3 Secrets to Winning Scholarships
There is always that one kid who wins multiple scholarships and you wonder, How the heck did she do that?
The how is key, but you first need to understand why. Why do some people win more than others?
A Winner’s Mindset
The fact is, no one wins all the time. The most successful people in existence fail. A lot. Known as one of the best basketball players in the world, Michael Jordan lost almost 300 games and missed more than 9,000 shots during his career. J.K. Rowling went broke before Harry Potter became a hit.
What’s the key difference? It often comes down to the ability of a student to face rejection and keep going.
To win, you must keep trying, despite the doors that may slam shut.
“You will lose a lot in the process of applying to scholarships because most of the time it is a no, but you need to keep trying because you really never know,” says Bonnie Chen, a senior at Brooklyn Technical High School who is going through the college application process.
She’s right. You have to keep applying to scholarships nonstop. The only reason someone got five scholarships is that she applied to more than 10 of them. The more you apply, the more you’ll get. In the end, it is a numbers game. In order to win, you have to try again and again.
How to Win Scholarships
Now that you have a winner’s mindset and have decided to apply to multiple scholarships despite the likelihood of rejection, let’s go over how to deal with the application process.
1. Pick the Right Scholarship
Know what makes you stand out as an applicant. There are a lot of niche scholarships out there that you could win. For example, some organizations offer scholarships based on physical traits, such as Juniata College’s left-handed scholarship, which gives $1,000 to $1,500 to left-handed students attending the college.
Then there are some that are academically specific, so figure out what subjects you’re truly interested in. If you are passionate about STEM, then try applying for scholarships such as the Science, Mathematics, And Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship. It gives a full ride to college for students interested in pursuing technical degrees in STEM.
Here’s a list of scholarship websites where you can filter out what scholarships you want based on your school year, academic interests, ethnicity, and more:
Aside from niche scholarships, there are also some popular organizations that give out a lot of money:
- Coca-Cola: $20,000 scholarship awarded to students who demonstrate leadership and academic excellence.
- Questbridge: A full-ride scholarship to one of the organization’s partner colleges.
- Jack Kent Cooke Foundation: Up to $40,000 per year to attend a four-year accredited undergraduate college or university.
- Live Mas Scholarship: Scholarships range from $2,500 to $25,000 and can be used for undergraduate and graduate studies.
- Dell Scholars: Grants a $20,000 scholarship, a laptop, and personalized support through the college process.
- Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans: Different programs ranging from $6,000 to $25,000 The Horatio Alger Association one of the nation’s largest needs-based college scholarship programs in the country.
- Elks Foundation: Awards 500 four-year scholarships ranging from $1,000 per year to $12,500 per year.
2. Essay Tips
The secret to writing application essays for scholarships is show-don’t-tell. In other words, you need to write a story that compels the reader through a story instead of facts.
To illustrate my point, here are two sentences that try to convey the same idea:
- “It was the worst day of my life.”
- “Crying, I kneeled on the floor in utter despair as the world swallowed my sorrow.”
Which one resonated with you more? The first sentence is telling you it was the person’s worst day, while the latter is showing the person’s emotions and actions to illustrate how it was such a bad day.
One common essay prompt that most scholarships ask is, “How did you overcome a challenge?”
The first step to writing an essay like this is to list out stories that answer the prompt. So in this case, list out challenges that you have faced. Then pick the one that you can talk about the most when you are trying to show, rather than tell.
Remember that your first draft won’t be your final version — that’s why it’s called a rough draft.
Just write, without caring about grammar or fancy words. Let creativity guide you.
Only after you finish writing should you then go back to restructure and edit the essay. Remember to describe the challenge, who you were before and during the challenge, and how you changed afterward.
Another tip that helps with writing is to read your close-to-final version out loud. Be sure to give yourself enough time between your initial draft and your final one. If you rush, the reader will know you didn’t give it your all.
There has to be a clear shift because a scholarship committee is trying to see what you learned from the problem and how you have grown. Your essay needs to clearly demonstrate your catharsis.
3. Recommendation Letter Tips
Make sure to ask a teacher who knows you well to write about your accomplishments. Give them a copy of your résumé, information about the scholarship, and a paragraph of what you want them to emphasize in your recommendation.
Know that teachers are humans, too. They have a lot of students, so it’s your job to make their lives easier by providing all the information they need. After all, they’re doing you a favor by writing a recommendation letter. Follow up with teachers a week before the deadline if they haven’t submitted their letters yet.
Most importantly, send them thank-you cards afterward. It doesn’t matter whether you get the scholarship or not. Those teachers took the time out to write you a letter, so you need to do the same and show gratitude. This goes for anything in life.
Final Thoughts on How to Win Scholarships
The road to winning scholarships is not easy — if it were, everyone would get one. Remember that the more often you apply, the more likely you are to get scholarships!
Aside from just applying for scholarships, there are also other ways to save money during the college application process, such as getting fee waivers when taking the SAT/ACT.
Anything that is worthwhile takes time and effort. So now that you’re equipped with the knowledge and tools to win scholarships, go write a killer application!