The strategies and tips below will help you prepare to be a strong applicant and tell your unique personal story to scholarship committees. Read “The Mindset of a Scholarship Applicant” first!
Your challenge is to "prove" to scholarship committees that you are a good investment! On your scholarship applications, you need to demonstrate that you have qualities that will make you successful, such as initiative, determination, integrity, service to others, leadership, persistence, commitment, etc. Start by identifying your skills, values, and strengths, and then outline examples of past experiences where you have demonstrated those qualities. Seek ideas, help, and advice from people who know you well and who can help you present yourself in a genuine and personal way, such as family, friends, advisors, supervisors, mentors, etc. When a committee is reading your application, they should come away with the impression that “This student has what it takes to reach their goals…whether or not they earn a scholarship.”
Finding scholarships takes time...and the payoff is worth it! The more scholarship applications you complete, the better you will become at the process 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 for researching scholarships and completing applications. Even 30 minutes per week is a good start!
- Identify the types of scholarship criteria that fit you and your goals. Use our "Research Questionnaire" to help you get started.
- Save the helpful resources and websites that you discover. It is likely you will want to look at them again.
- Browse our list of Scholarship Search Sites. You may want to register with one or more of the national search sites that will notify you of relevant 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: The Smart Students Guide to Financial Aid
Design an organizational system--a scholarship "portfolio"--that works best for you to track tasks, timelines, documents, and materials. Create a scholarship folder on your computer, Google Drive, flash drive, etc. Keep any papers in an expandable file with separators.
- Save all of your scholarship application-related documents in your portfolio (resources, websites, applications, calendars, transcripts, recommendation letters, essay drafts, notes, lists, etc.).
- Use a monthly calendar track tasks, due dates, and deadlines. Remember different time zones!
- 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.
- 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.
- For each application you complete, note the submission date and time in your calendar.
Most scholarship applications will request current college or high school transcripts and some will want transcripts from prior colleges. Read each application's transcript requirements carefully so you submit the correct documents.
- The LCC Foundation, OSAC, and Ford Family Foundation require unofficial transcripts.
- Your unofficial LCC transcript is available free of charge from myLane.
- If you need help converting your online transcripts to PDF, visit the Student Help Desk (SHeD) in the Center Building/2nd floor or in the Student Support Hub.
- Some applications may require official transcripts. If your school does not offer electronic official transcripts, you will need to request an official copy. Official transcripts must be in a sealed envelope; 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.
- Follow your school's guidelines for ordering transcripts.
- Always keep one unofficial transcript from each school in your electronic or paper portfolio, so you can use or copy, as needed.
- If you need to obtain your GED transcript, contact GED.com. Allow plenty of time. Fees may apply.
- High School Students: When available, add SAT/ACT scores to your portfolio.
Contact potential references now to see if they are willing to write letters or be contacted by phone, if and when you need a reference. Think of teachers, counselors, advisors, coaches, supervisors, community leaders, mentors, 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. Be sure to submit the type of recommendation letter that is requested in the application.
- Often, you provide the scholarship donor with your reference's email address, and they email your reference directly with a recommendation form to complete.
- Make copies of all open recommendation letters for your portfolio.
- Tell references what you hope they might include in the letter. Be specific.
- 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.
- 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.
- Request a letter at least two weeks in advance of the deadline and contact your reference a few days before the deadline as a reminder.
- Avoid using general recommendation letters or letters written for another scholarship opportunity. Request that your reference write a specific letter to the scholarship organization.
- Send your reference a thank you note and let them know the outcome of your application.
Create a list of "activities" outlining your school activities, family and community activities, volunteer work, paid employment, accomplishments, honors, etc.
- Even if this type of "activities list" is not required for all applications, it will help you identify and describe significant experiences and accomplishments for essays and other personal statements.
- List all paid work and volunteer experiences, family involvements, extracurricular activities, hobbies, clubs, organizations, and special recognition you have received. Think of experiences and activities throughout your whole life–even early experiences may be important, if they're relevant to your goals and interests.
- Note the approximate dates you were involved in these activities, along with the approximate or average number of hours per week. Some activities may be a "one-time" event.
- Use brief but descriptive phrases to describe your experiences, focusing on your skills and accomplishments.
- Talk to your family and friends. Do they remember any activities you have been involved in that you have forgotten about?
- Do you have certificates, awards, job descriptions, resumes, etc. stuck away somewhere? Find them and add them in your portfolio.
- Keep records of all activities/experiences in your portfolio.
- Include awards, certificates, letters of acceptance from colleges, your job descriptions, thank you notes, etc. in your portfolio.
- If you have not done any volunteer work in the past, this may be a good time to start. We can help you identify on-campus and community groups that fit your interests and goals. You may be able to earn Cooperative Education credit toward your degree for this type of experience.
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; your important values; your skills, strengths, and personal qualities; influential experiences and people; etc.
- Do not wait. Start now. Write.
- Meet with writing tutors in Academic and Tutoring Services (Center Building, Room 210 and in the Student Support Hub) to review drafts and improve your essays.
- Tell Your Story. The essay(s) should give readers the best glimpse of you as an honest, genuine, goal-directed, and unique person. It is your opportunity to stand out and be considered for the next step in the scholarship selection process.
- Carefully review the essay requirements and directions. Make sure that you answer all parts of the specific question or prompt.
- Ask teachers, advisors, mentors, tutors, family members, etc. to review your essays and provide constructive feedback.
- Keep copies of every essay--and essay draft--that you write.
- Do not submit an essay you wrote for one application for a different application unless the essay question/prompt 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, what has inspired you, and what has challenged you. Stay close to the topics that are truly meaningful to you.
Use Imagery and a Clear, Vivid Style
Don't simply "tell" who you are..."show" who you are, by providing examples, experiences, and details.
Spend Time on Your Introduction
Expect scholarship committees to spend 1-2 minutes (initially) reading your essay. Use your introduction to grab their interest from the beginning. Draw the reader into your essay with a catchy and creative introduction. In a multi-paragraph essay, it's common to completely change your introduction after writing the rest of the essay.
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 and "coming full circle."
- Frame your conclusion by showing 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:
- Does my essay answer all parts of the essay question/prompt?
- Have I used active voice verbs wherever possible?
- Is my sentence structure varied or do I use all long or short sentences?
- Do you 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 or characters, use them wisely. Delete anything that does not relate to your main topic. How you write can be just as important as what you write. 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. More often than you think, many applicants will start over and totally change their topic/approach after writing their first drafts.
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 scholarship committee, this will be your only chance to persuade the committee to award you the scholarship. Your essay gives you the opportunity to share your thoughts and dreams, articulate your accomplishments, and describe the qualities that make you unique and deserving. Being honest, genuine, and personal 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 other trust people to help you brainstorm your activities, strengths, experiences, and achievements. After you have written a solid draft of the essay, ask your English instructor, a writing tutor, or a skillful friend to review, edit, and critique your draft. Finally, when you have composed the best draft you can, ask the same people to proofread for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors...no typos.