Read This Article for The Best Piece of Advice for Applying for Scholarships
I am going to give you the goods right now: the best piece of advice you will ever get about applying for scholarships is, “Don’t think, just apply.”
As a chronic, nerves-ridden over-thinker, I have a complicated relationship with anything that begins with, “Don’t think.” Because no sirree, I will think, and ponder, and consider, and basically over think the subject to death.
So why then I am giving you advice so contrary to my personal philosophies? Applying for scholarships is just that important. Scholarships mean you have less in student loans to pay back; scholarships mean you have money for non-tuition essentials, such as rent and prescriptions; scholarships mean someone or some organization wants to support you and see you succeed.
The second you see a scholarship you are eligible for, apply for it. Let me say it again: the very second you see a scholarship you are eligible for, apply for it! That initial interest and enthusiasm is not going to last long so use as much of it as you can to at least start your application.
If the application process is short and straightforward (for example, you are required to submit a short essay on why you should be chosen and complete an application form), aim to get it done as quickly as possible. An afternoon may be enough for some of you to pull the trigger, but before hitting submit, I advise you to at least sleep on the written portion or get another pair of eyes to go over your application. Being able to finish quickly is part of the appeal of these kinds of scholarships, so I ask you: what is holding you back? Don’t think, just apply!
Other scholarships are more competitive and will require multiple things: you may be required to submit official transcripts, letters of reference, as well as an essay. All of this cannot be accomplished quickly and therein lies a major reason for not wanting to apply—all that time and work! How then does “Don’t think, just apply!” come into play here?
Using your initial interest in the scholarship, the first thing you have to do is consider each requirement. First, what kinds of official documentation do you need to obtain? Official transcripts, for example, usually cannot be obtained the same day you request them. Search your school’s website or contact your Registrar’s Office and find out how you may obtain your official transcript as well as a timeline of how long processing will take. If there is a request form, fill it out and submit it right away.
Next, who are you going to ask to write your reference letters? Decide quickly (including alternates if your first choices are unavailable or turn you down) and if possible, reach out to them the same day. Ideally, you should give your reference letter writers at least three weeks’ notice. Once you receive an okay, provide them with all the information they need to write a comprehensive letter. Closer to the scholarship deadline, make sure you send them a gentle reminder email about the reference letter.
Next, consider your essay requirement. If it is a personal essay, consider the given topic and brainstorm ideas. If it is a research or analytical essay, start researching relevant sources. The sooner you have reputable books and articles in hand, the better.
In the previous few paragraphs, I demonstrate that while more involved scholarship applications cannot be completed within a day or two, you can still get a lot done within that amount of time. The key is to ensure that if another person has to contribute to your application, they have to be given as much notice as possible. So when you see a competitive scholarship with numerous requirements, don’t think, just apply!