We get it—the scholarship application process can feel daunting! You know there are millions of dollars out there that could be yours, but applying to each and every scholarship opportunity seems time-consuming and stressful. 

Guess what? It doesn’t have to be! 

First of all, there are plenty of quick-apply scholarships out there that take minimal time and effort!  

Second, you can speed up the scholarship application process considerably when you build an awesome “scholarship toolbox!” And the faster you apply, the more scholarships you can apply for, which means more money for college!

What exactly is a “scholarship toolbox?” It’s basically a compilation of all the things you’ll need to have readily available when applying for scholarships, so you don’t spend unnecessary time and energy digging for the information and resources. 

We here at Scholly have applied for many, many, many scholarships ourselves, and these are the best tips we have for expediting the scholarship application process. 

1. Keep a Master List of Scholarships

Scholly Search is an incredible resource for finding personalized scholarships tailored to your unique student profile, and it automatically stores and keeps track of all of the scholarships you select and apply for. 

But if you’re applying through multiple websites (including colleges directly) you may want to keep a running document or spreadsheet of all of the scholarships you’re applying for, so you can keep track of your application statuses in one place.

2. Gather All Important Information and Documents

You may not need all of these documents for every scholarship, and you may not need all of this information for an initial application, but trust us, you’ll want these documents handy. Once you win a scholarship or payoff program, most organizations require verification of important information (e.g. your GPA, enrollment in college, student loans, etc.), which is where many of these documents come in. 

So you’ll want to have the following things easily accessible to you, for instance, in a designated folder on your computer desktop. Anything you don’t have digitally, we suggest scanning and uploading to this folder.

  • All of your school’s info: the school’s name, address, your projected year of graduation, your 6-digit school code (for high schools only), etc.
  • Your transcripts (high school and/or college, depending on what year you are), including your cumulative GPA 
  • All of your personal info: name, address, phone number, email address, parents’ or guardians’ names and employers, etc.
  • Your personal statement and resume (which, chances are, you had to include in your college application). Your personal statement typically discusses your goals academic and career goals. Your resume should include: your employment, volunteer work, awards/honors, extracurricular activities, etc.
  • Your parents’ most recent federal income tax return (if you’re a dependent) 
  • Your completed FAFSA form
  • Your completed SAR (student aid report), which is generated when you complete a FAFSA
  • Your student loan lender information (name, address, etc.) and student loan amount (if you’ve already taken out loans)
  • A recent, clear photo (head shot or head shot-like) of yourself 

3. Recycle Essays

Not every scholarship application requires an essay, but many do. One of our most common FAQs is “Do I have to write a new essay for every scholarship?” and the answer, in short, is “no, not really.” 

Many scholarship essay prompts are thematically similar. Most will ask about your goals, leadership abilities, community service, etc. This means that you can typically have one “master” or “blueprint” essay that you use as your template for all other essays. Once you write one really solid essay, you’ll only have to make slight modifications to it for other applications. 

After you’ve assembled a list of the scholarships you’re going to apply for, it’s a very good idea to read all of their scholarship essay prompts up top, before you even apply, so that you’re aware of common, overlapping questions. Try to “chunk them,” finding a few that all have similar prompts. 

For example, perhaps you’re an athlete or an artist. You’ll likely be applying for multiple scholarships that ask you to write an essay about your sport or artistic process. Again, start with one solid essay and then modify that one slightly for each related application.   

If you write a strong first essay (here are a few great tips for writing your best work) it will be super easy to adapt it for other opportunities! 

And of course, don’t forget to run your scholarship essays through Scholly Editor, which will instantly proof and improve your work, increasing your chances of winning more money! 

4. Have Letters of Recommendation on Hand

Not all scholarships will require a letter of recommendation, but chances are you have one or more on hand for college applications anyway. 

And even if you don’t actually submit one, they’re great to pull from when you’re describing your strengths and goals in a scholarship essay!  

5. Know the Red Flags of Scholarship Scams

It’s an epic waste of time (not to mention dangerous!) to apply for scholarships that are actually scams. It’s sad that they even exist, but fortunately, you can safeguard yourself against them!

Here’s a quick list of scholarship scam “red flags” to keep on hand. If you catch notice any of these, we recommend that you avoid the scholarship at all costs:

  • Application fees. Scholarship applications should be free to apply to. There may be other terms for eligibility (e.g. sharing the opportunity on social media) but do not pay to apply for scholarship money!
  • Language like: “Guaranteed or your money back,” “You’ve been pre-selected,” and/or “You’re a finalist” (if you didn’t already apply)
  • Any requests for your personal banking or financial information
  • Processing fees

6. Assemble a “Quick Pitch”

Many scholarships out there don’t require a full essay, but they’ll ask for a short blurb about you or what winning the scholarship would mean to you. Most of these are about 100-250 words. 

Do yourself a huge favor and write a succinct “highlight reel” for yourself in paragraph form (no bullet points) that briefly communicates and emphasizes your best traits and/or a highly specific way that a scholarship would help you. 

Here are a few tips:

  • Get right to the question. You don’t need a “hook” or opening for responses like these.
  • Answer the question directly, exactly as it is being asked. Much like scholarship essays, you can often recycle these responses, but it’s important that you follow the directions and not ramble about anything other than what’s being asked.
  • Avoid being overly general. Everyone applying will “have less debt” and “more financial freedom” if they win a scholarship, but what does that actually mean to you? Paint a brief but vivid picture. 
  • To the point above, avoid cliches and platitudes like,“winning this scholarship would be a real game changer.” Tell the reader why
  • Avoid overly dramatic, unnecessary back-story unless it is directly pertinent to the prompt (if you’re asking about triumphing over adversity, for example). 

Good luck assembling your scholarship toolbox and happy applying! 

Want More Scholarship Opportunities?

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