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Big Things Come In Small Packages Scholarship Essay


Would you rather spend hours applying for scholarships or years paying off student loan debt? Us, too. Here are our best tips for finding scholarships and creating the most successful submissions.

1. Apply for local scholarships

Many communities offer local scholarships through clubs, organizations, small businesses, and benefactors. The odds of winning these scholarships are greater because they’re open to a smaller group of students. Here’s how to find local scholarships:

  • Check with your teachers and guidance counselor
  • Search local media websites, like television and radio stations
  • Check community portals
  • Use geographical Internet searches, like “scholarships in Texas”
  • Ask people who graduated
  • Use a personalized scholarship search tool like our Scholarship Match or the Scholarship Search tool in the premium version of the MONEY College Planner

2. Apply for scholarships with smaller awards

Many students look for scholarships that offer the biggest bucks—but those are also the most competitive. Scholarships with smaller awards usually have fewer applicants, so your chances of winning may be higher. These scholarships can help with college costs like books, supplies, and living expenses. Paying off those smaller expenses can quickly add up to big savings.

3. More work = fewer applicants = better chances

Many students avoid scholarships that require a lot of work, such as essays, videos, and projects. As a result, the applicant pool is much smaller, which means greater chances for you. Scholarships with essays over 1,000 words often have fewer than 500 applicants, compared to the 5,000 students who enter easier scholarships.

4. Get personal

Instead of burning yourself out applying for every scholarship you qualify for, have some fun! Apply for scholarships that fit your interests and that you’ll enjoy. There are scholarships for everyone under the sun: zombie lovers, vegetarians, Magic: The Gathering players … the list goes on and on. The more personal the scholarship, the more likely your passion will show through, resulting in a better submission.

Related:99 Colleges That Give Everyone a Scholarship

5. Don’t introduce yourself in your essay

It’s cliché and may even get you disqualified. Many scholarship committees conduct blind readings, and essays that include names or other identifiers are immediately discarded. Get to the point as quickly as possible.

6. Don’t repeat the essay prompt

No one wants to reread the same sentence hundreds of times a day. Be original! Use the beginning of your essay to showcase your personality and set yourself apart from the crowd. Try starting your essay by setting the scene for a story or jumping directly into your answer.

7. Don’t use quotes

Your essay should be about you. The best essays are unique and stand out from the competition, so be original and use your own words.

8. Satisfy all the requirements

You can write the best essay in the world, but if the prompt asks for a list of five things, and you only list four, you may be disqualified. Make sure you answer every question and accurately meet every requirement.

Related:How to Write a Better College Essay (video)

9. Stick to the word limit

Get as close to the word limit as you can, but don’t go over. Exceeding the word limit may disqualify you.

10. Proofread

Spelling and grammar mistakes may get you disqualified. Make sure to proofread your essay at least twice and ask your parents and friends to look it over, too. The more eyes, the better.

11. Submit early

Don’t wait until the due date, just in case there’s a problem with the site, the Internet connection, or your computer.

12. Apply for as many scholarships as you can

The tip we hear the most from scholarship winners is to apply for as many scholarships as you can. Treat it like a part-time job and set aside several hours every month to look for and apply for scholarships. You should continue applying for scholarships for as long as you’re in school.

Related:The 25 Best Private Colleges for Merit Aid

13. Don’t give up!

If you don’t win, don’t take it personally, and DON’T GIVE UP! Like most things in life, the most successful scholarship winners are the ones who keep trying. Find scholarships that you’re passionate about and keep applying. Good luck!

Scholarship expert Unigo is a content partner of the MONEY College Planner.

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The essay: It’s the most important part of your scholarship application, and it can be the hardest.

But, the essay shouldn’t keep you from applying. Take a look at some commonly asked essay questions and use them to prepare for your scholarship applications. Brainstorm ideas, do some research or create your own “stock” of scholarship essays.

Your Field of Specialization and Academic Plans

Some scholarship applications will ask you to write about your major or field of study.

These questions are used to determine how well you know your area of specialization and why you’re interested in it.

Samples:

• How will your study of _______ contribute to your immediate or long range career plans?
• Why do you want to be a _______?
• Explain the importance of (your major) in today’s society.
• What do you think the industry of _______ will be like in the next 10 years?
• What are the most important issues your field is facing today?

Current Events and Social Issues

To test your skills at problem-solving and check how up to date you are on current issues, many scholarship applications include questions about problems and issues facing society.

Samples:

• What do you consider to be the single most important societal problem? Why?
• If you had the authority to change your school in a positive way, what specific changes would you make?
• Pick a controversial problem on college campuses and suggest a solution.
• What do you see as the greatest threat to the environment today?

Personal Achievements

Scholarships exist to reward and encourage achievement. So you shouldn’t be surprised to find essay topics that ask you to brag a little.

Samples:

• Describe how you have demonstrated leadership ability both in and out of school.
• Discuss a special attribute or accomplishment that sets you apart.
• Describe your most meaningful achievements and how they relate to your field of study and your future goals.
• Why are you a good candidate to receive this award?

Background and Influences

Who you are is closely tied to where you’ve been and who you’ve known. To learn more about you, some scholarship committees will ask you to write about your background and major influences.

Samples:

• Pick an experience from your own life and explain how it has influenced your development.
• Who in your life has been your biggest influence and why?
• How has your family background affected the way you see the world?
• How has your education contributed to who you are today?

Future Plans and Goals

Scholarship sponsors look for applicants with vision and motivation, so they might ask about your goals and aspirations.

Samples:

• Briefly describe your long- and short-term goals.
• Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
• Why do you want to get a college education?

Financial Need

Many scholarship providers have a charitable goal: They want to provide money for students who are going to have trouble paying for college. In addition to asking for information about your financial situation, these committees may want a more detailed and personal account of your financial need.

Samples:

• From a financial standpoint, what impact would this scholarship have on your education?
• State any special personal or family circumstances affecting your need for financial assistance.
• How have you been financing your college education?

Random Topics

Some essay questions don’t seem directly related to your education, but committees use them to test your creativity and get a more well-rounded sense of your personality.

Samples:

• Choose a person or persons you admire and explain why.
• Choose a book or books and that have affected you deeply and explain why.

While you can’t predict every essay question, knowing some of the most common ones can give you a leg up on applications. Start brainstorming now, and you may find yourself a winner!

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