University of Arkansas at Little Rock

College Scholarships: The Basics

steps to scholarships

Student blogger Madeline shares five steps to landing those scholarships – including what NOT to do when you apply for funds.

Madeline McGee shares a simple five-step process for landing those scholarships – plus, how to get aid if you’re already in college.

Hi everyone! More than $6 billion in scholarship funds go unclaimed each year because students miss the deadline or never even apply. With student debt being such an issue, you would think this $6 billion would be snatched up in a heartbeat. There’s tons of money out there, even if you don’t have an impressive ACT/SAT score.

Let me walk you through the basics on scholarships, whether you’re still in high school or already into your college career, there are scholarships for you!

tips for scholarships

STEP 1: ALWAYS meet the Priority Deadlines, NOT the Final Deadlines

When you wait that extra month to submit scholarship applications and put it off, you may think you were on time, but technically, you were late. The priority deadlines have the most funding and give you the best chance of receiving aid. So set your priorities straight and meet the priority deadlines! Mark it on your calendar and get everything done in advance.

how to get a scholarship

STEP 2: Send one more rec letter than what’s required

Though it sounds like a bit more trouble, it shows you’re a student that goes the extra mile. Also, try to choose not just adults that like you (obviously) but show that you’re well rounded. When I applied for my scholarship at UALR, I asked for rec letters from my boss at work, my youth pastor, and my AP English teacher. This showed my interviewer I had a great work ethic at school and at work and was also a leader in the community. It also gave me a range of choices if that one letter you’re counting on either doesn’t come through or doesn’t quite flatter you as you expected.

STEP 3: Know the difference between renewable and nonrenewable scholarships

This is the money you have to reapply for each year. Whether it’s the FAFSA, local, or private scholarships, this type of money you will have to reapply for each year. If your current scholarship is set for you to receive a set amount of money each year or semester then you won’t have to worry about renewing it by keeping up your GPA and hours taken per semester.

steps to getting a scholarship

STEP 4: Don’t blow off writing your ‘financial need statement’

This part of applying for the scholarship may seem like a given. “I NEED MONEY!” But nonetheless, put effort into your financial needs statement just as you did for all those scholarship essays.

STEP 5: Build your resumé and always send it in

Even if they don’t ask for it, just send it. Once again, it’s going the extra mile. If the scholarship is narrowed down to the final two and you have the resumé that lets them know much more about your character, they’re very likely to chose you over the other applicant. I have a whole other article on resumé building if you’re interested.

So what money is out there for me?!

Now that I’ve covered some basic steps on having success with scholarships, let’s get to the good stuff…MONEY! There are scholarships for being short (no I don’t qualify), first generation college students, minority students, or even having a reading disability. You know what’s sad? Over $6 BILLION dollars in scholarships go unclaimed each year. Because no one is applying for them! Crazy right?! Don’t let that be you…keep reading.

If you are, or eventually will be, a high school senior…

steps to getting a scholarshipTwo words: local scholarships. And don’t tell your friends. Seriously. They’re just more competition (I know that’s harsh but I like money). Local scholarships are exactly what they sound like – local. Run, don’t walk, to your school counselor’s office. They will have forms that are easily accessible for students from local businesses, churches, and memorial funds.

I got three of these my senior year of high school. There are many different types. I received the Bryant Athletic Scholarship and one from a local business. These totaled to $2,000 in checks that I could cash for any college purchases. I upgraded from a MacBook Air to a Pro with a Retina display.

Start applying for these scholarships around February or March of your senior year, but it doesn’t hurt to start asking your counselor about them beforehand! Also, seek your school faculty advice and take it to heart! They truly care.

Already enrolled in college? Don’t worry, there’s more money out there! Read the rest of my post to find out more.

mad name

Head to Madeline’s blog to read her own financial need statement and to find out more about the five types of scholarships college students can apply for.
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