- Download a sample Activities Chart, which is used by the Oregon Student Assistance Commission for their application packet.
- Talk to your family and friends. Do they remember any activities you have been involved in that you are not thinking of?
- Do you have certificates, awards, job descriptions, resumes, etc. stuck away somewhere? Find them and put them in your portfolio.
- Keep records of all activities/experiences in your portfolio.
- Use brief but descriptive phrases to describe your experiences, focusing on your skills and accomplishments.
- Include awards, certificates, letters of acceptance from colleges, your job descriptions, thank you notes, etc. in your portfolio.
Begin writing drafts of scholarship essays. The topics will vary depending on the scholarship, but typically include short- and long-term goals (personal, educational, career); significant accomplishments and challenges; important values in your life; your major skills, strengths, and personal qualities; influential experiences and people; etc.
- Do not wait. Start now. Write.
- Use Academic and Tutoring Services (Center building 210) which offers tutors helping students with all phases of the writing process.
- The essays should give readers the best glimpse of you as an honest, genuine, goal-directed, passionate, unique person. It is your opportunity to stand out and be considered for the next step in the scholarship selection process.
- Review the directions for each scholarship for which you are applying. What are the essay requirements? Write specifically what the essay directions tell you to write. If it is supposed to be an essay about your goals and aspirations, do not write about your accomplishments.
- Ask teachers, advisors, mentors, tutors, family members, etc. to review your essays and provide constructive feedback.
- Keep copies of every essay you write (electronically as well as on paper).
- Do not submit an essay you wrote for one application for a different application unless the topic or essay question is identical.
Detailed Essay Writing Tips
While there is no cookbook recipe for writing the perfect application essay, the following detailed suggestions may prove helpful.
Even seemingly boring essay topics can sound interesting if approached creatively, passionately, and genuinely. The readers want to learn about "who you are"—your past, present, and future.
It is important to show the real you in your essay. You want to show why you think or act the way you do, what drives you, or what has moved you, and stay close to the topics that are truly meaningful to you.
Use Imagery and a Clear, Vivid Style
The application essay lends itself to imagery, since the entire essay requires your experiences as supporting details.
Spend Time on Your Introduction
Expect scholarship committees to spend 1-2 minutes (initially) reading your essay. You must use your introduction to grab their interest from the beginning. You need to draw the reader into your essay with a catchy and creative introduction. You might even consider completely changing your introduction after writing your body paragraphs.
Body Paragraphs Must Relate to Introduction
Your introduction can be original, but it cannot be silly. The paragraphs that follow must relate to and support your introduction.
Applicants continue to ignore transition, to their own detriment. You must use transition within paragraphs, and especially between paragraphs, to preserve the logical flow of your essay.
Conclusions are Critical
The conclusion is your last chance to persuade the reader or impress upon them your qualities and goals. For example:
- Expand upon the broader implications of your discussion.
- Consider linking your conclusion to your introduction to establish a sense of balance by reiterating introductory phrases.
- Frame your discussion within a larger context or show a link to your future and potential.
Do Something Else
Spend a day or two away from your draft to decide if you still consider your approach effective.
Give Your Draft to Others
Ask others you trust to edit and read with these questions in mind:
- What is the essay about?
- Have I used active voice verbs wherever possible?
- Is my sentence structure varied or do I use all long or short sentences?
- Do I detect any clichés?
- Do I use transition appropriately?
- Do I use imagery often, and does this make the essay clearer and more vivid?
- What is the best part of the essay?
- What about the essay is memorable?
- What is the worst part of the essay?
- What parts of the essay need elaboration, are unclear, or do not support my main topic, or are not relevant?
- Is every single sentence crucial to the essay?
- What does the essay reveal about my personal qualities?
Revise, Revise, Revise
If you are allowed only so many words, use them wisely. Delete anything in the essay that does not relate to your main topic. How you write is just as important as what you write. You should constantly ask yourself if you would be interested in your essay if you were the reader. As you read the first few paragraphs, ask yourself what makes you want to finish it? Consider reordering your supporting details, delete irrelevant sections, and make clear the broader implications of your experiences. Allow for the evolution of your essay – editing takes time.
Some Final Notes
Writing an essay is one of the most important parts of your scholarship application, and unless you have an interview with the awarding committee, this will be your only chance to persuade the committee to award you the scholarship. Your essay will give you the opportunity to share your thoughts and dreams, articulate your accomplishments, and describe the qualities that make you unique and deserving. Being passionate and genuine is crucial.
Since the essay is so vital, it is worthy of your best effort and time, and while no one but you should write your essay, this doesn't mean that you can't get help. Ask friends, family, and/or instructors to help you brainstorm your volunteer work, interests, and achievements. After you have written a solid draft of the essay, ask your English instructor, someone in the tutoring center, or a skillful friend to help you edit and critique your draft. Finally, when you have composed the best draft you can, ask the same people to proofread for grammar and spelling errors.
And remember, your essay should be typed. Grammar, punctuation, and spelling must be flawless, with no typos.