by Bill Reynolds
Bill, whose son won 10 scholarships, shared seven excellent tips on how to make your scholarship application stand out. I liked his tips so much, I’ve given them their own page! Many thanks to Bill for sharing his experiences!
Tip #1. ATTENTION TO DEADLINES
Try and have your application arrive EARLY as possible, absolutely not after the deadline date! I like to send applications with a “return receipt requested” or “registered” to make sure they get there. I think that this also conveys a positive characteristic about the sender.
Tip #2 START YOUR APPLICATION WITH A “THANK YOU” COVER LETTER
Sample Packet Cover Letter
1111 WinOne Street
Pensacola, Fl 32503
9 September 1999
Mary Smith, President
Whatever Scholarship Committee
Orlando Central Parkway
Orlando, Florida (zip code)
Dear Ms. Smith,
This letter is an introduction of myself, (your name), and my desire to participate in the (whatever it is called) Scholarship Program. I have been accepted to (Name of your College) for the 1999 fall term.
I would like to thank you and the (whatever) Scholarship Committee for supporting college bound students with an opportunity for financial assistance through your scholarship program. Enclosed you will find my application form, high school transcript, ACT results, letters of recommendation, and other pertinent information. Again, thank you for your interest on my behalf and for the youth of our state.
Tip #3 ANSWER THE “MAIL”
While this seems obvious, you must construct your application to make it EASY for the committee to see that you have provided every thing that was required. I like to provide items in the order that they are listed in the application. If possible, do not mix items on the same page. In another tip I am going to tell you to add extra items that were not requested to give your application that something extra. However, DO NOT add extra items if you are specifically told not to add anything extra. This means that you can not follow directions if you add items when your are forbidden to do so.
Tip #4 ADD EXTRA ITEMS TO YOUR APPLICATION (if not forbidden).
This is where you get to be creative to find ways and things that present you in a positive light to the selection committee. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. Write a short essay on MY EDUCATION/CAREER GOALS. Try to keep to one page but no more than two.
2. Write a paragraph or two on how this scholarship award will help you reach your education/career goals.
3. My son’s guidance counselor gave him a paper that congratulated him on being in the top 10% of his class and acknowledged his hard work to get there. We included this because it put him in a “positive light” and his hard work at his academics was recognized.
4. Before my son reached his 18th birthday, he registered for the Military Draft as required for all males when they reach the age of 18. He received a letter from the draft board congratulating him for doing his civic duty prior to his 18th birthday. You guessed it, this was also one of our “extra items”. A lot of scholarship committee members have military backgrounds or see this as good citizenship for this applicant.
5. One of the best extra items is a letter of acceptance for admission to “any” college. If the scholarship application is not for a specific college, you will be able to use the award at “any” college. You do not have to use it at the college you used in your application. Later you can get more college acceptance letters and when your make your selection you can notify the scholarship award committee of where to send the award. Therefore, any letter of acceptance shows that your are serious but it does not “lock” you into using the award at that college.
These are just a few examples to get you thinking. I would limit my extras to three or four at the most. Too many and you “sour” your application. Again, MAKE SURE you are not forbidden to add extra items before you do so.
Be creative to find things that make you look good and share them with the committee.
Tip #5 PERSONALIZE LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION
This is a tip that conveys you took the time to make this application special. When you have a letter of recommendation addressed to the specific organization or person that is administering the application process it says that you took the time and effort to make this letter “Special” for them. If all you have is a letter that starts “To Whom It May Concern”, it is better than nothing. But if you can personalize the letter it says you cared to send the very best.
SUB TIP #5a Offer to do the work for the writer of your letter of recommendation. For example, you want to apply to twenty scholarship programs. When you ask someone to write you “1” letter of recommendation they say sure. When you say you need twenty letters they say “sorry” I don’t have the time. Once they write you one letter, ask if you can put it on the computer so the TO ADDRESSEE can be personalized for each application and your writer only has to “sign their name twenty times”. Now your writer is happy to help you because you have done the work and make it easy for them to help you. If they have nice letter head, ask for blank copies to be used in this process.
SUB TIP #5b This is an “ADD EXTRA ITEM/s” when the application does not require a letter of recommendation.
SUB TIP #5c Try and get three to five letters of recommendation in your files. This will let you pick and choose which one or ones to send in for a specific application. I would never send more than three for an application unless the directions ask for more. I will cover some tips to give your recommendation writer in a later TIP.
TIP #6 – PROOF READ ALL MATERIALS and NEATNESS IS A MUST
When you write anything you must use correct grammar and spelling. If you have a problem in this area ask your English teacher to help you with proofreading your essay, cover letter, extra items you have included, and even letters of recommendation prepared by others. When there are hundreds or thousands of applications to review, correctness and neatness become the first screen out factor. Only when the “pile” is smaller does the content of your application start to become a factor in the selection process.
TIP # 7 – SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION IN A CLEAR PLASTIC FOLDER
Now that your application is complete, the final “presentation” tip is to place all of your items in a clear plastic folder, with a slide locking binder. I like the cheap clear ones so that your “Thank You Cover Letter” (Tip #2) is on top. For that final “touch” I also like to include a wallet size picture of the student in the lower left side of your packet. The next item/s in you application packet are those required in the application (Tip #3 Answer the mail). Next I add any extra items (if not forbidden) and finally I place any letter(s) of recommendations.
If “extras” are forbidden, you should consider NOT using a plastic folder, however, this can be a judgement call on your part. Read the application carefully again regarding extras. Some judges feel the plastic folders “give them more work” (to remove the applications from the plastic folder) while others have no problem with it, even though they may forbid extras. I know, this can be confusing!
Your application packet is a great looking presentation of YOU, don’t mess it up by folding it to fit a small envelope. Use an 8X10 type envelope so your application arrives looking great. Consider sending it “Return Receipt Requested” so you know it arrived!