Social network profiles. Please know that your social or web profile WILL be investigated as part of the scholarship process; make sure your profile is professional, and a good representation of who you are. Facebook, Twitter, Blog, LinkedIn – all of your personal branding profiles should be updated and appropriate for your current scholarship, internship, or job activities. If you don’t have, or don’t know the specifics of “personal branding”, read the series of posts in the SIS blog listed in the archives on the right, or search for ‘personal branding’. Remember – you can also use the social networks to find scholarships as well!
The personal statement or essay. The application essay can be just as important as your GPA and extracurricular activities in helping you win a scholarship - probably the most important aspect of winning a merit scholarship. This is where your application needs to stand out!
Create an essay outline, and have a ‘basic’ essay written, using all your skills to create a portrait of yourself as a worthy recipient. Then read all information that comes with the scholarship application to determine the criteria for awarding the scholarships; emphasize these points in your essay. Make sure your essay fits the theme, and answers the question concisely. Use very specific examples from your life experience. Be specific, but show passion in your writing! (Word of warning – avoid the sob story; they rarely, if ever, win scholarships. Remember that every applicant has faced difficulties. What's different and individual to you is how you've overcome those obstacles. This is more significant and memorable than merely listing your misfortunes.Scholarship committees are not as interested in problems as they are in solutions.) The judges will be reading essay after essay on the same topic, so make your essay unique and engaging, with positive energy.
Read, and reread your essay – refining, simplifying, and polishing. Show that you have thought deeply and broadly about what you have learned in your academic career and what you hope to learn next. Correctness and style are vital, and neatness counts. Adhere to the length requirements of the essay so you aren’t disqualified. Have someone read your essay, preferably someone with professional experience – a teacher, professor, writing tutors, or visit the college writing center if there is one available. Search the Web for articles on how to write scholarship essays. This is so very important – do your best work!
Interviews. Before you submit your applications, realize that you may need to be interviewed by the scholarship committee at some point in the process. There are academic scholarships or merit scholarships, especially those with high payouts that require a sit-down, face-to-face interview with the finalists in order to determine who is the most deserving of the award. Be prepared! Make sure if you get called in for an interview that you practice your scholarship interview skills and that you are comfortable with the topic of your essay. Review your application and keep a copy for yourself. That way, there are no big surprises when you go into the meeting room. If you need help with interviewing skills, visit the career services office at your university. Above all, be confident, be positive, and be yourself! (Smile!)
Next up – avoiding scholarship scams; then – finding scholarships!