If I posted a link to a great scholarship opportunity (in the Facebook Group or Page, or Twitter) with a deadline of ‘next week’ – would you be able to apply? Here’s what you need to have organized and available in order to be ready to apply for scholarships, grants, internships, or job opportunities:
Resume. Some scholarship applications will ask for your resume or CV. If you worked previously, list your experiences, but if you don’t have work experience – don’t worry. Use your resume/CV to point out any awards and honors you’ve received, community service you’ve been involved with, and activities you’ve participated in. List all relevant activities and honors, but be selective. If you have more activities than can fit in the space provided do not include the ones that are not significant.
Read the criteria for selection carefully to understand what the reviewers of the scholarship are looking for. For example, if the scholarship looks for applicants who can show leadership experience, or an outstanding extracurricular record, include your volunteer and community service activities, emphasizing those in which you took a leadership role. Most importantly, your activities should represent your varied talents and passions outside the class room. The reviewers are trying to get a sense of who you are and what you believe in. Make sure your activities reflect that.
Make your resume and application stand out from the crowd! If you need help developing a professional resume, find examples on the Web, or better – contact your advisor, or the career services department of your school or university. If you don’t have extracurricular activities or volunteer work to list – now is the time to get involved. (Who knows – the life you change doing volunteer work may be your own!)
Letters of recommendation, or professional references. Good references are essential to creating a winning scholarship application. Prepare a document that lists at least three professional references. These references should include one or two professors who know you, preferably both in and outside of the classroom. Choose professors that have had you in upper level courses, and that know your academic goals. You might also ask a coach or academic advisor, the employer that you worked for, or the manager you worked under. Choose people who are relevant to the sponsor's goals. For example, ask a science teacher to write a letter of recommendation for a science scholarship, not your Art teacher. (Never ask a family member to provide a recommendation or letter of reference.) In each case, you want these people to speak highly of you – to speak to others about your abilities and worthiness for the scholarship.
Make sure you speak to your recommenders, making sure they want to speak on your behalf. Give your recommender a written description of the scholarship and a copy of your personal statement or essay that you write for the scholarship application. It’s a good idea to keep them informed about what you are doing academically, personally, and professionally – sending them an updated resume and transcript will help them with the process of writing the letter, or speaking for you during an interview. You should also give them appropriately addressed envelopes with postage, if necessary.
Please, be sure to also give your recommenders plenty of time to write the letter! Ask him or her at least four weeks in advance to write the letter. Gently remind them ten days before the deadline, asking them whether they have sent in the recommendation or need more information from you. Do not ask to see a copy of the letter, even if they offer to give you a copy. If the recommender provides you with a copy of the letter, the selection committee may suspect that the letter isn't as candid as it might have been otherwise. Send the writer a thank you note after the letter has been mailed. Let them know how much you appreciate what they are doing for you; you will likely ask them to write additional letters for you. Once they've written one letter on your behalf, the second letter is much easier. If you send them a thank you, it will give them a good impression and make them more willing to spend time writing you additional letters in the future.
Transcripts. You should have copies of your transcripts available in case you need to send an unofficial copy along with the application. This is also good to have when filling out the application in case you need detailed information about courses and grades, and to send to the people writing letters of recommendation for you. If the application requires official transcripts from all the schools you have attended, request this information as soon as possible. You can do this by e-mail, fax, or call in your requests, but mail a letter as a backup. Some schools charge a nominal fee for official transcripts. After a few weeks have passed, call the schools to make sure that the transcripts have been sent to the proper address.
Scores of internationally valid exams (GRE for aptitude and TOEFL/IELTS for English). This may not be necessary, but just in case, you should have the proper documentation, or copies of appropriate exam scores.
Picture. Have multiple copies of a picture of yourself. A school picture or passport picture is perfect. Anything smaller than a wallet size head shot, will do.
Watch for the next post, covering the all-important essay, and possible interview!