Outside College Scholarships Part III: Time is Money…Making the Process Efficient
by Kathy de Jong, Independent Educational Consultant
The process of searching for outside scholarships and applying for them with the hopes of winning, can be overwhelming. But, if you can find efficiencies in the process, you can reduce the time commitment and maximize the return on that time investment. Before you read on, please visit the first two blogs in this series.
Now you are ready to get organized and efficient. Here are 4 tips/strategies I recommend based on my high school senior daughter and I working together. Results may vary…I say this because teenagers are always a wild-card.
- Spread the work around. Make it a family commitment, not just a student commitment. My daughter and I developed a pretty good system. I did the scholarship search. She did the applications. I reviewed her application and essays to make sure they were her best work. She submitted everything. Frankly, for most students with lots of after-school activities on top of homework, there is little time for searching for scholarship opportunity gems. I spent hours upon hours sifting through scholarship opportunities; she spent her available hours on the actual applications. Essentially, we both had taken on part-time jobs, and we understood our goal.
- Develop an online scholarship logging and tracking system. Finding free time to talk about scholarships and progress during senior year was difficult. I developed a Google spreadsheet that she could access from anywhere, so when she had a 30 minutes free, she could quickly see the next scholarship/deadline on her list and work on it. The columns on the spreadsheet included “Mom’s Notes”, “Organization Name”, “Organization Link”, “Application Link”, “Eligibility”, “Selection Criteria”, “Application Opens”, “Application Deadline”, “# of Scholarships”, “Award Amount(s)”, “Renewable?”, and “Status”. Use column titles that are meaningful to you. Pasting links into the spreadsheet made it easy to go directly to the needed page. You’ll notice “Mom’s Notes” is the first column. I started with it placed at the end, and important information I was trying to point out got overlooked. It might be something important like, “This application needs to be mailed, not emailed or submitted online so complete it a week early.” Yes, she had an application all done only to find she couldn’t submit it the day it was due – lesson learned.
- Essays are the big time consumer, but only at first if you organize them correctly. Most all scholarships require one or more essays. Have the student create an index (another spreadsheet or table) which includes each essay they write for scholarships or college applications. Include the prompt, the number of words, where they used the essay and create a list of tags to use to be able to quickly figure out what essay might be able to be repurposed in another application. Some suggested tags (theme’s really) may be “future major/career”, “volunteer/service”, “meaningful experience”, “Activities”, “hardship/challenge”. If the student has a special skill, unique attribute, talent or expertise, create a tag for that as well. They may be applying for scholarships specifically for that attribute.
- Yes, Repurpose the essays! While some scholarships may have some very unique essay prompts, most fall into a handful of theme’s as mentioned in #3. This isn’t to say that additional work may be needed to tweak the essay to fit a different word count, or answer a second question within a prompt, but reusing essay copy is a big time saver. However, if the first essay wasn’t very good, consider giving in a rewrite the next time to make it a stand-out essay. To be awarded scholarships, essays, which make up a huge part of the decision process, need to be extremely well thought out, well written with no spelling or grammatical errors, and make the reader want you to have the money because of your compelling story. But, once you’ve got it right, it can work for you over and over with little extra effort! Just make sure you can get your hands on the essays quickly and save each version.
Now you’ve got the tools to do a successful scholarship process. Just remember, there are no guarantees, and winning is often a matter of how much effort you put into it. Apply smart, be efficient and make improvements along the way.
College in 3-2-1 offers essay writing advising for:
- College Application Personal Statements
- Individual College Supplemental Essays
- Scholarship Essays
Let us know how we can help.
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