How To Avoid These Common Mistakes When Applying For Scholarships

college student who is applying for scholarships

I encourage all students to apply for scholarships. Scholarships are one of the best ways to pay for college because they do not need to be repaid. Therefore, it’s very important to ensure that you aren’t making these 6 common mistakes.

1. Not Starting Your Search Soon Enough

Many students wait until they are in college to begin applying for scholarships. Don’t wait. The earlier you start, the more scholarships you can apply to. Applying for scholarships is a numbers game, you will apply to a lot of them and only get a few, so the earlier you start the better.

The best time to start applying is your senior year in high school. Often times you can find scholarships when you are a junior but I recommend you really focus in your last year of high school. Applying for scholarships will be something that you will do continuously. You will never stop looking for scholarships while you are in college.

While opportunities can be found year-round, there are specific times scholarships are more abundant. Fall scholarships are typically available from August through December and spring scholarships are available from January through May. Summer scholarships are available in June and July but these are typically rare.

2. Not Applying To All Scholarships You Qualify For

You may think that applying for scholarships that are only a hundred dollars is a waste of time, but trust me it adds up quickly. Many local clubs like Kiwanis, Rotary, Elks, Moose, Eagles, or Optimist and local businesses are big supports of the community and may offer local high school students scholarships. Their award may not be a lot but every little bit helps.

I entered an Oral Speech Contest put on by our local Optimist Club. Here is the contest I entered, Optimist International Oratorical Contest. It’s a great contest to enter. I learned a lot about speech writing and public speaking. I believe the experience and what I learned, along with the skills I gained in karate are why I have no problem with public speaking.

The Optimist Oratorical Contest gives youngsters the chance to speak to the world. More than $150,000 in college scholarships funded by the Optimist International Foundations are awarded annually from this program. Nearly 2,000 clubs participate in this program each year. The winners at the Club level receive medallions and Zone winners receive a plaque. Districts have the opportunity to provide a first-place scholarship of $2,500, a second-place scholarship of $1,500, and a third-place scholarship of $1,000.

While I did not win the contest I did win a few local speeches as I worked my way to the world championship, each having a nice little award. Do not overlook opportunities like this.

3. Ignoring Scholarship Requirements

Pay attention to scholarship requirements. Every scholarship will have specific requirements, know what they are so you don’t waste your time applying to something you don’t qualify for. Scholarship criteria will be found somewhere in the description and application, be sure to read everything.

The majority of scholarships will fall into 3 categories: need-based, merit-based, and minority-based. Within these 3 types, there are a lot of subcategories.

Here are just a few.

  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Degree
  • Local community
  • Through your college
  • Religious

Be mindful of the scholarship requirements. It’s important to know what types of scholarships you can apply to, as it will help you refine your search and save you precious time. Some may require you to be enrolled full-time, or have a specific GPA, others may require you to live in a certain town/county or earn a particular degree.

When I was searching for scholarships, I had it down to a science. I never qualified for need-based so that got rid of a lot of them. I am Native American so I could apply for some of the minority-based scholarships. However, I couldn’t apply for scholarships that were for minorities who were low-income. You will quickly figure out what you are eligible for.

4. Not Paying Attention To Application Deadlines

I’ve missed the opportunity to apply for a scholarship because I missed the deadline. There’s nothing worse than knowing you qualify for a scholarship and can’t apply to it because it’s too late. Deadlines vary from scholarship to scholarship. Therefore, you must pay attention to deadline dates.

Don’t wait until the last minute to start on a scholarship application or essay, this will cause unnecessary stress and put you at risk of not completing things before they are due. Start applications as soon as possible, some applications take longer than others so give yourself enough time. Be sure to submit your scholarship application way before it’s due, then you won’t miss any deadlines.

Student sitting at a table with a notebook writing down the scholarships she is apply for

5. Not Being Organized

Being organized is a crucial skill to have when searching and applying for scholarships. The process is tedious and time-consuming. To not feel overwhelmed and disorganized get a planner or a notebook. Better yet, set up a Google doc for scholarships with the name of the scholarship, requirements, due dates, and any additional information needed.

As you find scholarships add them to the Google doc. When you apply, update the document. This will ensure you know which scholarships have completed applications and which ones you haven’t.

If you are looking for a Scholarship Tool Organizer, Monica Matthews, at How to Win College Scholarships, has a great one, “Scholarship Tool Organizer”. This organizer goes far beyond the typical spreadsheet and is an essential must-have tool for all scholarship-searching students and families. Monica also has some great guides on how to get scholarships so be sure to check her out.

6. Not Proofreading

Always proofread. Poor grammar and misspelled words can make you look lazy like you didn’t care enough to proofread and edit. The last thing you want is to be overlooked for a scholarship because of a simple grammar mistake or incorrect spelling.

Use spell check but don’t solely rely on it, spell check has its limitations. It won’t catch homophonic errors or words that are spelled correctly but misused. There are several good websites that you can plug your paper into for free and check for grammar and punctuation mistakes. I frequently used, Grammarly.

If you want to write a standout scholarship essay, How To Write An Impressive Scholarship Essay will walk you through the process.

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