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Scholarship Application Secrets

You're missing out on thousands of dollars in scholarships for college if you don't understand some simple application mistakes students make and how to avoid them.

Are there really secrets to filling out a winning scholarship application? Our research shows that certain mistakes are found in so many applications, knowing how to avoid them certainly seems to be a secret!

The good news is you can discover those simple secrets and improve your odds of winning an award. You really can take a good or even an average scholarship application and turn it into a great one. And great applications win scholarships: money for college that you never have to pay back. This article shows you how:

Scholarship Awards Process

When you submit an application for a scholarship it is received and added to a stack of entries and held for review. As time goes on the stack or stacks grow and grow -- because you are not the only one looking for money for college! Over the past several decades the number of students competing for college entry and for scholarships has skyrocketed. This is not a reason for you to get discouraged: it is a reason to pay attention to every possible detail related to your application. You don't want to be just one among many --- you want to stand out, in a very positive way.

Do you have to be exceptionally brilliant or unusually talented to do that? No you don't. You just have to separate yourself from the rest of that stack of applications --- and you may be surprised to learn how easy that can be. Below we take a look at how judges view applications and some resulting to tips to put on your checklist for scholarship success:

Scholarship Application Judges: If you think judging applications is a full time job, think again. Judges typically have (very) full time jobs and they do this because they care very much about education. They would love to be able to give out many awards but they are limited by what is available. They are very busy and probably pretty overwhelmed by their stack of applications to review.

That means you can't afford to make any mistakes. A mistake in following directions is the fastest way to get yourself disqualified. It may seem heartless but it saves the judges time, does not bother their conscience, and allows them to make the remaining stack smaller. It means you have to take care what your application looks and feels like. It may seem silly but how carefully you present your material can make all the difference to your results.

Top 12 Tips For Scholarship Application Success:

  1. Most Important First: follow every single direction precisely. Even if it seems unnecessary or stupid. Your opinion here does not matter one bit -- do yourself a favor and get over it. You are asking for free money from people you don't know and who don't yet know you; follow their directions and be grateful for this chance.
  2. Assuming you are submitting a hard copy of your application, always use good paper. This is not a time to worry about saving the planet. Use a high quality, decent weight, nice white paper to print on.
  3. Put your completed application into a folder to protect it in that stack. It not only keeps the paper in good shape, it helps to hold it together in one piece and makes it easy to pass from judge to judge. Make their lives as easy as possible!
  4. Never use page protectors for your individual pages. Doing so irritates judges as they are slippery and can't be written on easily.
  5. If the directions indicate the specific font and font size you should use, by all means use it! If not, choose one that is easy to read (generally a sans serif like Arial works well) and in a standard size like 11 or 12. (Any smaller is hard to read, and bigger seems like you are shouting...)
  6. Use only black ink and don't use an ink jet printer. The quality may look good, but the print can smudge and ruin your page. If you don't have a laser printer, get your application printed out at a good copy center (remember to specify high-quality paper!).
  7. You will not look smarter if you use lots of bold, italics and underlining. In fact, these effects are too often just distracting -- leave them out or keep them to a minimum.
  8. If you forget something, never jot it down in a handwritten note on the page. Yes it will take time to reprint the page and possibly those after it. But that is not as bad as giving a busy judge a reason to toss your application out of the pile!
  9. Send in your application in the appropriate format to the designated person and address. Use only the delivery method requested in the instructions. Important: don't require a signature upon delivery! You may think this makes your delivery more secure but it will just make things difficult for the application recipients -- and they don't like it!
  10. There may be something wonderful you consider terribly important they they have not asked for and that you haven't worked into your application. Don't send it in! If it is not requested it is not desired, no matter how cool it might be. Leave it out. Extra material means extra time, and judges don't have extra time.
  11. This may seem obvious but you would be surprised how many people get tripped up by it: meet all deadlines. If your application must be delivered by a certain date, leave time for it to be delivered by that date. If it must be postmarked by a particular date, take it to the post office yourself and get there earlier that the last pickup posted for that day. It is your responsibility to know the deadlines and know what it will take to meet them: no excuses. Late arrivals don't even make it into the stack!
  12. Finally and possibly a lifesaver: put your name and contact information, as well as the page number, on every page of your application. If for some reason the stack gets knocked over or someone drops your folder when passing your application along, this simple effort will make it easy for judges or their staff to reassemble your work and save it rather than using the occurrence as an excuse to decrease the amount of work left in the stack...

These simple rules can help you stand out in the stack and might even land you a nice cash reward. Use them to develop a routine for yourself and it will make the task of submitting lots of applications much easier and potentially more rewarding. Of course you should also apply for any scholarships you can find that simply ask you to enter a drawing! We are excited to offer our own monthly $100 Scholarship drawing -- all you have to do is register and sign up to win! Check out more information in our Giveaway Guidelines. And if you're interested in more sources of aid you may not have consider, take a look at Stealth Student Aid.