The application process for national scholarships can be lengthy and involved. Planning ahead and staying organized while making your application as distinctive as possible are key ingredients to producing a successful application. The following guidelines should assist you before, during, and after filing the written application.
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Identifying scholarships can be one of the most important parts of the successful scholarship search. A well-defined search can be invaluable. The best and cheapest way to run a scholarship search is to find a good, reliable scholarship search engine. This means finding scholarships that are best suited to who you are, both as a student and as a person. Two questions you should ask yourself: for whom are the scholarship selectors looking? Is the scholarship worth the time I will spend on it?
Decide which scholarships are best suited to your academic interests, career goals, geographical preferences, and financial circumstances. If your chosen scholarships have application deadlines within two weeks of each other, pare down your choices to no more than three. You may not be able to prepare, with the required care, more than three application packets simultaneously.
Check your eligibility. Be certain that you meet all the requirements. Each scholarship website provides a section on this issue.
Obtain the application as early as possible. Most can be downloaded from the website for that scholarship. Some may have to be obtained from the Honors Program office or the particular faculty advisor for that scholarship. For some (although this is rare) you will have to write to the organization to request an application. Make sure you get the application as soon as possible, print it out, and read it thoroughly. Make notes. Begin to derive a checklist from it.
Highlight all application deadlines on all your calendars. Enter alerts in your calendar on the days one week and two weeks prior to the final deadline. Notice whether the final deadline is for postmark on or receipt of the application package. Most applications are online.
Develop a checklist of requirements for each scholarship and a timeline for satisfying them, i.e. by what date you will have completed the first draft of your essay; by what date you will have contacted faculty in your universities of choice, by what date you will have formulated a program of study, and so on. Honor your timeline.
Check to see whether your scholarship requires standardized test scores for the GRE, MCAT, LSAT and if so whether on the "subject" as well as on the "general" test.
Strong letters of recommendation are extremely important for most scholarships. Establish relationships with your professors as early as possible in your academic career. When it comes time to apply for a scholarship, notify your referee as early in the process as possible so that she or he has adequate time to prepare a substantial, balanced, and sincere letter. Learn more about obtaining letters of recommendation.
The purpose of the curriculum vitae or resume is to provide an appealing, easily readable snapshot of your life to date. It must be neat, clear, inviting, and just long enough to cover the essentials in an economical, streamlined, and efficient manner. Learn more about resume writing.
Begin drafting your personal essay or essays (some scholarships require more than one essay). Identify those who will read your draft and provide critical feedback. The personal essay is arguably the most important component of your application package. This means that much of your time and thought needs to go into it. Learn more about writing the personal essay.
When an application requires a transcript, be sure to mail it well before the deadline. Check to see whether an official or unofficial transcript is required. If an official transcript is required, you can have this arranged through the Office of the Registrar. Again, make sure that plenty of time is allotted for the transcript to arrive in time. Ordering official transcripts, like letters of recommendation, requires some advanced planning.
Some applications require photographs of scholarship candidates. These should be wallet-sized head and shoulders shots of professional quality.
Make sure your voice mail message is polite and professional and asks callers to leave a message.
Revise your essay or essays again and again. Ideally, you will have several weeks to revise the essay(s). Allow yourself some breaks between revisions so that you can look at it with fresh eyes. Ask for feedback from your professors, advisors, and friends. Read the essay aloud and see how it sounds. Make sure your prose style is economical and interesting. Use your spell checker. Learn more about the personal essay.
Carefully read through all of the information on how to apply. Make sure you understand the specific procedures for each application (they vary from one scholarship to another). Follow these instructions to the letter. You do not want your application disqualified because of technical error. Read all of the fine print.
All application materials should be typed.
Answer every question or complete every blank that is relevant to you on the application form. Limit yourself to the space provided unless you are specifically invited to expand elsewhere. Avoid the congested effect - packing too much into a limited space. Don't offer more or other than what's requested. If instructions read, "If applicable," and the question is not applicable, do not write "N/A." Just leave it blank.
Use academic titles in listing academic referees: "Professor" not "Dr." For faculty with senior administrative appointments, use "Dean" (even if actually an "associate dean"), "Provost," "Chancellor," etc. Do not write, "Professor Jane Smith, Ph.D." If asked for fax and email contact numbers for your referees, be sure to supply them, along with addresses and telephone numbers.
Order any lists (employment, publications, travel, activities, etc.) from the most to the least recent.
Sign and Date
Sign and date the form. Be sure you understand what your signature agrees to.
Sign the back of all copies of photograph, if required (as by Rhodes), but preferably not with a ball-point pen, since the impression will show through on the other side.
Assemble the components of your application in the order given in the instructions. Do not use staples, clips, plastic covers, or binders unless otherwise instructed.