A lot of us tend to think of scholarships like they’re the lottery, and that even the best ones are completely chosen at random. That couldn’t be further from the truth, though, as the sponsor of a scholarship is putting their reputation on the line to help get you through college. Instead, there are a few things that you need to do to make sure that you’re actually getting recognized in the scholarship process.
If you’ve been applying around for scholarships but haven’t heard anything back, you might need a little bit of help. Thankfully, we have a few hacks to share that will help get your scholarship application noticed and on top of the pile. Here are our top five hacks:
1. Fish and the Pond
One of the first things that scholarship sponsors are looking for is to see how you did in your class. If you rank in the bottom half or even the 26th-50th percentile, your chances of a scholarship are going to almost always be based on financial need. However, those that are in the top 25 percent and especially in the top five percent are going to get some serious looks.
With that in mind, make sure to take a look at your class size. If you’re already a bright student that’s carrying a 3.9 grade point average but are in a large class size, that might not be enough to be in the top one or two percent. However, if there’s a chance to transfer to a smaller school where that 3.9 GPA is going to stand out above the rest. Think of it as a star football player taking a starting job at a small school instead of riding the bench at Alabama.
2. Help Your Community
It should go without saying that you should be helping your community as much as you can in any way that you can. However, if you want to use that as a chance to help your scholarship opportunities, that’s also great. Many scholarships are based on community service regardless of how you’re performing academically.
Even on the ones where scholarship awards are academic-based, community service helps you to stand out tremendously. Make sure to mark down every hour of service, get someone to sign off on your hours, and place it into a nice presentation. Not many sponsors want to simply see a handwritten sheet of when you volunteered.
3. Bug Your Teachers
When you think of a scholarship like a job application, you’ll know just how important it is to have people that recommend you. These two really do go hand in hand as letters of recommendation help boost any potential scholarship chances, the same way that they would a job.
Ask any teacher in classes in which you’ve performed well to give you a letter of recommendation. Depending on how well you did, the recommendations might be a little vague, but quantity is sometimes better than quality. The more glowing reviews you have from teachers and members of the community, the better your scholarship odds.
4. Employment Opportunities
Speaking of employers, if you have a part-time job, that’s going to look great on a scholarship application. It’s going to look even better if the company that you’re working for is offering a scholarship opportunity. Most major companies will provide a chance for their college-bound employees to receive a scholarship, and even some local businesses will offer small scholarships.
Even if you don’t have a job, take a look at where your parents work. Their companies may offer scholarships to employees and their families. That would actually be more likely as many major companies tend to not hire people until they’re already out of high school.
5. Financial Findings
It might be an uncomfortable topic to talk about, but make sure that you know how much your parents are making. You’re going to need to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and that information will have to be on there. This will determine how much you’ll need for college and will be a requirement for many scholarships.
Your financial situation may make you eligible for more scholarship opportunities than you first thought. While some families might be able to make ends meet, the extra money for tuition might not be there and scholarships are needed.