Scholarships: Planning Ahead To Win More Scholarships
Scholarships are integral to attending college or university, but many students leave applying until the summer before they start university or college. However, your chances of successfully winning scholarships, and applying to more of them, are greatly improved by starting the process several years early.
Grade 9 & 10
When you’re just starting high school, scholarship applications seem like a distant concern–one you won’t need to worry about until graduation. This isn’t the best plan, however. Even as early as Grade 9, you can start researching scholarships and determining how to use the next four years to increase your eligibility and qualifications.
This doesn’t only apply to students who already know what degree they want to pursue at college or university; even students who aren’t sure what they want to study can still focus on building up great experience.
You won’t be actively applying at this stage, but it’s a good time to create a list of scholarships that you want to apply for in the future, and their requirements. For example, many scholarship reviewers like to see volunteer work, but often it doesn’t matter what kind of volunteering you pursue. So as early as 9th and 10th grade, you can engage in different types of volunteer work so that you will have lots to use on your future applications.
You can also join clubs at school and in your community, and look for summer jobs that will give you interesting, useful experience to include on your applications.
This is the year you should start looking for scholarships in earnest, and create the final list of which ones to apply for. By starting now, not only will you have lots of time to organize yourself, but if you are missing any important qualifications or useful experiences, you still have some time to achieve them.
This year, you can also start practicing drafts of application letters, looking for examples to use as a template, and even writing what will eventually be the letters your submit. After all, the earlier you start, the more time you have to perfect each application.
It’s also the time to begin speaking to teachers, club leaders, or community members you want to ask to write a letter of recommendation. Giving them a heads up early on means they will have lots of time to think of great things to say and to write an excellent letter.
Plus, it’s important to note that there are usually a round of scholarship deadlines that come over the summer and fall, many of which would be for the following school year. For example, a deadline in August after Grade 11 could be for a scholarship awarded for the start of the following year’s September, after you’ve graduated–and your first semester at college or university.
This is the year where you need to apply in earnest! By this point, you should have great experience from clubs, volunteering, and employment, plus a good idea of what you want to study and which university or college program you will be entering. That means it’s time to examine your scholarship list and narrow it down to the ones most relevant to you and your studies, and for which you have all of the qualifications.
You have the whole year, so make good use of it–and don’t leave applications until right before the deadline. Take the time to give each application your full attention, writing great letters and making sure you don’t forget to include anything important. Submit your applications as early as you can, so that you will be before the reviewers while they are still fresh and will have lots of time of their own to consider your application.
Be sure to stay organized, and keep track not only of deadlines and due dates, but application processes. Especially if you have to submit your application by mail (though this is increasingly rare, and most scholarships have online submissions) make sure that you plan for a window of time before the deadline to give your application time to travel through the postal service.
Start Early, Apply to More Scholarships, See Greater Success
By starting early, you will have time to create better applications, and you will also have time to apply to more scholarships. Both of these outcomes mean that you will have a better chance of being awarded more scholarships, and having more money to go toward your education!