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Searching for Scholarships: What You Should know

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Each fall represents the unofficial beginning of the scholarship hunting season. From this October through the end of Spring 2008, students seeking private scholarships for the 2008-09 school year should be in hunting mode.

Most scholarships being posted now are awarded for the 2008-09 academic year. Since there are countless scholarship opportunities out there, the idea of searching through the masses of scholarship search sites and matching services can seem daunting. But armed with a few strategies, you can maximize your time and effort. First off,find a few scholarship search engines that you are comfortable with. Make sure they are legitimate. They should not be requiring any payment, banking information or asking you to commit any type of deception. Once you have found your favorite sites, bookmark them for easy reference. Enter your data as requested, making sure to include every activity, organizational membership, or community service you have been involved with. Ask your parents and friends if your list looks complete. Chances are mom will remember something that you’ve long forgotten. It is very easy to overlook some participation or commitment you made years ago. You’ll likely be asked to provide an essay related to a specific topic. The idea of writing dozens of essays for the possibility of a scholarship award may seem like a waste of your vital time and effort. But if you gather your potential scholarship applications together, review the specifics of what the essays are supposed to address, you may find that one or two well crafted essays can be used for multiple applications. This is not only acceptable, it is good common sense. Be sure to organize your applications by deadline. Earliest deadlines first, etc. Make a checklist for each application on a scrap of paper or sticky note for the front of the application. Mark off each item as you complete it. If you have down-time between applications, proofread your essays, address envelopes, follow up with potiential donors to see if your application has been received. One general piece of advice is ‘don’t give the scholarship search committee any reason to reject your application.” Having sat on these types of committees, I know from experience that the applications that are missing information, came in after a deadline, have spelling or grammatical errors, or otherwise don’t meet the minimum expectations of the donor, will be discarded with minimal consideration. Lastly, be sure to warmly thank your donors with a hand written note once you have been awarded a scholarship. Scholarship donors don’t often come into contact with the students they’ve choosen to assist. It is good form to thank them and it will be greatly appreciated.

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