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How to Increase Your Chances of Winning College Scholarships

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According to US News & World Report, half of all college students are expected to receive scholarships – AKA "FREE MONEY" – to help pay for college.

Now, the story in US News made it seem like there was a shortage of scholarships since it’s "only" 50%. That may well be true. But when I read that half of all students will get scholarships, I think that’s pretty amazing! One out of two students get FREE MONEY to help pay for college?! Sign me up for those kinds of odds!

Of course, if you want to even better your chances – and make sure you are in the "right" 50% – here are some ways to increase your chances of winning a college scholarship.

1. Apply early. Even if the application deadline isn’t until June 30, there is no reason you can’t send in your application materials a good month or two earlier.  This is especially true for state and university scholarships, which are often first-come-first serve. In addition to your essays and recommendations, also make sure that you complete your FAFSA as close as possible to the start of the new year.

2. Cast a wide net for scholarships. Don’t rely on the scholarships your university may tell you that you qualify for. Cast a wide net with your own personal searches.  Take advantage of a FREE scholarship search engine and the Financial Aid Finder’s Student Scholarship Search. Don’t shy way from some of the more "unusual scholarships". If you meet the qualifications, why not apply? It’s FREE money for school.

One word to the wise: Be careful not to let your eagerness to win a scholarship entice you to pay someone to search for scholarships for you. If they are asking for money, that is a possible sign that you are being scammed!

3. Be what the committee is looking for. Pay special attention to the applicant requirements of any scholarship you apply for. If a scholarships committee is looking for residents of the state of Arizona – and you live in Florida – DO NOT APPLY. If you need a minimum GPA of 3.5 and your GPA is more like 3.0, don’t waste your time – or their time – applying for the scholarship. There are plenty of other scholarships that you will qualify for. Focus on those, instead. Read this article for more information on what scholarship committees are looking for.

4. Polish your presentation. Your application is your first impression with the scholarship committee. Ensure that you make it to the next level with a flawless presentation. Here, for example, are 9 Steps to Writing a Killer Essay.

5. Stretch your college dollars. This isn’t advice about scholarship applications per se, but rather your overall approach to financing your college degree. If resources are limited – and for whom aren’t they limited these days? – it’s wise to look closely at your total expense package: From the school you choose to attend, to your living arrangements, to your textbook purchases, it is possible to stretch your college dollars by making carefully researched choices along the way.

Have you applied for any college scholarships this spring? Will you spend some of your summer vacation finding and applying for scholarships? You have nothing to lose – other than the time it takes you to complete your application!

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