Money, Scholarships

How to Win a Nationally Competitive Scholarship

Comments Off on How to Win a Nationally Competitive Scholarship 10 December 2015

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Students looking to get the most “free money” for college can’t ignore the high-value, nationally competitive scholarships like Gates Millennium Scholars, AXA Achievement Award, Jack Kent Cooke and others.

On the other hand, applying (and winning!) these scholarships takes time, effort, and confidence—but the payoff could be huge.   Here are 5 need-to-know things to get the best shot at winning one of these nationally competitive, high-value scholarships:

  1. Don’t procrastinate—start your search early.

The earlier you start, the more time you have to find and apply for scholarships you are eligible for.  While there are a few prestigious scholarships that you may already know about, do your research to look for additional scholarships and learn about the scholarship application process for each one.


You may want to start searching for scholarships as early as your junior year. Most competitive scholarships have pretty rigorous application processes and may require quite a bit of preparation and close attention to detail to ensure you’ve done everything correctly. Start by making a list or spreadsheet with basic information like deadlines, required materials, and eligibility requirements.


  1. Be confident.

Just because the number of applicants is way larger than the number of scholarship winners, or you just barely meet the required GPA or standardized test scores, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still apply.  There are many portions of the application that you can use to your advantage to highlight your qualifications or story. Taking the time to apply—and being confident in what you bring to the applicant pool—can help you win scholarships that may seem out of reach.


  1. Share your story.

One of the most important things you can do to make your application stand out to a scholarship committee is making sure that you tell your story.  You can do this in a few different ways: through an essay question, interview, or other short-answer application questions.


There are many possibilities when it comes to ways to make your personal story show that you are the best candidate for a scholarship.  Share a bit about your background, or about a life-changing experience, moment or person that influenced you.   You have a very unique set of skills, experiences, and influences; when you apply to scholarships, take the time to make them shine!


  1. Put yourself in the scholarship committee’s shoes.

When completing your applications, a good way to consider what the scholarship committee is looking for is to think about how they will critically evaluate your application—they are, after all, not just giving out money to anyone.  The committee will be looking for candidates that will give them the best return on their investment. This can be determined by how well a candidate demonstrates their ability and potential to work hard, succeed, and make the world a better place. Your application should make the ways you have and will accomplish these goals a main focus.


  1. Plan ahead so you don’t miss out.

By now, you’ve found scholarships, checked all the requirements, and have begun to apply—make sure you finish! This may seem obvious, but take your time to draft and edit your essays, collect your materials (like transcripts and letters of recommendation), and answer all of the application questions. Don’t wait until the last minute to make a timeline of application deadlines and for collecting and revising application materials! There may be issues you encounter during the application process, and starting early can help give you the time to deal with them before the deadline passes. Having extra time will also allow you to make sure you’ve done your best to check and double-check your application.

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