Preparing for scholarship applications

July 31, 2012

Even before you know which college scholarships you're going to apply for, it's smart to prepare for the application process. Since most applications have several components, it takes more than a few hours and a couple clicks to compile all the necessary documents and information.

Make a spreadsheet
Whether on a sheet of paper or using computer software such as Microsoft Excel or Google Spreadsheets, create an organized system in which you can keep track of each important document and application. Make a row for each particular scholarship, listing the potential money awarded, deadline date, required documents and submission format (digital or mailed hardcopy).

As you progress, use the spreadsheet to keep track of which components you have completed and which still need to be done, as well as which applications you have successfully submitted. If you haven't gotten word about your application being received after a week or two, it's best to send a quick follow up email or make a phone call to ensure its successful delivery.

Think about potential recommenders
Almost every scholarship asks for at least one letter of recommendation, if not several. Although these letters should be specific to the scholarship and highlight the qualities it seeks, you can start considering and contacting those who you feel know you best in a particular setting.

Most recommendations come from past teachers and employers, but consider leaders within your church, a sports coach or the head of a volunteer organization you readily participate in. All of these people have the ability to paint you in a certain light because of the talents they see in you, and all can be worthy candidates. Reach out to them before you're even sure which scholarships you're applying to, so that they're ready for your specific request when the time comes.

Update your resume
This piece of paper is very important - it will follow you to almost every school, scholarship, internship and job you will apply to. Your resume should be constantly updated as you continue through schooling and your career. Keep it short and concise, and if you add something to the top look for something on the bottom you could remove or abridge. It may have been important for your first employer to know that your babysat as a teenager, but not your third.

Get paperwork in order
When it comes to financial need, many scholarships require evidence. This may include your annual income, household size, assets and more. It's handy to start researching ways of accessing this information through your place of employment, bank and tax paperwork so you're not scrambling for official numbers or documents at the last minute.

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