Generally, scholarship applications require transcripts, test scores, and recommendations. They may also ask for a résumé, a photo, and an essay. Keep in mind that every scholarship application is a little different because each funder is looking for something specific. For example, professional organizations want to know why you’re interested in their field.
Ask your school for several copies of your official and unofficial transcript. You’re going to need them for your scholarship applications, school applications, and other types of financial aid. Read every application carefully and make sure you send exactly what they ask for.
Though this is not as common as transcript requests, many scholarship funders want to see how you did on the ACT, SAT, and other college entrance exams. When you take the test, you’ll have the opportunity to get copies of your scores. Just like with transcripts, get several copies and keep them on hand to send in with your scholarship applications.
Letters of Recommendation
Generally, there are three kinds of letters of recommendation that your scholarship application may request.
- Academic recommendations are the most common. These letters come from teachers or others familiar with your performance in school. Some applications ask for a letter while others just ask you to list the names and contact information of your references.
- Nonacademic recommendations come from professionals who are not related to you and not connected to you academically. It might be your boss at your job, the coach of your sports team, or the pastor at your church.
- Personal recommendations are not that common anymore, but if you have a personal connection to someone who is well known to the funder, a letter from that person can be the icing on the cake.
Don’t be surprised if some scholarship applications ask for a résumé. You may think you don’t have anything to put on the page, but you probably have more than you think. List any part-time jobs you’ve had, volunteer work you’ve done, and internships you’ve completed.
If you’ve never written a resume before, no worries! There are tons of resources and templates online to help walk you through it.
Though it’s less common than in the past, scholarship funders sometimes ask for a headshot with your application. Usually, this is for promotional purposes to send out with a press release or newsletter. Be sure to send one that gives a full view of your face with a pleasant expression. Don’t send a photo of yourself wearing a hat or sunglasses, and don’t send a picture with other people in it.
Scholarship applications routinely ask for essays, and this is a fantastic opportunity to make your packet stand out from your competition. Even though you may see similar questions on different applications, be careful about cutting and pasting. Read every question carefully and make sure you answer it clearly and specifically. It’s a good idea to have someone else read and critique it before you send it in.
Once you start applying for scholarships, it’s a good idea to go through your social media account and remove any questionable photos or make your account private. These days, students have lost scholarships for posting offensive content, pictures of underage drinking, and other behavior frowned upon by the funding organizations and institutions.
While your social media account might seem like a space to let loose with your friends, anything that’s public for the world to see can have a severe effect on job opportunities, scholarships, and even college admittance.
Scholarship applications are time-consuming and can be tedious if done well. But the payoff is well worth it if you walk away with even a few thousand dollars in financial assistance.