By Agustin “Tino” Diaz on October 22, 2016 @TinoJrDiaz

You can find scholarships almost anywhere, but preparing for them is a different matter. You can start by keeping track of your volunteer hours and accruing experience in a specific field or interest, building your network and meeting the right people, and finally preparing an essay or interview for the scholarship you apply for.

Here are some pro tips to help you prepare:

VOLUNTEER WORK

Volunteering in your local community or in a local civic institution (schools, community centers, food banks) demonstrates dedication and a positive attitude towards work. Volunteer opportunities help build experience, particularly when your volunteer service lines up with a scholarship donor’s values or priorities. For example, if you are applying for a scholarship from a healthcare organization, and you have volunteered in a hospital or a nursing home, that can help to increase your chances when that field is something the scholarship is associated with. It allows scholarship committees to understand the seriousness of your application and how their investment might contribute to you one day working in their area.

THE RIGHT NETWORK

If you want to apply for scholarships from a specific office or department within a university, then it would help to get to know the people there. Who you know can make a huge difference in receiving a scholarship. The more someone knows you in a positive light and notices your work ethic along with your personality, the better your chances of receiving a scholarship from their office or department. Relationship building is essential. It might involve volunteering in an office doing menial tasks or it might mean meeting with a department or office leader and getting to know one another. Either way, a reference from the institution or organization you hope to receive a scholarship from shows that you know the right people in the right places.

PREPARING A SCHOLARSHIP ESSAY OR INTERVIEW

The first thing you’ll want to do is read the scholarship prompt. What is the scholarship essay looking for? What questions are they asking? Make sure you stick to the prompt and answer the right questions.

Another thing about scholarship essays is that you ought to make sure that readers are immediately hooked and constantly engaged throughout your essay. Everyone has a story. Regardless of how dull you think yours might be there is always a way to write your story that can inspire people and catch their interest.

In the state of Utah, most leadership-based scholarships—school ambassadors, student government, and other leadership programs—use interviews to award students with scholarships. Interviews are difficult to master if you don’t do them often! If you’re not sure how to go about it, there are 3 things you should always remember about interviews: practice, body language, and appearance.

You can practice for a scholarship interview by putting together a list of questions. You will get a good idea of the kind of scholarship interview questions by contacting the office or department hosting it—and practice answering them in front of a mirror. Body language sometimes plays a bigger role in the interview than talking. Again, you can practice in front a mirror to note your body language as you talk and adjust it to what you feel is best for your interview. In addition, it looks really bad when interviewers see interviewees poorly dressed. When you apply for leadership scholarships you are applying to represent the university, and therefore it needs to show that you are prepared to symbolize what the institution or organization stands for. In other words, dress to impress!

Scholarship Tips

In the end, one of the best things you can do is research the scholarship. Find out the goals of the scholarship committee, and ask how you can best prepare for them. StepUpUtah also has resources available to help you throughout this process. You can develop a scholarship resume packet, go through a checklist for scholarships, and find scholarships as well.

Agustin “Tino” Diaz is a Community Outreach Officer with the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority (UHEAA). Learn more about Tino and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.