Applying for Scholarships
By EDge Staff | How to recognize and communicate your skills and experience to scholarship administrators.
When you apply for a scholarship, you may want to communicate directly with the scholarship administrator. You may have to fill out an application form, write a short personal essay, or you may just want to ask a few questions. Regardless, writing a letter or email is a great chance to show off why you're a valuable candidate for an award. Don't dash it off: take some time to ensure your letter is clear, concise, and informative.
As part of your preparation, make a list of your interests and activities. As you go along, think about your responsibilities, privileges, hits and misses, and consider what you've learned from each experience. Here's a few ideas to help you fill out your list.
Awards: Have you ever been formally honoured for something? Honour roll, valedictorian, perhaps an award for an extracurricular activity?
Clubs: Were you involved in any clubs, in school or out? This could include a role in a school play, school newspaper contributor, or yearbook committee participant. If you're a member of a religious youth group, note it down.
Co-op Jobs: If you've taken part in a co-op position, describe it. Include your lessons learned from the experience, as well as the highlights and challenges you faced.
International Exchanges: Have you ever travelled abroad to study or volunteer? Did you face "culture shock?" What did you learn about others? What did you learn about yourself?
Part-time Jobs: Even the most humble position has lessons to teach about work, tenacity, finances, and more. Think about your experiences and what you've learned from working.
Projects: Have you worked on any big projects you're particularly proud of? A mural, a device, a concerto, something else? Did you have help, or do it by yourself? Why did you take it on, and what did you learn?
Scholastic Achievement: For scholarship applications, high marks aren't everything. Think about what you've learned in your favourite subjects, and where your passions might lead down the line.
School Associations: Were you a student representative for the parent-teacher association? Part of your school's music council or athletic association? What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?
Sports: Were you on a school team, or did you play sports outside of school? What was your position and role? Captain, co-captain, manager, something lower key? What were the big lessons you learned?
Student Governance: Did you take part in student government? What was your role? What were your responsibilities? How did you handle the challenges of being on the council?
Volunteering at School: There are lots of opportunities within your school walls to do some volunteering. Were you ever a tutor, coach's assistant, office assistant, library helper, teaching assistant, A/V or tech support? Did you do the morning announcements? In general, what were your duties, and how did you handle them?
Volunteering Outside of School: There are innumerable chances to give back to your community. Whether you helped out at a local hospital, public school, or organization, at a government office, community newspaper, or sports team, in a daycare centre or nursing home, you'll have plenty of valuable experience to reflect on. Be specific about your duties and responsibilites, and consider why you got into it in the first place.
Now, you've got a list of activities and interests in and around your school community. Great work! Time to really dig into how your experiences have shaped your ongoing personal growth. Consider your successes and failures, triumphs and despairs, and how they've contributed to the person you are today. Maturity, responsibility, teamwork skills, punctuality, leadership, and more — there's a lot you can dig into. Tease out the lessons of each experience.
When you write your letter, connect these experiences together. Identify the dominant themes throughout your list. Show how you became who you are, and demonstrate that you have what it takes to get where you want to go. Be honest, straightforward, and humble. There's always more to learn!
If you need some more support, here's a sample letter to help you get started. Remember, always tailor your letter to the specific award you're applying for, even if you start from a template like this one.
A Sample Letter
Date of the Letter, 20XX
Dear Scholarship Coordinator, (If you know the name of the person you're writing to, all the better. Use Dear Ms. ______, or Dear Mr. ______,)
First paragraph: Introduce yourself. Make a good first impression by being clear and forthright. State your letter's objective (for instance, "I would like to learn more about the requirements for your ___ award."). Mention your current school and your future plans for education and your career. You may also want to include where you learned about the scholarship.
Second paragraph: Now's your chance to show off a bit. Highlight your big achievements, activities and interests that make you a stellar candidate for the award. Connect the scholarship's intent and criteria to your own background and future plans. Explain how the award will help you reach your goals. You can boast a little, but beware you don't end up with a list of overblown accolades. Be honest in your self-assessment.
Third paragraph: Close strong to leave a lasting impression. You can quickly summarize your main points, but don't repeat yourself. Remember that scholarship admins are busy people! Mention that you look forward to "discussing this award further," "hearing from you soon," or something similar. Keep the lines of communication open. If you're sending surface mail, it's polite to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope so the admin can easily respond in kind.
(Remember to thank the person for their time and consideration, and sign the letter!)
We hope this helps you apply for scholarships with confidence. It never hurts to try, so go out there and start applying!