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TOP TEN SCHOLARSHIP TIPS Ever wonder what the folks who award the scholarships want to see? A few years ago FinAid and FastWeb, two websites used for searching for private scholarships, polled scholarship providers across the country to see what they considered a winning application. I have saved that poll because I think that the tips suggested then are as true today as they were then.

The following would make Dave Letterman’s Top Ten List:

Tip 1: Apply only if you are eligible. Read all the scholarship requirements and directions carefully, and make sure that you are eligible before you send in your application. Your application will not be considered if you aren't qualified to apply. Don’t waste your time and theirs.

Tip 2: Identify the sponsor's goals. Try to understand the sponsor's motivation in offering the award. Do they want to promote interest in their field? Do they want to identify promising future researchers and business leaders? If you can identify their goals, you can direct your application toward satisfying those goals, increasing your chances of winning the award.

Tip 3: Complete the application in full and follow directions. Many students fail to follow directions. You can give yourself a competitive advantage by reading the directions carefully. Provide everything that is required. But don't supply things that aren't requested. You won't impress and you might be disqualified. Be sure to complete the entire application. If a question doesn't apply, note that on the application. Don't just leave it blank.

Tip 4: Neatness counts. Make several photocopies of all the forms you receive. Use the copies as working drafts as you develop your application packet. It's always best to type the application. If you must print, do so neatly and legibly. Proofread the entire application carefully. Nothing is less impressive than an application with misspelled words or grammar errors. Ask a friend, teacher or parent to proofread it as well.

Tip 5: Give concrete examples. If your answer to an essay question is abstract, support it with a concrete example that illustrates your point. The scholarship sponsor wants to see evidence that you satisfy their criteria, not just unsupported statements.

Tip 6: Write an accomplishments résumé. Compile a list of all your accomplishments. This will help you identify your strengths and prepare a better application. Give a copy of the résumé to the people who are writing letters of recommendation for you. They will be able to work some of the tidbits into their letters, making it seem like they know you better.

Tip 7: Ask for help if you need it. If you have problems with the application, do not hesitate to call the sponsor. They will usually be glad to give you help. But don't expect them to do the work for you. Completing the application is your job.

Tip 8: Watch all deadlines. Impose a deadline for yourself that is at least two weeks before the stated deadline. Use this 'buffer time' to proofread your application before you send it off. YOU are responsible for making sure all parts of the application arrive on time. This includes supporting materials, such as letters of recommendation and transcripts. So make sure everyone who is contributing to your application has ample lead-time. If worse comes to worst, call the scholarship provider in advance and ask if it's possible to receive an extension. Don't just send the materials in late; many committees will refuse late applications. But don't rely on extensions - very few scholarship providers allow them at all.

Tip 9: Take steps to make sure your application gets where it needs to go. Before sending the application, make a copy of the entire packet and keep it on file. If your application goes astray, you can always reproduce it quickly. Make sure your name (and social security number, if applicable) appears on all pages of the application. Pieces of your application may get lost unless they are clearly identified.
Tip 10: Remember - your scholarship application represents YOU! Your ability to submit a neat, timely, complete application reflects on you. It's the face you present to the sponsoring organization. Take pride in yourself by submitting the best application you can

Judith Christie
College Planning Consultants