How to Create Your Scholarship Strategy

It can seem like an impossible task to apply for scholarships. Where to start? What to write about? How to add in scholarship applications to your already packed schedule? We know you’ve got a lot going on. To make it a little less scary, we put together some tools and tips to help you get started on your scholarship applications, leaving you with plenty of time to watch Netflix get caught up on school work. Applying for scholarships is time-consuming, no doubt, but it pays off big time. Literally.

Let’s start with the basics

Scholarships are opportunities for free money you can use to pay for college. By “free” we mean it’s money you don’t have to pay back. Scholarships can come from many different sources. Creativity and confidence can go a long way when searching for opportunities.

There are many different scholarship types. Some scholarships are merit or skill-based, while some depend on how you are involved with your community, and some are based solely off financial need.It’s a good idea to apply early. Many scholarships have early application deadlines, with most opening in the fall and closing quickly for next school year. This means that scholarship applications need to be submitted nearly a year in advance of when you plan to start school. The earlier you apply the more likely you are to get more money because the pool of competitors will likely be smaller.

What do I need to submit?

For most scholarships you will likely need to complete three to four components:

Scholarship Application: This form is for your personal information, things like classes you are taking, grades, where you’re from, etc.

Responses to Essay Questions: This is your chance to introduce yourself and highlight your experiences and achievements. We went in-depth on the best ways to make your essay stand out. It can be useful to save your essays since a lot of scholarships have similar essay questions. A little bit of tweaking on a basic essay can save you a lot of time.

Letters of Recommendation: Most students submit at least two from key influential professionals in your life that can speak to your character and accomplishments and want you to succeed. Make sure to give your letter-writers plenty of notice to avoid any disasters. Got questions about asking for letters? We can help!

Interview: Sometimes (not often) scholarships request an interview with students. Treat it just like you would a job interview. Remember to be honest and confident!

How do I find scholarships?

Go Local First. Begin your scholarship search at your school. The PSU Scholarship for students applying for the fall term opens on October 1 and closes on February 1. This scholarship is exclusive to students interested in coming to PSU. We did a post about this great resource, so be sure to spend some time reading up on it.

Use Community Connections. This is an important one because organizations are more likely to give you money if they know you personally. Think about the social, athletic and professional communities that you are a member of. Talk to your family, coworkers, friends and who knows? The more you spread the word, the more likely you will get a scholarship. Do you volunteer for an organization frequently? Don’t be afraid to ask for a scholarship! The worst thing that will happen is that they say no.

Here are a few options:

Broaden your search. There are scholarships for just about anything out there. Think about your goals and dreams. What brought you to this point? How do you plan on using your degree? Think about your next big steps and then search for a national scholarship that may be specifically focused on studies in the arts, sciences or unique to you and your future endeavors. You can also make a list of anything unique or interesting facts about yourself and start with that!

Here are a few options:

Go BIG! There are national scholarship directories, too:

Get the Help you Need

Schedule an Appointment with a PSU Financial Aid Counselor. Open to all students, the Office of Financial Aid holds Scholarship Workshops every Fall term to help students create effective scholarship applications.

PSU Advising & Career Services Workshops PSU’s Advising and Career Services offers a selection of workshops aimed toward helping you choose a major and career, answering your questions about internships, preparing you for interviewing, perfecting your resume and cover letter, and more. No need to sign up in advance, just arrive in their office prior to the time the workshop is scheduled to begin.

Visit the PSU Writing Center The Writing Center aims to help writers at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to the final draft. When preparing for a session, reflect on what you want to focus on the most. It is helpful to bring two drafts, one for you and one for the consultant.