Navigating The Scholarship Application

By Gretchen Kernbach on June 29, 2016

Scholarship applications: the added-on pain of applying to college. After filling in endless information about yourself and slaving away at those essays, you get slapped in the face with yet another submission. However, applying for scholarships happens to be less familiar territory compared to the basic college application. Breaking down the process is the easiest way to create a stellar application for financial aid.

Search and make a list

According to, “The first step in crafting a winning scholarship application is obviously finding scholarships to apply for. By using the college scholarship search, you will have access to 2.7 million scholarships and grants worth over $19 billion.” A quick search on Google is also sufficient in getting your scholarship search started.

Each site is going to ask you a few questions in order to narrow down the search. It is important that you are as honest as possible. Those offering the grants will not be pleased when they discover you are a white student applying for an African American scholarship. You cannot lie.

Make a list of the scholarships you are interested in applying to. There are thousands out there, so it would be wise to keep track of them. Furthermore, prioritize that list according to their deadlines and money offered.

According to, “Your scholarship strategy should involve making a schedule for working your way through this list and deciding how many scholarship applications you will complete each week. To maximize your scholarship application output and the scholarships you’ll receive, be sure to start as early as possible …”

Always be on the lookout for scams. Some organizations require an application fee, but many that do request one are not legitimate. If there is a fee, try looking for a different grant.

Start the applications

When your list is completed and you have fully decided on applying to those certain scholarships, now is the time to start planning out how many you will get done each week. Just like applying to the actual school, these applications can get stressful. Set a realistic goal for yourself about how many completed applications you will send in each week.

Depending on what kind of grant you are applying for, you might need a letter of recommendation. Take note of which ones need this when you are doing your initial search. That way you have time to ask around. According to, “There are three kinds of recommendations you might be asked for: academic, non-academic, and personal. Make a list with three columns and come up with a handful of names for each.”

Academic recommendations necessitate teachers/professors to write them. Non-academic ones require sports coaches, counselors, pastors, etc. to give their word about you. Personal recommendations can come from mentors or family members, or even friends.

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Besides a recommendation, scholarship apps sometimes ask for a cover letter, transcripts, a photo of yourself, test scores, or even your resume. This information is important to look up ahead of time so you can gather the necessary materials.

According to, “When you are applying to several scholarships at once, it is very easy to confuse the requirements specified by each and overlook critical details. Read all of the information provided carefully. When in doubt, make a phone call.”


The essay. The dreaded, feared piece of writing that no one wants to do. This is almost always asked of for scholarship applications so do not expect to get off easy without one.

Like the letters of recommendation, start your essays a couple weeks before the deadline. This gives you time for editing. In addition, it is smart to look for prompts that are identical because it will save you time in the long run, but do not try too hard to create multiple copies of the same essay.

Follow these eight tips for each essay you have to write, courtesy of

1. Tell the truth.

2. Answer the question.

3. Tell a relatable story.

4. If you are funny, be funny. If you are not, don’t try.

5. Brag, but be humble.

6. Edit your essay for grammar.

7. Double check grammar.

8. Avoid hokey phrases.

These are all pretty relative rules for scholarship application essays.

After everything is written and filled out, look over your work once or twice. The biggest things to look for are any misspellings or errors in information. Below that, check for proper comma placement and other grammar components.

According to, “Scholarship providers typically outline very specific submission rules and it is important that you follow their guidelines. Find out whether your scholarship can be e-mailed or if a stamp and envelope is necessary. If you are unsure about a rule, call or write the scholarship provider in advance. Don’t wait until the last minute.”


As an overview, the first step in applying for scholarships is to actually identify which ones you plan to apply for. Second, create a schedule to spread out the amount of work needed for each grant. Third, identify which applications require a recommendation and ask the appropriate professional to write one for you. Fourth, gather other mandatory materials. Fifth, crank out that essay and edit it several times. Last, review all your presented information and edit your essay one last time before clicking the submit button.

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