The Siskiyou’s handy-dandy guide to filling out scholarship applications

Editor’s Note: A version of this story first appeared in the January 2009 edition of The Byline, the student newspaper of Rogue Community College. Edited and republished with permission.

Filling out scholarship applications can be a demanding and tiring process, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

First, fill out your FAFSA: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/index.htm. Submission deadline for the 2013-14 school year is June 30, 2013, although students are advised to get the FAFSA application in as soon as possible after Jan. 1, 2013.  It is helpful to have your taxes done prior to filling out the application, but not imperative. There is a section on the FAFSA application to indicate that you will be filing your taxes at a later date. Filling out a FAFSA automatically applies you for the Oregon Opportunity Grant.

Next, round up some good references. Most scholarships will want a letter or two of reference from an employer, teacher, or counselor. The letter should state the reference’s relationship to you and the reason they feel you would benefit from the scholarship and why you deserve it. It would be a good idea to save copies of these letters to have on file for upcoming scholarship opportunities, as well as for future employment applications. Be sure to send a thank you letter to those who have gone out of their way on your behalf. Not only is it a nice thing to do, but it also increases the chance those same references will be willing to provide you with another letter, should the need arise.

Draft a scholarship application letter. Typically, scholarships will ask for a written personal statement to be submitted with your application. This should be a one-page letter between 500 to 1000 words, typed in 10 to 12 font (carefully follow special format requirements). The letter should include an introduction, body, and conclusion and address the following topics:

  • Who are you?
  • Why are you applying for this scholarship?
  • What strengths do you possess?
  • What obstacles/adversity have you overcome?
  • What are your school and career goals?
  • What will the scholarship help you to achieve?
  • What sets you apart from other applicants?

In addition to the scholarship letter, it will benefit you to create a list of any community activities and volunteer work you have engaged in, complete with dates and descriptions.

Now that you have some documentation prepared, start applying! Here are some links to some tried-and-true scholarships:

FastWeb

This website requires you to create a user profile, which can be a lengthy process. The good news is, once you complete your profile, they use the information you provide to match you up with scholarships that may meet your criteria. The trick about FastWeb is that there are a lot of pages that appear as if you are required to “sign up” for, but you can generally bypass these by scrolling to the bottom of the page and selecting the “no thanks” option to proceed to the next page. FastWeb can be an extremely useful tool for a scholarship seeker. The site is capable of sorting scholarships by deadlines, award amount, requirements, and more. You may also save favorites and discard scholarships that you aren’t interested in, as well as attach personal notes (useful to track application or notification dates).

Southern Oregon University students should explore the options available on the university’s financial aid website. Detailed on this page are scholarships offered through individual departments as well as a link to many outside scholarships, complete with descriptions and deadlines.

Additional Tips for Scholarship Application Success:

  • The scholarship essay is a valuable tool.  This is your opportunity to introduce yourself.  Ask someone to proofread it for you.  If the letter is full of grammatical errors, the content will be overlooked, regardless of how wonderful your personal story may be.
  • Once you have applied for a scholarship, keep a hard copy of  your complete application and file it, making note of when you applied and when scholarship recipients will be notified.
  • Always apply early.  Some scholarships (OSAC, for instance) will offer an early-bird incentive.  Get your application in first in order to have the best possible chance of getting money before it is distributed amongst those who beat you to the punch!
  • Remember, the money is out there and they want to give it away.  That is the designated purpose of these funds.  It is your job to convince the donors that it would benefit them to give YOU their money.

It can be an arduous process to apply for scholarships, but the reward is worth the extra effort!  For more help with the application process, access your college website and/or financial aid office.

 

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