We all make mistakes. Some big, some small. Some mistakes can alter the trajectory of your life, while others may not even matter. One area where it literally pays to not make mistakes is during the scholarship application process. With the rising cost of financing a college education, scholarships are the quintessential way to supplement the bottom line cost for any student. Before delving into common scholarships mistakes, let us first discuss what a scholarship is and who can qualify for them.
To begin, a scholarship is essentially FREE money! Yes, completely free. A scholarship is money earned by a student as financial support to defray the cost of attending college and can be either merit-based or need-based. In other words, they be awarded based on academic criteria, socioeconomic status, community involvement, area of study, or any other criteria established by the entity providing the scholarship.
But, not all scholarships are created equally. This is a good thing for students because all students are uniquely different. Therefore, there are scholarships out there for ANY student! A common misconception regarding scholarships is that one must be a straight A student to qualify. This is absolutely not true. As previously noted, scholarships are awarded on a myriad of criteria. There are scholarships awarded to students who like to ride horses, some for students who enjoy video games, and others that are for those who are left-handed. There are so many different scholarships and criteria that there is no reason why a student cannot find at least a handful for which they qualify.
As students begin the scholarship application process, there are many mistakes that are made. Below are the most common mistakes and ways to mitigate them.
If you do not apply you will not be considered. Simple as that. If you qualify for a scholarship plan accordingly to give yourself enough time to meet the application criteria and then hit submit. The money is there, you qualify for it, so why not put your hat in the ring?
Missing deadlines is one of the most common and largest scholarship mistakes. Rest assured that a missed deadline automatically removes you from consideration. Use a calendar to to keep track of deadlines or make a spreadsheet that you constantly refer to. Do not lose out on the money simply because you did not organize yourself.
Not following directions
Scholarship applications, similar to college applications, have set directions that need to be followed in order to qualify. For example, if a scholarship is seeking supporting documents such as an essay or a letter of recommendation, those items must be submitted. Otherwise, your application will forever be incomplete and will not be considered. Some applications require you to submit documents in a particular format or through an online platform. Do as it states even if it does not make sense to you. Be sure to read the directions completely and follow them exactly.
Poor planning for supporting documents
Many scholarships require you to submit supporting documents such as a transcript, an essay, a letter of recommendation, or other pieces to give to the selection committee a better sense of the type of person you are. Supporting documents are key to your application since oftentimes these are the things that will set you apart from others. Take the time to plan ahead and talk to the appropriate people about the documents you will need. At minimum, a 2 week heads up is helpful for those who are helping you.
Ignoring smaller scholarships
There are a ton of scholarships available where the award seems insignificant, for example a scholarship for $500. However, imagine now that you applied and earned 10 scholarships of $500 each! The total of those awards will make a significant dent on your tuition bill and the applications are oftentimes less involved. Be sure to not skim over the smaller scholarships!
Unfortunately, scholarship applications are prime target for scammers. Scam operations often imitate legitimate government agencies, grant-giving foundations, education lenders and scholarship matching services, using official-sounding names containing words like “National,” “Federal,” “Foundation,” or “Administration”(finaid.org). Finaid.org provides a helpful list of things to do to avoid being scammed. Follow this link for more information: http://www.finaid.org/scholarships/protecting.phtml
Stopping the search once in college
There are many scholarships available for students who are in college so don’t stop the process because you’re on a college campus. Some colleges have tuition rates that rise every year but the financial aid offered stays constant, by applying to scholarships while you’re in college you can help offset the cost due to the rising tuition and room and board.
Applying for scholarships you don’t qualify for
Do not waste your time applying for scholarships you do not qualify for. The selection committee will not consider you for the award and will be a complete waste of your time.
Not submitting an appropriate essay
Take your time to craft an essay that will set you apart from other applicants. Sometimes students use essays written for college applications but those may miss the mark on the requirements for the scholarship essay. So, be sure the essay you are submitting is well-aligned with the requirements.
There are many opportunities to earn scholarships to help ease the cost of your education. With proper planning and patience you can be well on your way to earning awards.
About the Author
Wanda I. Montañez, Ed.D., Is Chyten’s Senior Director of College Success.