The book has been a bestseller on Amazon.com, among the top 100 nonfiction books. There are 1-1/2 million scholarships worth more than $3 billion dollars. Mark wrote Secrets to Winning a Scholarship to help families find and win these scholarships.
STEM fields are more likely to win scholarships than non-STEM fields. Of students enrolled full-time at 4-year colleges, 17.0% of STEM win scholarships vs. 12.1% of students in non-STEM fields. These statistics are for students enrolled full-time at a 4-year college and seeking a Bachelor’s degree in the specified major.
But you can still win even if your grades aren’t stellar. Every scholarship sponsor is looking for the students who best match their criteria. Instead of academic talent, they might be looking for artistic talent or athletic talent or even something a bit unusual. One of Mark’s favorite unusual scholarships involves making a prom costume out of duct tape. That may seem gray and boring, but duct tape comes in many colors. The winners are incredibly creative and make amazing costumes. It’s a nice way of winning $5,000 each for you and your date.
Above average test scores twice as likely to win as below average test scores. Average SAT is about 1,000 and average ACT is about 21. SAT >= 1,000 (9.2%) twice as likely to win as SAT < 1,000 (3.8%) ACT >= 21 (9.0%) twice as likely to win as ACT < 21 (3.7%)
Minority students are less likely to win scholarships than white students enrolled full-time at 4-year colleges. White students are 61.8% of college population, but win 71.5% of the scholarships. Minority students are 38.2% of college population, but win 28.5% of the scholarships. This is probably not due to intentional discrimination, but rather because the sponsors of scholarships establish the scholarship programs based on their interests and values, and these criteria resonate more with students of the same race. For example, minority students are much less likely to pursue equestrian sports or water polo as Caucasian students and are more likely to major in business than in mathematics, science or economics. Geography may also have an impact.
It is very difficult for scholarship sponsors to choose between two extremely talented finalists for a scholarship, so the decision can often be arbitrary. Often there is no wrong choice for a winner. Skill gets you selected as a finalist, but the final choice of who wins may be purely random. So applying to more scholarships (for which you are qualified) will increase your chances of winning a scholarship.
Many families wait until the spring of the senior year in high school, missing half of the deadlines. Give examples of scholarships for younger students: Jif PB&J, Spelling Bee, Geography Bee, art, writing, community service, national marbles tournament (mibsters). If a scholarship listing book is more than one or two years old, it is too old to be useful. About 10% of scholarships change in some material way each year, such as a change in address or eligibility requirements. One of the advantages of online scholarship databases is the ability to update the database more frequently than in a book. Fastweb’s database is updated daily and the site will send you email when there is a new scholarship that matches your profile.
You can double your chances of winning a scholarship by being thorough in answering all of the questions in the background profile. Students who answer the optional questions match twice as many scholarships, on average, as students who answer just the required questions. The optional questions are there to trigger the inclusion of specific scholarships. It takes a little extra time to list all your hobbies, activities, affiliations and other attributes, but it is worth the effort. Near-miss matches can help encourage a student to improve their grades to qualify for more scholarships. Students often express disdain for small scholarships and essay contests, saying that they are not worth the effort. But it is precisely because fewer students apply that these scholarships are easier to win.
This graph shows how the number of scholarship matches increases when students answer more of the optional questions. This data is based on the Fastweb scholarship matching service, but other scholarship sites demonstrate similar results. About 30% of the questions in the Fastweb background profile are required and the rest are optional.
Expected value is the product of the chances of winning the scholarship with the amount you get if you win the scholarship. A less competitive scholarship with a lower top prize may have a higher expected value because your chances of winning are better. The accomplishments resume can help you complete the scholarship application and improve your awareness of your strengths and interests. It can also help your teachers write better letters of recommendation.
Most people can speak and think at a rate of 100 to 200 words per minute, but type or write at a rate of 35 to 60 words per minute. The act of writing interferes with the flow of thought. After you transcribe the recording, you can revise the essay to add structure through an outline of your thoughts. Such an essay will be more fluent and passionate, making it more interesting and lively. You should proofread a printed copy of the essay because it will be easier to find errors when you are looking at the essay in a different format. Don’t rely too much on the spelling and grammar checkers that are built into the word processing software, as these programs miss a lot of errors, such as valid-word spelling errors (e.g., its vs. it’s, though vs. through, principal vs. principle).
Be sure to thank the people who help you because you may want to ask them for more help later. It is very rare for students to say thank you, so by being polite you will stand out and make a good impression.
This may sound like common sense, but common sense is not all that common. If you don’t pay attention to the interviewer’s name, you will quickly forget it. This can lead to awkward situations later in the conversation. Asking how to spell the name can backfire if the interviewer has a common name, like S-M-I-T-H. Asking for a copy of the interviewer’s business card can help, especially since it gives you an address for sending a thank you letter. But respect the business card. Do not use it to pick your teeth or clean under your fingernails.
The voice quality on a corded phone is much clearer than on a cordless phone, cell phone or Skype connection. Try to place the webcam at the center of the video of the interviewer, so that you are always looking at the camera, instead of continually shifting your eyes to the side to look at the video. This can make you look distracted.
Just as you would want to present a professional appearance in a face-to-face interview, you need to have a professional appearance online. It can make a difference between winning and losing a scholarship. When you are asking someone for money, try to make a good impression. Scholarship sponsors are increasingly checking the online appearance of finalists to determine whether they demonstrate good judgment and will reflect well on the sponsor.
Keep receipts for books, supplies and equipment and ask the college for an adjustment to the cost of attendance if your total costs exceed the allowance within the student budget. The tax-free status of a scholarship when used for tuition, required fees, books and supplies requires the student to be pursuing a degree.
Unclaimed aid: The most common form of the unclaimed aid myth says that $6.6 billion went unclaimed last year. But this figure is based on estimates (not a tabulation) of employer tuition assistance, not scholarships, from a 1976-77 study by the National Institute of Work and Learning. The only scholarships that ever go unclaimed can’t be claimed. For example, the Zolp scholarship is available to students at Loyola University of Chicago who were born with a last name of Zolp. Most years they have one or two students who qualify. But some years they don’t. You can’t change your name to qualify, as the last name of Zolp must appear on your birth certificate and your christening certificate. Most scholarship scams are focused on getting you to pay them money. But you should also be careful about identity theft. If a scam artist has your bank account number, they can remove money from your bank account without your signature through a demand draft.
Unfortunately, Congress may have cut funding for the Byrd Scholarships.
Also noteworthy: Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
Secrets to Winning a ScholarshipMark KantrowitzPublisher of Fastweb and FinAidApril 19, 2011
About the Author and this Talk Mark Kantrowitz is Publisher of Fastweb.comand FinAid.org, the two leading free web sitesabout planning and paying for college Mark is a nationally recognized expert onstudent financial aid and a member of the boardof directors of the National ScholarshipProviders Association This talk is based on Fastweb’s new book,Secrets to Winning a Scholarship, which isavailable through Amazon.com in bothpaperback and Kindle formats for less than $10
Overview Who Wins Scholarships? Basic Strategies for Winning Scholarships Searching for Scholarships Tips on Winning Scholarships Pitfalls and Dangers After You Win a Scholarship Top Ten Lists Key Scholarship Resources
Who Wins Scholarships? Very few students win a completely free ride• Of students enrolled full-time at a 4-year college– 0.3% get enough grants to cover the full COA– 1.0% get enough grants to cover 90% or more of the COA– 3.4% get enough grants to cover 75% or more of the COA– 14.3% get enough grants to cover 50% or more of the COA• Of students winning scholarships, more thantwo-thirds (69.1%) received less than $2,500 More students at 4-year colleges winscholarships• 8.3% of students at 4-year colleges win scholarships• 2.6% of students at 2-year colleges win scholarships
Some Majors are More LucrativeMajorPercentageWinningAverageAwardMath/Statistics 23.2% $4,059Engineering 17.6% $3,075Physical Sciences 17.1% $3,180Life Sciences 16.9% $2,649Education 15.0% $2,420Health 14.8% $2,880Social Sciences 12.7% $3,063Humanities 12.5% $2,623Computer Science 11.1% $2,974Business 9.1% $2,828
More Students with Good Grades WinCumulativeGrade PointAverage (GPA)on a 4.0 ScaleHigh School GPA(% WinningScholarships)College GPA(% WinningScholarships)0.0-1.9 (D- to C) 5.7% 7.0%2.0-2.4 (C to B-) 7.1% 9.1%2.5-2.9 (B- to B) 9.5% 10.7%3.0-3.4 (B to A-) 10.7% 13.1%3.5-4.0 (A- to A) 18.7% 18.8%
Better Test Scores Mean More AwardsSATCombinedScoreProbability ofWinninga Scholarship< 700 2.6%700 to 800 4.2%800 to 900 5.4%900 to 1000 5.8%1000 to 1100 7.4%1100 to 1200 8.5%1200 to 1300 11.2%1300 to 1400 13.2%ACTCompositeScoreProbability ofWinninga Scholarship< 15 2.6%15-17 4.7%18-20 5.6%21-23 7.3%24-26 8.3%27-29 11.1%30-36 14.2%
The Race MythRacePercent ofRecipientsPercentWinningAverageAwardWhite 71.5% 14.4% $2,645Black or African American 10.5% 11.4% $2,962Hispanic or Latino 8.1% 9.1% $2,353Asian 4.4% 10.5% $3,170American Indian or AlaskaNative1.4% 32.7% $3,967More than One Race 3.4% 16.0% $4,891All Minority Students 28.5% 11.2% $3,167
Strategies for Winning Scholarships It’s a numbers game• Even among talented students, who wins involves abit of luck, not just skill• To win more scholarships, apply to morescholarships, but only if you qualify You can’t win if you don’t apply• One in four students never applies for financial aid It gets easier after your first 6 applications• Essays can be reused and tailored to each newapplication Don’t miss deadlines
Searching for Scholarships Start searching as soon as possible• If you wait until spring to start searching, you will misshalf the deadlines• There are many scholarships available to students ingrades 9, 10 and 11, not just high school seniors• There are even scholarships for students in gradesK-8 and to current college students Use a free scholarship matching service likeFastweb Look for scholarship listing books at the libraryor bookstore, but check the publication date
More Ways of Searching for Money Look for local scholarships on bulletin boardsnear the guidance counselor or financial aidoffices, or the library’s jobs and careers section Look in the coupon section of the newspaper Answer the optional questions on a scholarshipmatching service for twice as many matches Look for near-miss matches Pursue less competitive scholarships, such assmall awards and essay contests, since they areeasier to win, the money adds up and they helpyou win bigger scholarships
Tips on Winning Scholarships Prioritize your applications by deadline and theexpected value of the scholarship Use a calendar and checklist to get organized Create an accomplishments resume Tailor your application to the sponsor’s goals Read and follow the instructions Make your application stand out from the crowd Ask to be nominated Practice on a copy of the application form
Writing a Winning Scholarship Essay Answer the essay question orally and transcribethe recording Use an outline to organize your thoughts Give examples and be specific Personalize your essay and be passionate Write about something of interest to you Talk about your impact on other people Proofread a printed copy of the essay forspelling and grammar errors
Tips for Letters of Recommendation Ask the teacher whether she can write you agreat letter of recommendation The recommendation should be relevant to thescholarship sponsor’s goal Provide the recommender with a copy of youraccomplishments resume Provide the recommender with a SASE and allrequired forms Thank the recommender for writing the letter
Acing the Scholarship Interview Practice, practice, practice Videotape a mock interview and review therecording afterward Wear appropriate business attire Visit the restroom before the interview Brush your teeth and wear deodorant Arrive 15 minutes early Pay attention to the interviewer’s name Be polite and send a thank you note afterward
Telephone and Webcam Interviews Conduct the interview in a quiet room Use a corded phone, nor a cordless or cellphone, and do not use a speakerphone Clean the lens on your webcam Make sure there is nothing embarrassing withinview of the webcam Look at the webcam when you speak, not thevideo of the interviewer
Other Scholarship Application Tips Use a professional email address, such firstname.lastname@example.org Clean up the content of your Facebook account,removing inappropriate and immature material Google your name to see what shows up Make a photocopy of your application beforemailing it Send the application by certified mail, returnreceipt requested or with delivery confirmation If rejected, ask for the reviewer comments
After You Win a Scholarship Understand your college’s outside scholarshippolicy and seek adjustments to the cost ofattendance or defer a scholarship if necessary If your scholarship is renewable, review therequirements for retaining eligibility Tell the scholarship sponsors when you win amajor award or other recognition Understand the taxability of your scholarships• Amounts for tuition, fees, books, supplies tax-free• Amounts for room and board, transportation and otherliving expenses are taxable
Beware of Scholarship Scams If you have to pay money to get money, it isprobably a scam Never invest more than a postage stamp to getinformation about scholarships or to apply for ascholarship Nobody can guarantee that you’ll win ascholarship Do not give out personal information like bankaccount numbers, credit card numbers or SocialSecurity numbers Beware of the unclaimed aid myth
Most Common Application Mistakes Missing deadlines Failing to proofread the application Failing to follow directions (essay length, numberof recommendations) Omitting required information Applying for an award when you don’t qualify Failing to apply for an award for which you areeligible Failing to tailor the application to the sponsor Writing a boring essay
Top Ten Most Unusual Scholarships1. Scholarship for Left-Handed Students2. Duck Brand Duct Tape Stuck at Prom Contest3. David Letterman Telecommunications Scholarship4. Zolp Scholarships5. Patrick Kerr Skateboard Scholarship6. Scholar Athlete Milk Mustache of the Year Award7. National Marbles Tournament Scholarships8. Klingon Language Institute Scholarship9. National Beef Ambassador Program10.Vegetarian Resource Group Scholarship
Top Ten Most Prestigious Scholarships1. Marshall Scholarships2. Rhodes Scholarship3. Winston Churchill Scholarship Program4. Harry S. Truman Scholarships5. Henry Luce Foundation Scholarship6. Morris K. Udall Foundation UndergraduateScholarships7. Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program8. Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship9. Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest10. National Merit Scholarship Corporation
Top Ten Most Generous Scholarships1. Intel Science Talent Search2. Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology3. NIH Undergraduate Scholarship Program4. Elks National Foundation Most Valuable StudentCompetition5. Davidson Fellows6. Intel International Science and Engineering Fair7. Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarships8. Collegiate Inventors Competition9. Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship10. Gates Millennium Scholars
Top Ten Scholarships for Age 13 and Under1. National Spelling Bee2. National Geography Bee3. National History Day Contest4. Jif Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest5. Scholastic Art & Writing Awards6. Christopher Columbus Community Service Awards7. Dick Blick Linoleum Block Print Contest8. Gloria Barron Prize for Your Heroes9. Patriot’s Pen10. Prudential Spirit of Community Awards
Top Ten Scholarships for Community Service1. Segal AmeriCorps Education Award2. The Do Something Awards3. Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship4. Discover Card Tribute Award5. Echoing Green Fellowship6. The Heart of America Christopher Reeve Award7. Kohl’s Kids Who Care Program8. Samuel Huntington Public Service Award9. National Caring Award10. Youth Action Net
Top Ten Scholarships that Don’t Need an A1. US Department of Education2. AXA Achievement Scholarship Program3. Horatio Alger Association Scholarships4. Ayn Rand Institute5. Girls Going Places Scholarship6. Holocaust Remembrance Project Essay Contest7. Americanism Essay Contest8. AFSA National Scholarship Essay Contest9. Red Vines Drawing Contest10. Community Foundation Scholarships