Check out these secrets to winning a scholarship, from financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz. Learn how to find scholarships along with helpful tips for making your application stand out from the crowd!
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.
Grants = grants or 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, Doodle 4 Google, 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. The scholarship 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. About 30% of the questions in the 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.