By Katie Wornek, Outreach Officer and Financial Aid Expert – July 1, 2017
Benjamin Franklin once said, “For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.” When it comes to scholarship applications, staying organized will definitely save you time, but it can also earn you money! Remember that scholarships are not just for high school seniors or current college students. Some scholarships are offered to students as young as elementary school (like the UESP Make Your Mark Bookmark Contest). No matter what grade you’re in, I have a few tips to help you organize your scholarship workflow throughout the school year.
Summer and the First Few Weeks of School
Draft Your Personal Statement
Some scholarships require you to write an essay on a specific topic or in response to a prompt. You’ll need to write a different essay for each of those applications. However, many other scholarships will ask for a personal statement instead. This document is your chance to grab the attention of the scholarship committee and let them know what makes you special as a student and as a person. You can usually write one personal statement and then make small changes to tailor it to the scholarship you’re applying for. Write a rough draft of your personal statement as early in the school year as you can, then ask teachers, parents, mentors, or peers to edit it and give you feedback. You can also visit Salt Lake Community College’s free Community Writing Center at the Salt Lake City downtown public library. For more ideas on writing an excellent personal statement, check out this summer’s post from our guest blogger, Burton Rojas.
Most scholarship applications will ask for at least one letter of recommendation. A good letter of recommendation emphasizes your good character, your work ethic, your ability to overcome challenges, and the likelihood that you will be successful in college. Identify teachers, counselors, employers, or mentors who A) would have respect and trust from a scholarship committee, and B) will speak highly of you in their letter. In other words, letters of recommendation should not come from your peers, your family members, or any person who may not have a favorable opinion of you. Once you identify the people you would like to use as recommenders, meet with them in person to ask if they are willing to write multiple letters of recommendation for you. Remember to notify each recommender about each scholarship application at least 2 weeks before the application deadline.
Refine Your Resume
Many scholarship applications will ask for a copy of your resume. If you’ve already created one, great! Take some time to update the information. If you haven’t, don’t worry! You can find plenty of free resume templates online or in your word processing software. Be sure to include your contact information, contact information for your recommenders, and details about your education, work, extracurricular activities, volunteerism, and any relevant skills or experiences. Just like with your personal statement, have multiple people edit and review your resume.
Search for Scholarships and Create Your List
The more scholarships you apply for, the more likely you are to secure the money you need for college. Start by creating a list of scholarships you qualify for. Your school counselor can provide you with ideas about scholarships to apply for, but you should also research scholarships through your employer, your parents’ employer, local businesses, your bank or credit union, or your church or any community organizations you are involved with. Be sure to search scholarship databases, too. Here are some websites you can use:
Once you create the list of scholarships you want to apply for, use a calendar to write your scholarship schedule. Start by jotting down all the application deadlines, then work backwards to identify when you’ll need to write your essay, ask for your letters of recommendation, or complete any other tasks required on the application.
Every Month of the School Year
Check your scholarship schedule often to make sure that you are completing application requirements and submitting your applications on time.
Continue your search
Keep checking scholarship databases and your counseling office for any new scholarship opportunities you may have missed. And be sure to follow StepUp (@StepUpUtah), me (@StepUpKatie), and my community outreach colleague Jacob Newman (@StepUpJacob) – we frequently post information about scholarships on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Want to learn more? Check out our scholarship toolkit or watch our YouTube video.