By Jennifer Rutt
Did you know that every year there are thousands and thousands AND THOUSANDS of scholarship dollars available specifically for diverse students? Many different types of groups sponsor the scholarships. Some are employers who are interested in eventually hiring diverse college talent, some are non-profits dedicated to the educational success of diverse individuals, and others are everywhere in between. You can usually find scholarships based on your major or field of study.
How do you stand out when competing for scholarship dollars?
There are several important things to keep in mind when creating your application.
• Follow the instructions! This seems logical; we all heard it in grade school. If you don’t follow the instructions (whether that means not completing the application or neglecting to submit additional materials), you definitely will not be awarded the scholarship.
• Be professional. This is a formal process. Do not shorten your words. Write as if it is being presented to a Professor or a Dean. No slang. No shortcuts.
• DO NOT USE ALL CAPS. This probably falls into the category of “being professional,” but it is worth highlighting. On the other hand, don’t neglect capital letters altogether. Use proper grammar, punctuation, and capitalization.
• Include the things that make you special and recipient-worthy. As my dad always said, “If you don’t toot your own horn, you can’t play in the band.”
• Highlight your “above and beyond” activities. Do you volunteer? Do you belong to student groups? Have you held any offices? Do you participate in some interesting projects? Have you had an internship? Do you work while you are in school?
• Express your goals and aspirations. Particularly if there is an essay portion of the scholarship application. What makes you unique is what will draw attention to your application. What do you plan to do in your life that will make a difference if the people awarding the scholarship choose to invest in you?
• Is the scholarship related to a special category? How does your application represent your inclusion in that category? For example, if it is for a computer science student, what comp sci classes have you taken? What relevant classes do you plan to take? How do you see your career path relating to computer science? Have you participated in a Hackathon?
• Proofread again.
• Have a friend proofread.
• Make sure you include all the materials requested. Do you need to provide a transcript? A letter of recommendation? Figure out the materials you need early so you are not scrambling right at the last minute.
• Don’t be late! Scholarships all have different deadlines. If you plan on applying to multiple scholarships, make yourself a schedule of deadline dates.
How do you decide which scholarships are “worth the effort”?
There are a few major differences you’ll notice between different scholarships. First, the amount of money that is awarded. Second, the amount of time and effort it takes to complete the application. You may decide that a very intensive application process is worth the time you invest if the dollar amount awarded would make a big difference to your finances.
Create a plan for yourself. Decide which scholarships you will apply to, what you’ll need to do for the application, and make note of the deadlines. Then execute your plan.
It takes work to find the scholarships that you are qualified for. The good news is, once you create your stellar essay and your points of differentiation from other scholarship applicants, you can reuse that information over and over in each application. If you are awarded even one scholarship, it can be worth your time!
When reviewing resources, make sure you really pay attention to things that make you unique. Geography? Your major? Unique groups you identify with? This will help you narrow down where to spend your energy when applying.
AfterCollege STEM Inclusion Scholarship: [https://www.aftercollege.com/company/aftercollege-inc/10/scholarship/17/] This scholarship is available to students from groups underrepresented in their field working toward a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics. Underrepresented groups may be defined by: gender, race, ethnic background, disability, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic status, nationality and other non-visible differences. AfterCollege helps students find jobs and internships based on their education and helps employers engage with students through scholarships, events, and job/internships postings.
Costco Scholarship Fund: [http://www.costcoscholarshipfund.org/] This scholarship, which is supported by Costco, is available to diverse candidates at both Seattle University and the University of Washington.
CollegeXpress: [http://www.collegexpress.com/] Create a profile and search through $7 billion worth of scholarships (open to high school and college students).
Cappex: [http://www.cappex.com/] After you create a profile (or link to your Facebook account), you can search through $11 billion worth of scholarships.
TG Adventures in Education (AIE): [http://www.aie.org/Scholarships/] Search through 15,000 scholarship opportunities.
The College Board: [https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/scholarship-search] Search through 2,200 programs for scholarships and other financial aid opportunities.
StudentAdvisor: [http://www.studentadvisor.com/scholarships] Download this app to search through scholarships on the go.
CareerOneStop: [http://www.careeronestop.org/EducationTraining/Pay/Scholarships.aspx] More than 7,000 scholarship opportunities, searchable by award type, state, study level, and affiliation.
NerdWallet: [http://www.nerdwallet.com/nerdscholar/scholarships/] Search through more than 10,000 opportunities and get more ideas for improving your scholarship apps.
Don’t forget to check the website at the college you attend! There are often specific resources available just for you. Often the scholarship resources are located within the financial aid office. Your school will also be aware of, and may manage the applications for, specific scholarships like the Costco example given above.
Good luck and happy applying!
Jennifer Rutt is the Senior Director of Engagement for AfterCollege. She has worked in the university recruiting field for over 15 years, including at the National Association of Colleges and Employers.