Planet with rings and stars
Ascent Blog

10 Scholarship Application Tips You Need To Know

Nov 11, 2021 | By: Jennifer Ly - SDSU Marketing Operations Intern
Categories: For Students, For Cosigners, For College Students, For High School Students
10 Scholarship Application Tips You Need To Know| Ascent Funding

If you were to see me at Costco, you would spot me going to every single sample line. But, do you know what’s better than free samples? Free money. Free money is given to students through scholarships every single day. Did you know there are more than 1.7 million private fellowships and scholarships awarded every year, with a  combined value of more than $7.4 billion?  

You probably dread scholarship application processes–I know that I do. Up until my second year of college, I never bothered to apply for any scholarships simply because I felt I had no chance of actually winning one. Applying for scholarships can be intimidating and exhausting because of the scholarship applications process. Not all scholarship applications are as simple and easy as Ascent’s scholarship giveaways, so I’m here to help with some tips I follow to secure scholarships every academic year.

Tip #1: Start Early

It’s really easy to put off scholarships, especially when many scholarships get announced months in advance. Something I’ve learned is that submitting your application as soon as possible pays off. Many “early priority” scholarship applications are only available on a “first-come, first-serve” basis. You should use this as an opportunity to gather all the early perks and the information you need to submit your application, whether it’s deadlines, requirements, or lists of other scholarships. 

Tip #2: Map it Out

It’s so beneficial to take some time and gather all the information needed to map out your game plan to stay organized. Making a cohesive list with deadlines and requirements (e.g., letter of recommendation, volunteer experience) can help you stay on top of things. The last thing you want is to miss a deadline after putting so much effort into the scholarship thus far.

Tip #3: Look Everywhere for Scholarships

Your current school’s scholarship portal is the first place you should look at when finding new scholarship opportunities. Stay up to date with any announcements your school may have, whether it’s through financial aid officers, advisors, portals, or school emails. However, don’t limit yourself to only applying for scholarships through your school. If you happen to be a student with dual enrollment, look into your other school’s scholarship portal as well! There are also local scholarships within cities and communities and larger-scale scholarships nationwide. 

Many scholarship matching tools can expose you to more private scholarship options and link you to opportunities you may be interested in applying for outside of your school. Ascent offers a $1,000 scholarships per month called the Shining Stars Scholarship which are open to most students 14+ (see official rules for more details). They’re as easy as other Instagram giveaways you might see without any complicated essays! Applying for scholarships doesn’t always mean writing essays. 

Tip #4: Don’t Knock The Idea of Applying, Even if You Don’t Meet All Qualifications

Like job listings, applying for a scholarship can be overwhelming. There are a lot of preferences listed for the ideal candidate, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply. Except for private scholarships that may have more strict requirements, there are some scholarships where you may be almost eligible. In those cases, of course, prioritize the scholarships you completely qualify for first and circle back to the other scholarships if you have the time. Don’t count yourself out and apply anyway – you never know what could come of it.

Tip #5: Don’t be an Essay Repeater

Look, I get it. Writing essays is time-consuming, and it can be tempting to reuse your essays, especially when topics and prompts are similar. However, there are some things you may want to look out for before doing that. If you are applying for scholarships from the same organization/sponsor, be sure to keep in mind that the scholarship committee in charge of reviewing applications may consist of the same team of people. Someone who reviewed one of the essays may be the same person who will check the other essays.

There are ways to recycle essays properly. Because essay topics and answers may be similar, using previous essays as templates, guides, and even reusing portions of the essays are possible. There will still be differences in some aspects, whether it’s word count or formatting, which is why it’s important to pay close attention to what the essay question is asking. There may be parts of your essay you’re revising that will miss some things or mention things unrelated to the prompt.

Tip #6: Apply to All Types of Scholarships

Though I don’t encourage you to go out and apply to every single scholarship blindly, I do encourage you to be open to applying for scholarships you’re eligible for, whether the award amount is small or big. Any award amount is still free money. Many people also tend to shut down the idea of applying for the harder scholarship applications with lengthy processes requiring you to do a little more, such as ones with letters of recommendation or longer essays. However, the harder applications tend to have fewer people applying and more awards available, so give those a try!

Tip #7: Get Personal

With so many people applying to the same scholarship, getting personal is the key to your writing. Unlike book reports you write for class, first-person pronouns like “I” and “me” are a-okay and preferred in scholarship applications. Personal statements may be hard to start, but you ultimately want to distinguish yourself to tell your story. Be clear and authentic while illustrating your ideas through your writing. With a crowd of applications, being unique brings you the advantage of being remembered.

Tip #8: Make Sure You Satisfy All the Requirements

You want to put just as much attention into these essays as you did for college admission essays. Meaning, getting around to fact-checking and even having a friend proofread your essay would be very beneficial in catching any requirements left out by mistake. Perhaps you might have gone over the word limit, formatted the essay in single space instead of double, or listed four things instead of the five it asked for in the prompt. The last thing you want to find out is that you didn’t get the scholarship due to formatting issues.

Tip #9: Post-Scholarship Application and Accepting Your Award

First and foremost, congratulations on winning a well-deserved scholarship! Winning a scholarship is exciting and shows that your work is inspiring and well-received. The money awarded doesn’t have to be repaid and can help you fund your education. There is some work you have to do afterward to receive your award.

Every scholarship application and post-scholarship award acceptance process is different, but most additional steps will require you to accept the prize once you win it formally. A thank you letter to either the person or scholarship committee is most often the follow-up. Some scholarships will ask you to attend a ceremony, so be sure to read the fine print. Next, be diligent in monitoring to make sure you receive your award in your account. It’s also a great idea to save the essays and application materials for future reference!

Tip #10: Don’t Give Up

Winners don’t give up, and, likely, successful scholarship winners are often students that keep trying. You can only get better with more time, experience, and familiarity with the scholarship application process.

Keep on looking out for scholarship opportunities and keep applying for scholarships, good luck! To help you get started, check out Ascent’s scholarship giveaways this month.

Symbol icon

Join the Ascent community!

Stay in the loop with finance tips, scholarship resources, product updates, and more.