Scholarship Opportunity

Get a college degree without drowning in student loan debt.

Scholarship Applications: The Cookie Cutter Approach

I’ve been talking with college students all over Vermont as part of a qualitative assessment of their experience as a NASA-funded scholar. For most students, this is the only scholarship they applied for. However, one smart young woman pointed out to me that “once you’ve applied for one scholarship, it’s pretty easy to just modify the application materials and apply for dozens of scholarships. The hardest part is finding the scholarships that you’re eligible for.” I call this the “Cookie Cutter Approach.”

Most scholarships have similar requirements:

The Cookie Cutter Approach to Scholarship Applications

Use the Cookie-Cutter Approach to Apply for Dozens of Scholarships with Ease

  • The Scholarship Application (online or hard copy)
  • Official Transcripts
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Resume
  • Personal Statement (or Essay)
  • SAT and/or ACT Scores

Only 2 of these requirements need to be customized for each scholarship you apply to — the Application and the Personal Statement (or Essay). If you retain copies of your application materials (which is strongly recommended), you can use them to complete other Applications and Essays. I recommend typing them into Word documents that you can simply cut-and-paste to create your customized Essay or Personal Statement as well as to drop text into an online application.

The bulk of the application requirements — Official Transcripts, Letters of Recommendation, Resume, and SAT/ACT Scores — are documents that you just need to copy and mail. Obviously, an Official Transcript must be in a sealed envelope or sent directly from your school. It’s easy enough to request a dozen or so Transcripts to be sent to you in individually sealed envelopes. That way you can just pull one out from your files and include it in your next scholarship application package.

More and more funding organizations are moving to online-only applications. In this case, you will need to scan your documents and create PDF files that can be uploaded. Once this is done, you will save considerable time because you can print the documents as needed or simply upload them.

Putting together a scholarship application package may seem difficult or time-consuming (and the first one usually is). However, if you’ve already done this once, there’s no reason not to apply for as many scholarships as possible using the “Cookie Cutter Approach.” Isn’t that what cut-and-paste is for?

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Why Do Scholarships Go Unawarded?

Student looking for ScholarshipsHaving recently graduated, I can say that it took hours, weeks, and months of dedicated work to search out the scholarships for which I was eligible. I searched through my lender resources, school resources, the local library, and online. Years later, I still get spam emails from the online searches I conducted. (TIP: Set up a dummy email account for researching scholarships.)

When I found a scholarship, the next steps were to:

  • Complete the Application (online or on paper),
  • Write a Personal Essay (in Word and online),
  • Obtain Letters of Recommendation (scan into PDF files too),
  • Current Resume (in Word and as a PDF), and
  • Assemble my college Transcript (also scan this into a PDF file).

Oddly, this took less time than tracking down scholarships.

So, why aren’t students applying for scholarships? Why do so many scholarships go unawarded?

  1. They can’t find legitimate scholarships
  2. They don’t have the time available to research scholarship opportunities
  3. They think they won’t qualify
  4. They think there’s too much competition
  5. They don’t think they have the time it takes to apply
  6. Scholarship deadlines conflict with midterms or finals

The first two reasons are true for most students. However, these issues are eliminated with the upcoming eBook series “Scholarship Opportunities.” The second two reasons (#3 and #4) are unfounded, as so many scholarships are not awarded due to a lack of applicants. As I said before, the time it takes to apply is substantially less than it does to conduct the research. Each time you apply for a scholarship it gets easier and faster.  You’ve already assembled many of the requested documents (PDF, Word docs, hard copy) so it’s just a matter of uploading or mailing. You’ve written essays and personal statements that you can cut-and-paste to create customized versions tailored to the next scholarship opportunity. In spite of deadlines falling during midterms or finals, if you have the documents ready and in multiple formats, you will be able to respond to a scholarship opportunity immediately.

So, don’t be intimidated. Look at the eligibility requirements and if you meet them, apply!

Filed under: Scholarship Tips & Tricks, , , , , ,

Getting Awarded a Scholarship Might Be Easier Than You Think

Little River Surveyors Tricia (left) and Gayle (right) on the job in Vermont.

Just a few weeks ago, I was hurrying home through an afternoon rainstorm. As I pulled up to my house, I found the driveway blocked by the Little River Survey Company‘s truck. Hopping out of my car, I ran through the rain. Dodging the drops as best I could, I headed for the surveyor’s tripod. I was thrilled that the property was being surveyed a month earlier than we had hoped (due to an early Spring or “Mud Month” as we call it here in Vermont). I was also excited to see that the two surveyors were women and one owned the business. Like many STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), land surveying remains a male-dominated field. Although women are still paid less then men for the same job, it’s important for us to enter into high-paying STEM careers.

It was refreshing to see two women conducting the survey and to meet a fellow female small business owner. We chatted briefly about our businesses. I shared that I was publishing an eBook series of Scholarship Opportunities. (The first book presents scholarships for women undergraduates and will be available in late June). Gayle followed in her father’s footsteps and became a surveyor. Tricia, the owner, told me she was a past president of The Vermont Society of Land Surveyors. She said VSLS offers a $2,000 scholarship for a Vermonter studying land surveying. She looked perplexed when she added that some years the scholarship isn’t awarded because no students apply. She was surprised that in these turbulent economic times and ever-increasing college costs, that students wouldn’t seek out a $2,000 scholarship.

Tricia is not the first nonprofit President that I’ve worked with who has expressed a similar situation. One funding source recently told me his organization has ongoing difficulty giving away five $5,000 scholarships for Native American STEM students. A national nonprofit has repeatedly extended their deadline because no one has applied for their $5,000/year scholarships. Apparently, only a fraction of these scholarships is awarded each year. Clients often ask, “Why aren’t college students applying for our scholarships?” Yet, on the other hand, students express to me how challenging it is to find legitimate, scam-free scholarships.

While it takes time to complete the application process for a scholarship, the rewards are well worth it. If scholarships are going unawarded because there is a lack of student applicants, the odds of getting the scholarship increase dramatically. The odds go up again if you are:

  • A woman;
  • A minority (Alaska Native, African American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, and Native American);
  • A first-generation student (one of your parents does not have a college degree);
  • A non-traditional student (older students, single parents, or those returning to college); or
  • A student with disabilities (physical, mental, or hidden)
  • A low-income student

This is due to federal mandates to increase the number of college degrees and jobs held by underrepresented groups. Even if the scholarship eligibility requirements do not specifically state this, the funding organization will certainly consider these qualities in your favor.

If you’re majoring in science, technology, engineering, or math, your chances increase yet again because the number of scholarships for STEM students far exceeds those available for other majors. Again, the US government and hiring companies are looking to fill STEM jobs now and in the future and they need an educated workforce.

So, don’t be intimidated. Look at the eligibility requirements and if you meet them, apply!

Filed under: Scholarship Tips & Tricks, , , , , , , , , ,

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