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How Not to Get a Scholarship: Six Tips For Sinking Your Chances

Jan 7, 2011 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 1 Comments

When it comes to financial aid, grants and scholarships are by far the best kind to get. They’re basically free money that you don’t have to pay back. And the more grants and scholarships you get, the fewer loans you have to take out—which means the lower your debt will be once you graduate. It’s never too early to start researching possible grants and scholarships in high school—and you can never apply to too many.

With all the scholarships out there, you’re sure to find one or two that you can win—if you pick them wisely and apply to enough of them. But there are a few things you can do to sink your chances of getting scholarship money.

Don’t apply

The easiest way to get a scholarship is to not apply. While some scholarships are well-known and attract a lot of applicants, others are a bit off the beaten path—and competition may not be as high. Others select several winners from the applicant pool, so you have more than one opportunity to be chosen. There’s always a chance you’ll win, so don’t avoid applying to any scholarships out of the belief that you won’t qualify or the competition is too tough.

Money Book

Paying for college isn’t easy—but the more scholarships
and grants you win, the easier it gets.  



Don’t look outside the FAFSA

The FAFSA provides the Pell Grant and a few other scholarships, but the awards are mostly given on a needs-based basis. Competition for these grants is very high, so if you aren’t from a severely under-served background, your chances are low. But many other scholarships are given based on other criteria, including minority status, academic meror community invovement. Still others are given to children of employees of certain companies or members of certain community groups. If you limit your scholarship applications to the FAFSA, you severely limit your potential for scholarship money.

Don’t read the requirements

They want a full length essay—but you write only a few paragraphs. They might be perfectly good paragraphs—but they’re not what the scholarship form asks for. Don’t lose out on hundreds or maybe thousands of dollars of free scholarship money on a mistake that would have been easy to correct. Make sure you follow all the directions when filling out your scholarship application.

Don’t get good grades

Not every scholarship is merit-based. But even among some needs-based scholarships, it’s easier for the granting organization to choose someone with good grades to give the money to. Keep your GPA as high as possible, and you widen the number of scholarships you have a strong chance of winning.

Don’t be involved

Many scholarships are given based on your involvement in an extracurricular activity—a sport, a community organization, a theatre or artistic pursuit, and so on. If you don’t have any outside interests besides school and hanging out with friends, it might be more difficult for you to find scholarships that you qualify for. Get involved in an organization—either through your school or outside of it—and you’re more likely to find scholarships to apply to.

Don’t answer the questions as asked

Be sure you understand the essay question before writing. Even if your essay is well-written, if it doesn’t address the topic, it isn’t likely to win. Be sure you’re answering the question you’re asked.

Don’t understand your niche

There are scholarships for people who get good grades. There are scholarships for athletes. Scholarships for minorities, low-income students, students with disabilities, and people with all kinds of diverse interests. You’re more likely to win the scholarship that’s looking to award someone exactly like you. Know what your personal highlights are and what is likely to appeal to a scholarship-giving organization—and focus your applications on the grants that fit you best.

Paying for college isn’t easy—but the more scholarships and grants you win, the easier it gets. Apply to as many as you can, and focus your research and application strategy on the ones that are most specific to someone with your particular interests, background or characteristics. Be sure you answer all the questions on the application correctly and provide the information they’re looking for. And don’t limit your applications to the FAFSA—if you do, you could miss out on a large chunk of change to pay for college.



Eduthusiast Over a year ago

Great advice. I was hesitant to apply for scholarships at first. I think most of us feel like there is little chance that we would be picked out of hundreds or even thousands of applicants so why bother. You have got to ditch that attitude and start applying. The first step is always the hardest and often times the first step isn't even applying it is overcoming negative attitudes. =)

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