Financial Aid

Financial Aid

10 Critical Scholarship Mistakes to Avoid

Scholarships can enable you to study at the college or university of your choice without having to take out numerous student loans. However, they are a very competitive source of funding as literally tens of millions of students apply for a variety of scholarships every single year. If you want to increase your chances of obtaining funding, consider the following ten critical yet common scholarship mistakes and avoid them at all costs.

 

1. Failure to Research all Scholarship Options 

While numerous scholarships can be found online, there are some that simply aren’t listed on the web. Local Rotary clubs, churches, religious organizations and charities may offer scholarships for students in a local community or metro area. Parents’ employers may provide scholarships for children of employees. Credit unions frequently offer scholarships to children of members. These options are ideal because competition is relatively low, increasing your chances of obtaining funding. 

At the same time, it’s important to research the internet comprehensively when looking for online scholarships. Cast a wide net by entering broad scholarship search criteria including age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, extra-curricular activities, intended major, geographic location, and financial standing. There is no limit to how many scholarships you can apply for so don’t limit yourself by failing to research all the possibilities.

 

2. Failure to Clean up Your Social Media Profile 

It is common practice for organizations granting scholarships to check an applicants' social media profiles to find out more about them. Revealing photos, foul language, inappropriate jokes, and bullying may cause you to lose a scholarship or worse – have your admission revoked. If you haven't cleaned up your social media profiles before applying to college or university, do so before applying for scholarships. It will save you the heartache of being denied funding or even having the funding retracted after it has been granted.

 

3. Failure to Prepare in Life 

You need to present yourself in the best possible light if you want to stand out from other scholarship applicants. The best way to do so is to have unique real life experiences to highlight or a special cause you can showcase. Take the time to consider your extra-curricularactivities and experience and look for ways to expand them. If, for instance, you enjoy working with animals, volunteer at a local shelter or for a charity that cares for animals. If you have a soft spot for children with special needs, offer your time at local hospitals or organizations serving kids with disabilities. Even holding down a part-time job for an extended periodwill enhance your application, as it demonstratesresponsibility and hard work.

 

4. Failure to Apply on Time 

All scholarships have application deadlines. Failure to submit your application on time will result in it being automatically rejected. Stay on top of the application deadline for every single scholarship you are applying to and make sure tosubmit applications far in advance if possible. Timeliness is an important quality scholarship administrators will look for!

 

5. Not Sending in All Appropriate Paperwork 

The paperwork you are required to submit with your application will vary depending on the scholarship you apply for. Common requirements include a copy of your photo ID, copies of your transcripts and diplomas, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, a personal mission statement and your resume. In some instances, you may also be asked to respond with an essay and/or copies of parents’ financial records. If the scholarship is based on ethnicity, you may need supporting documentation to verify your ethnic background. 

Failure to send in appropriate paperwork will result in your application being automatically denied. It isn’t the job of a scholarship administrator to make sure that your application is in proper order. If your submission is incomplete (or late) it will likely be removed from consideration.

 

6. Starting Late 

One of the main reasons scholarship applicants make critical errors or miss deadlines is that they fail to start early. Starting late often results in careless mistakes and a general lack of attention to detail that can make the difference between receiving a scholarship award or not. Remember that there could be hundreds of other applicants for the same scholarship. Preparing early like you would for a test or competition is the mindset you should adopt as you begin the application process – make sure you put your best foot forward by starting early.

 

7. Avoiding the Essay 

Some scholarship applications request an optional essay. Others require that you submit one. Many students avoid optional essays because they are time consuming to write. This is a mistake. Essays are important, and attention grabbing, because they demonstrate commitment and help administrators get to know you. Your essay can include important information about your skills, background, experiences, talents and dreams that isn’t typically included in the application or other paperwork that you send in to support your application. A well-written essay that answers the question listed on the application can make a big difference in whether your application is accepted or rejected.

 

8. Not Proofreading the Final Product 

Mistakes are commonplace no matter how focused you are. It is essential that you thoroughly review your application and supporting paperwork regardless of how confident you are about your original draft. This is especially true if you are filing out a large number of scholarship applications at the same time. Always proofread your applications, essays, personal statements and supporting documents before sending in your application. The best time to review your work is a few hours after you have finished writing, because taking a break between writing and proofreading increases your chances of catching mistakes that would have otherwise slipped by.

 

9. Not Standing Out 

You need to give the person reviewing your application a reason to pick you above other applicants. To do so, you need to communicate your skills, abilities and passions in a clear, appealing manner. It is also very important to consider the type of scholarship you are applying for and tailor your presentation to highlight the skills, abilities and experience that align exactly with the purpose of the scholarship. In some cases, you will want to emphasize your scholastic achievements. In other instances, you will want to emphasize personal life skills such as perseverance, the ability to relate well to people and/or the ability to speak two or more languages. In all cases, take the opportunity to emphasize how your character and personal values exemplify the type of person the organization would like to support.

 

10. Falling for a Scam 

If a scholarship opportunity looks too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid scholarships that guarantee you will receive funding or that require applicants to pay a fee to submit applications. Another warning sign is failure to list sponsor information. Vague information should always set off alarm bells. 

Avoiding common mistakes can increase your chances of receiving a scholarship award. Just as importantly, spending the time to assess your application may provide insights into your life will serve you well no matter what the outcome. Put time, effort and planning into your scholarship applications and you will find that your hard work will pay off both now and in the future.

  • Anna Ortiz
    Anna Ortiz

    Mural Hunter, Photographer, & Writer | Anna is a writer and lover of urban street art who attended San Francisco State University. She is self-taught in digital and film photography, and spends most of her free time fueling her photography obsession by researching vintage cameras.