What Makes a Successful Scholarship Application?

Lauren Jeong Community, Philanthropic Resources 1 Comment

Each year, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta receives hundreds of scholarship applications. So, how do you put your best foot forward and create a competitive scholarship application?

1. Plan ahead. The deadline for most of the Community Foundation’s scholarships for the 2017-2018 school year is February 15, 2017 at 5pm. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply. Most of the Foundation’s scholarship applications require letters of recommendation and transcripts, which you may have a hard time obtaining if you wait to start your application. The deadlines for the Foundation’s scholarships are marked on our scholarship page.

2. Check the eligibility requirements. Each scholarship is looking for different qualities and is reviewed by a different review committee. It is important to look at the criteria for each scholarship carefully. To maximize your time, you should only apply for scholarships you are eligible for. You can find the eligibility criteria for the Foundation’s scholarships here.

3. Be authentic. In general, it is important to have strong, well-written essays, so we encourage you to put a lot of thought into your essays. You should give the committee a sense of who you are, what you want to accomplish and what you are passionate about.

4. Be specific. Don’t just write about your major, explain why you are interested in that major. Don’t just say you want to become a business person, tell the committee what kind of business or something specific about why this career path is exciting. Explain WHY you loved a particular activity or mention a specific reason for wanting to go into engineering.

5. Don’t use acronyms. The review committee may not know what your acronyms stand for. It is easy to start using acronyms when discussing volunteer projects or student clubs/activities, but don’t assume the reader knows the program you are referencing.

6. Use the optional space wisely. One of the essays on the Community Foundation’s scholarship applications asks if there have been any extenuating circumstances that have affected the student’s education and academic performance. Many choose not to answer the question or use the space as filler, which means the committee does not gain further insight into the applicant’s life. Some, however, use the space as an opportunity to tell the committee about any challenges or situations that they have experienced AND how they dealt with the situation or challenge. You should share how you have overcome an obstacle rather than just giving a sad story or saying nothing at all.

The review committee wants to know you, the applicant. Some applicants spend all of their essay space talking about their financial situation and how much they need the scholarships. This is helpful for the committee, but make sure you are balancing your application and that you talk about what you have accomplished, how you have overcome challenges, what you hope to accomplish and why.

7. Proofread your essays. We encourage you to have someone proofread your essays. Avoidable typos will make your application less competitive.

8. Choose the right recommender. Your recommenders will help the committee get a sense of how you might perform in college and how you fit the scholarship criteria. Students should select someone who knows the applicant well and can speak to his/her strengths. Students should give their recommenders a record of the student’s accomplishments, such as a resume, and a copy of the scholarship information with the eligibility criteria and preferences. Remember that teachers have a LOT of recommendations to write. You have a better chance of getting a well-thought recommendation by asking someone who really knows the student and who will have the time to write a good letter.

The review committee is looking at a variety of attributes, including the applicants’ academic records, test scores, extracurricular activities, work experience, community involvement, financial need, and recommendations about leadership and character. Your scholarship application should reflect various aspects of the student.

Don’t forget! Most of the Community Foundation’s scholarships for the 2017-2018 school year have a February 15th deadline. Learn more about the Foundation’s scholarship opportunities here.