How to write a great scholarship application

How to write a great scholarship application


Are you beginning to search and apply for college scholarships? Marymount University’s Admissions team has seen many applications, read numerous essays and sat through a number of interviews with applicants for prestigious awards. Based on these experiences, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you begin to apply for scholarships.

1. Research scholarship opportunities early

Your application won’t win you a scholarship if you submit it after the deadline has passed! It may be obvious, but a tardy application won’t make it to the top of the pile. Sometimes, students learn about additional opportunities after they have been admitted to their top choice school, but students (and their families) should know prior to May 1 whether or not additional scholarships will be necessary to fund their education. Call the schools you’ve applied to and ask about scholarship opportunities and deadlines, even before you’ve been accepted.

2. Pay attention to the details

After you’ve done your research, there are many details involved in applying for scholarships. Many require applicants to submit letters of recommendation from a high school teacher or guidance counselor, write essays or come in for an interview. Before submitting an application, it’s important to be aware of all of these extra pieces. Students should also read the guidelines of the scholarships to which they are applying. For example, if a certain scholarship stipulates that you must create and wear a duct-tape outfit to prom, then only those individuals qualify for that particular scholarship! Scholarship foundations are set up with particular students or goals in mind that they would like to promote. Be willing to search for the right ones that match your interests and abilities, instead of applying for ones that don’t accurately reflect who you are.

3. Take your time on the scholarship application

If you have followed these first two tips, then you have put yourself in a great position to submit an excellent scholarship application. Committees can tell when a student spends 15 minutes on their entire application versus a student who took the time to compose a thoughtful essay that speaks directly to the prompt. They can also tell if you have taken the time to choose solid references, a crucial part of the application process. For example, it’s important to use an academic figure for an academic scholarship. Likewise, if it’s a faith-oriented scholarship, ask a spiritual leader to provide a recommendation.

4. Compose a great essay

In any scholarship application, the essay is your chance to stand out. You should answer the prompt in a clear manner, while also letting the committee know a little more about who you are. This can be tricky, but scholarship committees that don’t conduct interviews have only the essay to determine whether or not you should receive that particular scholarship. Always have someone review your essay to catch any grammatical errors, while also ensuring you are answering the prompt and representing yourself well. 

5. Be prepared to brag about yourself!

This is not the time to be modest and skimp on details about that interesting research project you completed in 11th grade. The more detailed and specific students are with their areas of interest and experiences, the more interested a committee will be in them as a candidate. If a certain scholarship requires an interview, this is the perfect time to brag! Prepare for the interview by going over your résumé of academic and personal achievements so that you can clearly articulate them to an interviewer.

After completing all of these steps, your scholarship application should be on the right track! This can be a long and, at times, daunting process, but know that there are countless scholarships available to students — you just need to spend some time researching opportunities. Aside from these tips, we encourage you to contact the schools to which you are applying so that you fully understand each school’s process for scholarship applications. Good luck!