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5 Essential Elements of a Great Scholarship Application

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by Shah J. Chaudhry

Okay, after going through the various types of scholarships you’ve completed your scholarship search and finally narrowed down your options to a selected few scholarships that completely suit your needs. Now the next step is to develop a first class scholarship application. In order to create a great scholarship application, the first thing you need to do is get organized. Start out with creating a file and start compiling copies of all the work you have submitted. Secondly, start making your resume. Your resume should list details of your high school career, work experience and any social groups you belong to. Next, you sort all the scholarships available according to the scholarship application due dates and finally, make a list of requirements that each scholarhips application asks for.

There are four basic elements of the scholarship application process:
# Letter(s) of recommendation
# Transcript
# Personal statement (essay)
# Activity Sheet
# Interview
The rest of the article explains in detail about the 5 essential components of the scholarship application.

Letters of Recommendation:
Most scholarships require (as part of the scholarship application process) you to submit a letter of recommendation as part of the scholarship application. This letter of recommendation can come from your high school teacher, an alumni, some prominent member of your community, or your employer. These letters are basically needed because the scholarship sponsors want to analyze your strengths and attributes from a point of view different than your own.

The first thing you should keep in mind is to make a request of a letter of recommendation early so you aren’t panicking on the time of submission of the scholarship application. It should be well before your deadline so that the person who is writing the letter of recommendation has plenty of time to write a good and strong letter. You should notify the person when the scholarship application deadline is and contact them a few times before the deadline to remind them and see how the letter is going.

When you are selecting someone to write a letter of recommendation for your scholarship application, it is a wise decision to ask someone who knows you very well and admires you for the person you are and for what you have achieved. A person who knows you well can talk about your strengths and weaknesses better and can describe your accomplishments in a proper manner as compared to someone who does not know you very well.

As part of your scholarship application, make sure that you provide information about yourself to the person who is going to write the letter of recommendation. Give them your resume, your writing samples and other documents that display your talents and abilities. Talk to the writer and discuss the kind of image you are intending to portray and which part of your personality should be emphasized. Another thing you can do in order to help the person in writing a letter of recommendation for your scholarship application is to provide a written description of the scholarship so that the writer knows what you are applying for. As mentioned before, clearly inform the writer of the deadline of your scholarship application.

Lastly, don’t forget to write a thank-you note to the person who has written the letter of recommendation for your scholarship application.

Often, scholarship applications require a transcript from all of the schools you have previously attended. You should request this information from all of your past educational institutions as soon as possible. Sometimes, schools charge fee to issue official transcripts. Once you have contacted your past schools and requested a transcript, call them after a couple of weeks and make sure that they have mailed the your transcript to the proper address. In case you are delivering the transcript yourself, then make sure that you let it remain sealed and do not tamper with it because it may make the transcript invalid and ruin one of the most important elements of your scholarship application.

Personal statement (essay)
Several scholarship committees require students to submit an essay along with their application. There are several purposes due to which the scholarship committees require an essay. One of the main reasons is that these scholarship committees want to see a sample of your writing, and that they want to get to know the applicant. Another purpose is to enable the applicants to share something about themselves that may not be reflected in the statistics and facts they have provided. The essay is also very important because it allows the applicants to express their individuality and gives the scholarship committees an opportunity to know them.

The only way students can improve their chances of being selected from a huge pool of applicants competing for scholarships is by writing a stellar personal essay as a part of their application.

The way you write your application essay distinguishes you from the other applicants. It provides information about you that your quantitative data cannot.

The application essay is a result of hard work, often requiring countless drafts and several weeks of writing and rewriting. There are many approaches to writing the essay. There are some people who can sit down for six hours before the deadline and come up with a good essay, while others have to work laboriously for months writing and rewriting before turning in the finished product.

A good essay will distinguish you from the other applicants. Reviewers looks for essays that are consistent and reflect your life experiences, commitment to education and personal characteristics. Sometimes a common experience can also be memorable and influential. You may also decide to write about your knowledge about a certain ethnic groups or about some hardships you overcame. Essays should show the depth of your accomplishment and the quality of your character. It does not depend on what experience you choose to write about as long as it is appropriate and you should elaborate on the insights you have gained from that experience and they way it has influenced your life.

The people on the scholarship committee will be looking for reasons why you would be a good candidate, and why should you be granted the scholarship. Therefore, to present yourself in the best possible light, you could start out by making your essay flawless and following all the standards and requirements.

Your essay should be typed, double spaced, and should preferably use a twelve-point font with a standard font such as Times New Roman, and the margins should be standard size. It is very much preferable if your essay length is within the given limit, but if it is longer make sure it is no longer than ten percent. Try to make your essay as clear and concise as possible. Avoid sloppiness and stylistic errors. Make sure your essay satisfies certain basic requirements; you should pay attention on answering the essay question. Answer the question directly and address all its parts. Your essay should be well organized, logical, written with flow and easy to follow. The tone should be appropriately serious, sincere and modestly confident.

The first step in writing the essay is brainstorming. It is the process of coming up with ideas spontaneously from free flowing writing or talking. To brainstorm, you can simply sit down with a pen and jot down every idea that comes into your head. Another approach is to simply start writing and see where you end up. Record as much information as you can recall, such as schools attended, courses taken, jobs held, research projects undertaken. After you have jotted down the most basic and raw information possible, work on taking yourself deeper into the introspection process by tackling more specific topics.

Once you have completed the brainstorming process, you’ll have a rough idea of what you actually want to write about. So after that, you have to select the essay topic. When selecting a topic, you should keep in mind to choose a topic that allows you to demonstrate your skills and individuality, a topic that answers the essay question while telling the reviewers what they really want to know. While deciding on the topic of your application, keep in mind that you have to keep the reader interested while at the same time, revealing something about yourself in a way that makes you an ideal applicant.

After you have selected the essay topic, get down to actual writing. The key to a good essay is revising and re-revising. Revising is an integral part of essay writing and it is only after a great amount of revising that you can come up with an excellent essay. Once the revising is done and over with, you have your final draft before you. Be sure to avoid sloppiness and poor English. Also avoid biases against any religion, sexist comments, whining and politics. And of course, be sure to keep a printed copy of your final draft.

Activity Sheet
As mentioned before, some scholarships committees ask you to provide an activity sheet. An activity sheet is simply a list of all the clubs you have belonged to, all the sports you have played, all the hobbies you have, all the awards you have gotten, all the volunteer work or paid jobs you have done et cetera. Make sure that all of these things are stated clearly on your activity sheet, some committees ask you to list them down in a chronological order while others require you to list these activities down in order of importance. The purpose of the activity sheet is that the scholarship committees want to know how much time you devote to the other things in life and how important extra curricular activities are to you. You should list down all the things that hold importance to you even if they are not organized is proper clubs or committees. The scholarship committees want to know all about your activities.

Some scholarship committees take interviews, usually as a part of the final selection process. This is because the scholarship committees want to meet you to make sure that you are a personification of all the values and activities and academics you have discussed in your application. You can use this interview as an opportunity to talk about your interests and your plans for future education. You should dress formally and arrive at least 15 minutes before the interview is scheduled. Do not let the interview make you nervous, just remember at all times that all the scholarship committee wants to do is try to get to know you better.

There are many different scholarships and each scholarship has its own specified criteria. However, there are a few factors that are common in most scholarship applications. Those factors are listed below:
# Academic standing (class rank)
# Weighted GPA
# Standardized test scores
# Extra curricular activities
# Submitted essay
# Letters of recommendation
# Financial need
# Work experience
# School and community/civic participation
# Attendance record
# Potential for success
# Higher educational and vocational aspirations
# Written communication skills
# Character strengths (such as motivation, persistence, resourcefulness, etc.)
# Demonstrated skills, aptitudes or experience

As mentioned before, different scholarship committees look for different things. Some scholarship committees might consider your academic records and do not even ask you for your educational aspirations, while others might only consider your financial needs and not ask you for your work experience. Scholarship committees might sometimes only consider one or two of the factors listed above or sometimes, they might consider all of these factors.

Most students seem to believe that the competition amongst people applying for scholarships is so fierce that it is only the most brilliant and outstanding students who are granted these scholarships. And due to this misconception, a lot of students fail to apply for scholarships. The truth is, that scholarships are not awarded to students who are brilliantly outstanding; it is true that some scholarships consider academic brilliance but there are a lot of scholarships that concentrate more on extra circular activities and special talents of students.

Apply to as many scholarships as you are eligible for, and make sure that you complete your application well before the deadline. Have your application proofread before you send it. Good luck!

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