Beyond the Books
Tips On Packaging Your Scholarship Application
Tip #1. – Pay Attention to Deadlines
Plan ahead, so that your applications arrive as early as possible, and do not apply after the deadline date! It may be worthwhile to send applications with "Return Receipt Requested" or "Registered Mail" to make sure they arrive in a timely fashion. This also conveys the feeling that the sender takes this application very seriously.
Tip #2 – Include a Cover Letter with Your Application
Here is a sample cover letter for an application, which may be modified for your individual needs.
1111 WinOne Street
Pensacola, FL 32503
Mary Smith, President
Super Duper Scholarship Committee
12345 Pensacola Central Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32500
9 September, 20XX
Dear Ms. Smith,
Enclosed please find my application for participation in the Super Duper Scholarship Program. I have been accepted to (Name of your College) for the 20XX fall term, and wish to be considered for the Super Duper Scholarship to pursue my studies in Journalism.
I would like to thank you and the Super Duper Scholarship Committee for supporting college bound students with this opportunity for financial assistance through your program. I have included my application form, high school transcript, ACT results, letters of recommendation, and other pertinent information. Again, thank you for your interest in furthering educational opportunities for the youth of our state.
Tip #3 – Organize Your Mailing
Place everything in the application envelope so that is EASY for the committee to see that you have provided every thing that was required. It is a good idea to provide items in the order that they are listed on the application, and to label them accordingly. If you can avoid it, do not mix items on the same page. If you are specifically told not to include any extra information, then follow instructions! Failing to follow the instructions can be immediately disqualifying.
Tip #4 – Add Some Extra Items (UNLESS YOU ARE TOLD NOT TO!)
Wait a minute… didn’t we just tell you not to put in extra information? Well, if you are not told otherwise, then it could be fair game! It can offer a chance to be creative and present yourself in a positive light to the selection committee. Here are a few ideas:
A short (no more than one page) essay about your career goals.
Any special award or recognition that congratulates you on an accomplishment, from your school or another organization, could make an excellent acknowledgement of your abilities.
Any document that shows good citizenship, whether a military draft registration letter, a community service project letter of appreciation, or other similar notification. Many scholarship committee members have civic service or military backgrounds, and appreciate this in an applicant.
A letter of admission from one of your more impressive colleges – regardless of whether you will attend the school or not! Assuming, of course, that the scholarship application is not intended only for a specific college, you will be able to use the award at any college. If you later decide to attend another institution, you can simply notify the scholarship award committee of where to send the award. Remember that a letter of acceptance shows that you are serious, and that your college attendance is a reality.
These are just a few examples, and your "extras" may vary considerably. However, try to limit the additional paperwork to three or four pages at the most, lest you dilute your application. Again, MAKE ABSOLUTELY SURE that you are not forbidden to add extra items before you do so.
Tip #5 – Personalize Letters of Recommendation
This tip demonstrates you took the time to make each scholarship application special. When you have a letter of recommendation addressed to the specific organization, or to the person administering the application process, it is infinitely better than a letter that starts with the words "To Whom It May Concern."
SUB TIP #5a – ALWAYS offer to do any additional work for the writers of your letters of recommendation.
Asking for ONE letter of recommendation is no big deal for most people, but if you need twenty letters it can become more of a challenge! Once your referee has completed a letter for you, ask if you may put it on the computer so that the recipient can be personalized for each application. In this way, your writer only has to sign his or her name twenty times. If they have official letterhead, you might ask if it is possible for you to use blank copies in this process. If not, then a secretary or assistant may be able to help out.
SUB TIP #5b – If your application does not require a letter of recommendation, then consider including one as an "Extra Item" from Tip #4!
SUB TIP #5c - Try to get three to five good letters of recommendation in your files.
This will let you pick and choose which letter/s to send in for a specific application. Never send more than three letters for an application, unless the directions ask for more.
TIP #6 – Proofread All Materials and Keep Things Neat!
Use correct grammar and spelling on your application in every instance. If you tend to have a problem in this area, ask an adult (parent, English teacher, counselor) to assist with proofreading essays, cover letters, extra items, and even letters of recommendation prepared by others. With hundreds (or even thousands) of applications to review, correctness and neatness can become one of the first screening factors. Often, it is only when the number of applications is whittled down to a smaller pile that the content of your application becomes a major factor in the selection process!
TIP # 7 – Consider Submitting Application Materials in a Folder
Completed applications can be placed neatly in a clear plastic folder, with a slide locking binder. You might also consider including a wallet-sized picture in the lower left side of your packet. Place the cover letter on the top, with all of the required items (in order) beneath it. Add any extra items (if not forbidden) at the bottom of the folder.
If "extras" are expressly forbidden, you should consider NOT using a plastic folder. However, this is a judgment call on your part. Read the application carefully again regarding extras. Some judges feel the plastic folders are actually more work (removing the applications from the plastic folders, etc.). Other judges may have no problem with it. Whatever you decide to do, make the application neat and orderly!
Your application packet is a presentation of yourself and your aspirations – you don’t want to crinkle it all up by folding it into a small envelope. Use a 9”-by-12” envelope, so your application arrives looking great. Again, consider sending it with “Registered Mail” or "Return Receipt Requested" so you know it arrived!
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