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5 Mistakes That Could Cost You That College Scholarship

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5 Mistakes That Could Cost You That College Scholarship

Applying for scholarships requires a commitment of time and a dedication to persevere. It is a job in the truest sense of the word. You will most likely spend hours upon hours applying for scholarships hoping the time will be rewarded with money to pay for college. Spending two hours on an application and winning a $1,000 scholarship is a huge payoff ($500 per hour!).

But the payoff won’t come unless you take the time to apply for scholarships or if you make these five scholarship application mistakes.

1. Not following directions.

Scholarship judges look for students who know how to follow directions. If the student can’t follow the directions, the application will be immediately placed in the reject pile. If the directions ask for only three recommendations, and no more, don’t send five. If it requires students provide a transcript, don’t forget to include it. If the essay word count is specific, (i.e. no more than 500 words) stick to the word count guidelines.

Along with following the directions, always check spelling and grammar on the application itself and any essay submissions. Since many scholarships have thousands of qualified applicants, this one simple mistake can cause you to lose the scholarship.

2. Applying to the wrong scholarships.

Read the scholarship qualifications carefully. If you don’t qualify, don’t apply. Guidelines such as GPAs, specific areas of interest, specific heritage and gender require applicants who meet the criteria. Applying for these scholarships when you don’t match the qualifications is a waste of time.

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3. Not personalizing your application.

Just about every scholarship asks for details related to academics, activities and future plans. But personalizing the application will make you stand out. Also, find some time to learn about the organization presenting the scholarship and find a way to include this knowledge in the application or the essay and why it might relate to you.

Research previous winners and find out what the scholarship judges found valuable in these winners. Make sure the application explains why you are the perfect applicant for this award. Be careful when copying and pasting information from previous applications. Make sure the information you provide is unique to each scholarship.

4. Limiting your search.

Students often make two search mistakes when applying for scholarships. The first mistake is only searching online. No doubt, there is a vast resource of scholarship information online. You can sign up on large scholarship search engines like FastWeb or Chegg. You can search on social media using Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. But stopping the search online limits opportunities. Investigate local scholarship opportunities in the news, the media and at the library. School counselors also know about local scholarships. Take it a step further by researching other local high school websites looking for scholarship postings. The benefit here is that local scholarships usually have fewer applicants. This means the applicant pool is smaller and your chances of winning are greater.

The second mistake students often make is only applying to scholarships with large awards. If you do the math, small awards can quickly add up. Don’t discount small awards. A $500 scholarship will pay for your books. A $1,000 scholarship can go toward room and board. If you win enough smaller scholarships, it’s the same as winning one $10,000 scholarship. As an added bonus, many of these smaller awards require less time and effort to apply.

5. Not starting early.

There are scholarships for all ages and grade levels. Waiting until senior year to apply for scholarships means you will miss out on multiple scholarships that have younger age requirements. Also, if you begin applying early, you could feasibly enter senior year with scholarship dollars in your college account, freeing up time to concentrate on other things.

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Written by Suzanne Shaffer

Suzanne Shaffer counsels parents and students in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation. Her Parents Countdown to College Coach blog offers timely college tips for parents and students, as well as providing parents with the resources necessary to help their college-bound teens navigate the college maze.

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