Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Finding Scholarships: Get Organized!

Get organized.
If you start off organized, you are less likely to miss important application deadlines or forget to ask for a letter of recommendation. Put each application's materials in a separate file folder – whether it’s a physical folder or a computer folder, or both. Create a checklist listing all the required materials, as well as the following:
  • Scholarship name and description; phone number if available
  • Date application must be received by scholarship committee
  • Date you requested the application
  • Date you received the application
  • Date application and supporting materials were mailed
  • Date you called the Scholarship Agency to verify they received your application package

Keep a copy of your entire application materials, so you can resend it in case it is lost in the mail. Keep a master checklist of all the scholarships to which you are applying, so you can check off the completion of each application. You will also find it helpful to refer to old applications when applying for other scholarships!

Do not miss deadlines. If you miss a deadline, your application is disqualified, regardless of your excuse. Scholarship sponsors never provide extensions. So when you receive the application materials, take note of the deadline and whether it is a postmark or receipt deadline. If the deadline is based on the date your application is received by the sponsor, be sure to mail the application at least one week before the deadline date. If possible, set your own personal deadline at least two weeks prior to that date, so that your application materials are ready well in advance of the official deadline. You might consider including a self-addressed stamped postcard with your application so the sponsor can drop it in the mail to let you know that your application has been received and whether you are missing any supporting materials. You could also send the application by certified mail, return receipt requested.

Organize the application materials. If an application consists of several loose pages, label each page with your name, and possibly also a purpose and page number. This will help prevent parts of your application from getting lost or out of order. If not specified, send your application materials in a large manila envelope, to prevent unnecessary folding of your papers. Make sure you have sufficient postage.

Application Proficiency. Proofread the entire application several times before submitting. After you have carefully edited and revised your application, ask someone you trust to read it again. A second reader could be a parent, teacher, or advisor. Remember: typos cost you points and could cost you the scholarship. Applications with blanks or unanswered questions are viewed as incomplete and are subject to immediate disqualification. Do not handwrite your application. You want to create a professional impression. With few exceptions, all scholarship applications must be typed. All college work is typed unless you are in a math lab; basic computer literacy is considered the norm and not the exception. Read all application instructions carefully and do exactly what the application asks you to do. Do not attach unsolicited documents to your application. The application will ask you to provide specific supporting documents, but if you include anything they do not require it will go against you. Also pay careful attention to word limits. If, for example, the instructions for an essay specify a word limit of 450-600 words, then stay within that limit. Exceeding the word limit is viewed as demonstrating an inability to follow instructions.

A readable, clean, complete, well-written application is impressive. Unreadable, smeary, incomplete, or poorly written applications are eliminated.

Finally, Before mailing your application, double-check:
Have you neatly organized and included all required documents?
Do all official documents contain dates and signatures?
Have you provided correctly-spelled names and mailing addresses?
Have you corrected all spelling and typing errors?
Have you filled in all required fields in the application?

Remember - believe in yourself and in your chances to win scholarships. Hard work and time spent on the scholarship process will pay off eventually. Keep your chin up and think about how great the reward will be if you can win even one of the scholarships you're trying for!

Next post: Resumes, References, and Transcripts!

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