The following information is condensed from the college scholarships tab of this website

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An Introduction to College Scholarships

If you are not a stellar student, that's okay; there are so many college scholarships available for people of all lifestyles and occupations - single parents, good students, average students, minorities, and more! Do not let the prospect of paying for school scare you; there are literally thousands of organizations waiting for someone just like you to apply.

Types of College Scholarships

There is a dizzying array of scholarships available for different types of people - for athletes, scholars, scholar-athletes, mothers, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and returning students. There are opportunities for people who want to study engineering, humanities, health sciences, and everything in between. Sometimes alumni of a particular school will pool their resources to create a specialized scholarship for a student just like themselves!

Private colleges/universities usually have several scholarships created by alumni organizations. The criteria they use could be almost anything, so do not overlook them. You might be exactly the person they are seeking to help.
Most people have heard of athletic scholarships, because they are so prominent with professional sports teams. Obviously, an individual has to have excellent athletic skills to qualify.
Academic scholarships are another popular form of funding. These often go to students who have high grade point averages (GPAs) or who want to study a certain subject in college. You need to demonstrate some proficiency in at least one academic subject.
Corporations are another source of money for tuition. Many companies will offer money to students who meet certain guidelines, whether it's academic- or lifestyle-related.
Grants are another type of scholarship, but they are usually government-related. There are several types of federal grants for people who are thinking about going back to college or who simply do not make enough money at their jobs.
Finally, private organizations offer money to people in need.

Judging the Scholarship Application

The scholarship application is an extremely important part of the college puzzle. Each one is unique, and so are the judges that read the scholarship applications. While there are variations among each type of application, there are some basic principles that an applicant should follow.

Most judges will go through the selection process in a similar manner. They make three piles: accept, deny, and maybe. The deny pile is invariably much larger than the accept pile! National or international scholarships usually get steeper competition because they receive more applications. Judges must work quickly to separate the "good" applications from the unacceptable ones.
How can you be sure that your application lands in the accept or maybe piles and not the trash can? First, you should always triple-check your application for completeness, correct spelling, and good grammar. Ask a parent, teacher, or friend to proofread your application and give you pointers.

Read the instructions on the application very carefully, and follow the directions exactly as they are written. If the application calls for three letters of recommendation, do not supply two or four letters. Type out the scholarship application if you can. It looks neater and more professional than a hand-written one.

Find out what type of applicant for whom the judges are looking. Do they want someone who has a high GPA? If so, highlight your academic accomplishments and awards. If they want someone who has overcome hardship, then write an essay demonstrating your life experience. Always give the judges exactly what they are requesting.
Another tip is to make sure your application stands out. Do not merely reiterate your class schedule and charity works. Instead, add a personal touch that will make the judges remember you over others. This is easiest to do if you can write an essay. Let the judges know the "real you" and not just a 2 dimensional version.

Scholarship Opportunities

Students today are so lucky to have the Internet as a search tool. Not too long ago, people had to rely on guidance counselors and libraries to get the information on their awards. No longer! Now, we can simply open a browser, type in a few keywords, and even submit applications online. It couldn't be any simpler. This site can help you in your search for school money, but it's not the only place you can look.

Guidance Counselors

Non-profit organizations

Employer/Parents’ employers


Social group

Area of study

Preparing the Application

Some people think that filling out applications is drudgery. You are writing down the same information repeatedly. It's just a fact that there is no single "generic" application. Each application has its own set of requirements, so be sure to read the instructions carefully. Most college scholarships, however, require an essay that you can use for several other applications. Plan to spend many hours preparing your applications, typing out your answers, and mailing each one. Your time well-spent will be worth it when you receive scholarship awards.

One way to make the application process go faster is to make several copies of frequently requested items, such as transcripts, diplomas, and test scores. Get letters of recommendation from several people and make copies of each one. Ask your recommenders to save the letter that they write so that they can easily make it specific to any other scholarships to which you apply. Type out a resume and make sure it looks perfect. Print out more than you need to use for networking or employment purposes. File these documents in a filing box, folder, or drawer.
Before you send out an application, make a photocopy of it and save it for your records. It will help you stay organized, and you will be able to use the information on other applications.

Evaluating Opportunities

With so many opportunities from which to choose, it can be hard to evaluate all of them. Organizing the applications will keep your information easy to find and keep track of deadlines.

Prioritize the applications that have a quickly approaching deadline first. Keep applications in a file folder. Use a spreadsheet to organize the list of all the awards by deadline. This will help you get through the list faster, since you can just check each one off as you send it in.

Take your time to fill out the forms correctly and make sure they are checked for grammar. Most of them time, applications ask for the same documents repeatedly - resume, transcript, essay, and letter of recommendation. Have these on hand to refer to and be sure to include any that are requested for the specific scholarship you are putting into and envelope and mailings.

Type out the labels for the envelopes so that it looks more professional, and do not add anything extra to the application (such as a photograph) if the application does not specifically ask for it. It might actually annoy a judging committee - a big mistake!

The Essay

The essay is by far the most important aspect of an application. If a student has mediocre or poor grades, a stellar essay can overcome these barriers. An essay should be personal, moving, emotional (if possible), and honest. Many students think that they are not good writers, so they use that as an excuse to submit a poor essay. You do not have to have an "A" in English class to write up a thoughtful, unique essay that wins awards.

It can be difficult to talk about yourself to a complete stranger, but the best way to approach a question is to answer it as if you are speaking to a friend. The tone then creates a sense of intimacy between the reader and the writer. There is nothing an essay judge hates more than a boring composition.
Next, know that most people will shrug off the essay and turn in a paper that is full of spelling and grammatical errors. That eliminates at least half of your competition right there. Don’t be the one who is hasty, makes mistakes and gets their application in the deny pile.
Before you touch your fingers to a keyboard, start by examining the essay question and scholarship panel. Who is asking the question? Why do they want to know the answer? If you don't know, do some research on the members of the committee and find out their history. Discover why they offer award money in the first place. What kind of student do they want to help? Write down your thoughts to these questions on a blank piece of paper. This is called brainstorming.
Next, break the question down into parts. How many questions does it really contain? A question such as, "Who has had the greatest impact on your life and why?" actually contains several questions that you can answer.
Look at the question from an analytical standpoint. How many words are you required to write? Do you need to do any research to answer it, or is it straight from the heart?
Finally, it's time to examine you. You might be the valedictorian of your school. Everyone knows that, and it's on your transcript. However, does anyone know that you volunteer at an animal shelter or that you grew up a foster child or that you feed the homeless on weekends? These little things make you unique, so show them off in your essay!

Essay Tips

After analyzing the application question, your next step is to create a clear outline of how you want to set up your essay. Find a way to relate the essay to the award itself. For example, if it is named after a person who was a community leader, then demonstrate your leadership skills in the composition.

Come up with an overall theme for the essay. What do you want the judges to learn from your paper? They should walk away with a clear understanding of what you are saying.
Type an outline of how you want your essay to flow. Start with an introduction and then a thesis statement. Your paragraphs should support and elaborate upon that thesis statement. Finally, end with a conclusion that sums up your thoughts and leaves the judges with a good feeling.
Always use positive language, never negative language. Even if you are describing a bad situation that happened in your life, have a positive attitude and explain how you overcame your obstacles. Judges want to reward someone who is tenacious, hardworking, and can work through any problem.
Show that you are a well-rounded person or are someone that has an intense focus. If you seem to lack experience in one or two areas, can you make up for it in other areas? If you were not an athlete in school, then show how you were a chemistry whiz (and vice versa). Show that you have a variety of interests and a special skill set that sets you apart.
Add little details wherever you can in the paper. For example, do not just write, "I spent my summers in Maine." Instead, write something like, "Every summer, I would travel to the wilds of Northern Maine, where I basked in the beauty of Mount Katahdin and the Penobscot Lake." Paint a vivid picture for your reader at every opportunity.
Use the present tense in your paper if you want to add excitement. Even if you are discussing an event that took place a while ago, write the paper as if you are reliving the moment.
Weave in your love of learning throughout the essay. You should show the judges how excited you are at the prospect of continuing your education and learning more in college. They want someone who will earn a degree, not drop out due to boredom or over-partying!

Letters of Recommendation

Most scholarships require a few letters of recommendation. These are letters written by someone who knows you well, whether it's a teacher, religious authority, or community leader. The letter should describe your personal characteristics and recommend you to go to college. It should be written by someone that knows you very well.

Students usually think that the more prominent the recommender, the more impressive it looks to the judges. This type of thinking, however, is erroneous. Most judges do not care if you get a letter from your favorite teacher or a senator. As long as the letter has a favorable tone, you are in the clear! Judges are not going to be impressed if you get a letter from a political figure or prominent individual who does not even know you.
The best types of people from whom to get a letter of recommendation include teachers, coaches, community leaders who know you, and employers. They should be able to type up a coherent, respectable letter that sings your praises. To make it easier on them, give them a letterhead, stamped envelope, and a brief description of what you would like the letter to say. Also, give them a copy of your transcript, a list of your hobbies and activities, and a resume if you have work experience. They may or may not take your advice, but it cannot hurt to ask.
Ask the people to write a letter for you at least a month in advance of when you need it. This will give them plenty of time to write a long, thoughtful missive rather than a hastily typed out letter. Remind them every week or so to write your letter in case they lead very busy lives.
You can start gathering letters of recommendation even before you start your search. It will give you time to pick out the best letters (if they let you read them). Most awards ask for letters from teachers or someone in power that knows you personally. File these letters in three-ring binders in case you ever want to use them for employment purposes or to scan onto your personal website.
Always write a short note or send a thank you letter to your writer. Just let them know how much you appreciate their help and that you will stay in touch regarding the award. A little gratitude goes a long way.

The Interview

The interview is one of the most nerve-wracking aspects of applying for scholarships. Most will not require an interview, but some will. If you have reached the interview process, then you should know that you are a strong contender to win the award. The judges were impressed enough with your resume, essay, transcript, and letters of recommendation to take the time to interview you.

Although you might have no idea what the judges will ask you, you can at least take the time to prepare answers to some basic questions in case they pop up during the interview.
Name your strengths and weaknesses

What are your long-term goals?

What would you do with the money?

Who do you admire the most and why?

What do you want to do after college?
If you sit down and type out some answers to these questions, you have won half the battle. Judges will ask you questions about yourself, so you should be able to articulate your answers quickly during the interview. Practice reading your answers in a mirror and then practice without the answers. Have a friend or relative ask you the questions and grade you on your responses.
Before you depart for your interview, map out the directions and give yourself plenty of time to get there. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early. There might be traffic or some other issue that will delay you, so plan accordingly. Lay out your outfit the night before so that you can quickly get dressed and out the door.
If you are not sure what you should wear to the interview, a "business casual" outfit might be sufficient. For boys, that means a button-down shirt, belt, dress shoes, and slacks. Women should wear a button-down blouse and dress pants or a skirt. Your outfit should be conservative enough to wear to a church. Avoid wearing jewelry, unless it is a simple pair of earrings or a watch. You want the judges to focus on your answers, not your jewelry or your outfit.
Right before you walk into the interview, head to the bathroom. Use the facilities and check your hair and outfit. Spray some breath freshener in your mouth if you need it. Finally, take a deep breath, gather up your documents, and head into the interview with a smile.

Myths about Scholarships

There are many myths floating around the Internet about scholarships. Information can get distorted when it is passed along several avenues, so here is a good place to start educating yourself about the TRUTHS.

Myth Number One: You need to be poor to get a scholarship.

Truth: Scholarships can be for financially needy individuals, or they can go to people with tons of money. Although many awards are for people who cannot afford college, many are not. Since there are a variety of offers out there, you are sure to find one that fits your financial situation. Some merely want to see good grades and an essay. Others want to see someone with a special talent or unique background.

Myth Number 2: You can only get a scholarship if you are in high school.

Truth: While many awards are geared toward high school students, there are plenty available for undergraduates or working people who have not set foot in a high school in years. In fact, there are several that go directly to people that have children, are over 30, or who have years of experience in the workforce. Some are specifically for people who might not otherwise have a chance of attending a college.

Myth Number 3: Finding scholarships will take me too long.

Truth: This is a lazy way of thinking. It is also untrue! Yes, it takes some time to search for scholarships and fill out the applications, but it is time well spent and can provide good payoff. Start your search now!

Myth Number 4: You have to have a high GPA to get a scholarship.

Truth: There are lots of awards for people who overachieve in school, but there are just as many that do not care about your grades. Some are based on a well-written essay or proof of leadership in your neighborhood. Maybe you did not do so well in school because you were working to support your family. There is an award for someone like you! The point is that you should not cut short your search just because your report card is not full of A's.

How to Win Award Money

It is good that you have now started to search for scholarships. Every hour you search might bring you closer to your goal - a college degree. Searching for money, however, is only half the battle. You need to print and fill out applications, write essays, gather documents, and prepare for interviews. It is a full time job! All of your hard work will pay off when you reach into your mailbox and pull out a fat check with your name on it! Here are some tips to help keep you on the right track:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the application process and learn new tricks to land a big check. Nobody is going to push you to search for scholarships every day, so make it a "job" and do it well!

  2. Mark down the deadlines on a master calendar or spreadsheet so you do not miss any. Check and double-check each application to make sure it is filled out completely and that it includes all of the required documents.

  3. Stay organized. Keep a spreadsheet of your scholarships listed by priority and deadline. Check off each one as you send it in. If you hear back from the providers, mark it down. Save copies of your applications in a folder.

  4. Scan your letters of recommendation into your computer in case you need them at a later date. Stock up on printer ink and paper!

  5. Spend a little time each day working on your applications. It is nearly impossible to finish your applications just prior to the deadline. It will look rushed and will not be your best work.

  6. Keep a positive attitude every day. Be confident in your ability to win award money. You do not have to be perfect to win a scholarship - you just need to get the attention of the judges.

Preparing Yourself for Scholarships

Students always want to know the best way to prepare themselves to win big money. The secret of getting multiple awards is to prepare, do research, and complete as many applications as possible. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Begin to prepare early. Kids can start as early as middle school to develop talents and do volunteer work. Join the school band, play a sport, or work at an animal shelter to make yourself a well-rounded individual! It looks good on applications to show that you have dedicated yourself to a particular talent, sport, or hobby through the years. It might also introduce you to a profession that you want to be involved in when you are older.

  2. Maintain good grades. Doing well in school is not all about intelligence - it takes organizational skills, perseverance, and practice, too! You might be a genius, but if you forget about doing your homework, your grades will slip. Start working on your grades as soon as you enter high school. These are the years when your grades really count.

  3. Get involved in your community. Maybe you belong to a religious organization, a political group, or believe in a cause. Getting involved with your hometown will help you appreciate your neighbors and make you feel like a good citizen. It also looks good on an application. Even children can start small businesses or charities with the help of an adult!

  4. There are lots of scholarships available. Do the research and apply.

  5. Build good relationships with teachers, coaches, and community leaders. You will need these adults to write letters of recommendation for you when you are ready to apply.

  6. Work on your essays diligently. Make the first sentence of the essay stand out and grab the reader! Getting the attention of the judges is half the battle. It does not have to sound like you are a perfect person, but it should allow the judges to get to know you as a person - faults and all.

How to Get an Excellent Recommendation Letter

The letter of recommendation can either make or break your application. Scholarship judges want to get someone else's opinion of your leadership skills, academic skills, and/or athletic talents to find out what kind of person you really are. Having a strong letter full of praise can elevate your application to the top of the list. You can start collecting letters of recommendation at any time in your academic career, but you want to get the "right" kind of person to write the letters. Just who is the "right" kind of person, you ask? It is somebody that is a strong community or school leader who can write well and recommend you to the judges.

  1. Ask people who know you very well to write a letter for you. Judges would rather read a letter from your high school science teacher than a Senator who barely knows your name.

  2. Look for people who have decent writing skills and seem willing to write a strong letter for you. If the person seems less than enthusiastic, you can politely withdraw your request or simply not use the letter he writes.

  3. Make appointments with people you want to write letters for you. It is better to arrange a short meeting than to surprise someone after class with your request. At the meeting, give the person a copy of your transcript and resume that details your hobbies, work experience, and grades. It will help him or her to write a good letter. Also let this person know what the committee is looking for so he can stress your talents. For example, if they are looking for someone who exhibits leadership skills, the letter-writer should mention your experience as student body president or as a school club leader.

  4. If they are to mail in their recommendation separately, give the person writing your recommendation a SASE (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope) that has the scholarship address already written for him or her. It makes it easy for this person to print out the letter, stuff it in the envelope, and simply drop it into a mailbox. Do everything you can to make his or her job easier.

  5. Send a thank you card or note after you ask for the letter. This person is taking valuable time out of his or her days to help you win the award. It will also remind him or her to mail the letters if they have not already been mailed.

Ten Tips for Winning an Award

As you get ready to apply to college and find money to pay for it, you will be inundated with advice from everyone you know. Every person who has been to college will try to give you tips on how to get scholarships and get into the best schools. These 10 tips below will summarize the best pieces of advice we have accumulated from a variety of providers:

  1. Follow the directions on the application. Do not add any extra information if they don't ask for it. When it comes to the essay question, stick to the topic at hand and don't go off on a tangent.

  2. Make sure you are eligible for the award. If the scholarship is specifically for women or ethnic minorities and you are neither, do not apply. It is a waste of everyone's time if there is no chance you might win.

  3. Make the application look neat. If possible, use a typewriter or computer to input the information. If you must handwrite it, use a black pen that writes smoothly and make your letters as legible as possible. If the judges cannot read it, it will probably end up in the trash.

  4. Fill out every blank spot you can find on the application, even if the question does not apply to you. If you cannot answer a question, write "N/A" in the blank spot so the judges know that you were not careless.

  5. Get several opinions on your essay before you submit it. Add lots of word imagery and descriptive language to make the essay come alive. You might think it looks perfect, but you may be overlooking some glaring grammatical or technical error. A few spelling mistakes can end your chances of winning that award.

  6. Watch the deadlines carefully and submit your applications as early as possible. It shows you have initiative and gives the judges plenty of time to look over your application.

  7. Make copies of everything before you submit them. You may want to mail your paper applications with a tracking number or delivery confirmation to make sure the judges receive them.

  8. Ask an English teacher for help with your essay. He can give you pointers and assist in editing your essay.

  9. Apply to every scholarship for which you are eligible, even if you do not think you will win one. Give yourself credit for your hard work and think positive!

  10. Always proofread your applications before submitting them. Ask someone else to look over the application, too. Judges see simple mistakes all the time that could have been avoided if the applicant had asked someone else to proofread the application.

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