How to Increase Your Chances of Winning College Scholarships

February 17, 2023 by Partner Colorado Credit Union

There’s no denying college is expensive. For most families, the money to pay for college expenses usually comes from different sources—college scholarships being a very beneficial one. A scholarship is money given to a student to support getting a college degree. And the best part is you don’t need to pay the money back, it’s the student’s to keep and apply towards college expenses.

With the average in-state tuition for a public college costing around $10,423 for one school year, it’s becoming more important than ever to get as many scholarship dollars as you can. Fortunately, there are a lot of scholarship opportunities out there to help students looking for financial assistance. Here are steps you can take to increase your chances of winning college scholarships.

File with FAFSA

Before you start applying for scholarships, be sure to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is a form completed by current and prospective college students each school year to determine your eligibility for financial aid. Through FAFSA, you can also apply for federal grants, work-study and loans. From the information you fill out, colleges will use it to estimate what you can afford to pay and let you know what kind of financial aid you qualify for. Many scholarships will require you to complete the FAFSA forms to measure financial need. This is one of the easiest ways to increase your odds of qualifying for college scholarships, so be sure not to skip this step.

Get organized

Another important thing to do before you start applying for scholarships, is to get organized. Start by making a list of all the scholarships you want to apply for, and keep track of the application process as you go. You’ll want to include the name of the scholarship, contact information, scholarship amount, due date, any special requirements, and when you submitted your application. Because you’ll more than likely be applying for multiple scholarships at once, keeping track with a list will help you stay organized and give you a clearer picture of where you stand in the process. 

Look for local scholarships

It’s smart to apply for as many scholarships as you’re eligible for, however; don’t forget to check for scholarship opportunities within your own community. If you’re in high school, ask your guidance counselor about local scholarship opportunities. Your local library or Chamber of Commerce are other great resources. Partner Colorado Foundation has awarded over half a million dollars in scholarships to Colorado students. Recipients are selected on the basis of financial need; however superior academic achievement and involvement in curricular, extracurricular and community activities are also taken into consideration. Visit our website to learn more about eligibility requirements and how to apply.

Think of it as a job application

When applying for scholarships, think of it as completing a job application. This is an opportunity to earn money, so putting effort into your application is worth your time. You want to come across as professional and worthy of whatever scholarship you’re applying for, and you want to be the one selected out of all the other applicants.

Be sure to follow the directions and proof read before you submit your scholarship application. Nothing can get your application tossed out faster than not meeting the requirements or having a bunch of spelling and grammatical errors. After all, you’re trying to present yourself in the best possible light. You can ask a parent or teacher to help you proof read and check everything over. Make sure you fill out each scholarship application completely. Don’t skip any optional questions or requirements. It’s a chance for you to share more about yourself and your goals.

Don’t skip the small ones

Sometimes the scholarship process is a numbers game. Don’t overlook the smaller scholarship opportunities that may be $1,000 or less. More than likely, fewer students will apply, giving you better odds of being selected.

Don’t be afraid of an essay

When reading the requirements for certain scholarships, sometimes students will pass on the ones that require a long essay. Don’t be afraid of the extra work, after all, your work will be well rewarded and worth it if you score scholarship money.

Be yourself

When applying for scholarships, keep in mind you are one of possibly hundreds or thousands of other applicants. The best thing you can do to stand out from the crowd is to be yourself. There’s no one else exactly like you, so highlighting your strengths and passions will help you stand out in the application process. If you’re required to write an essay, make sure your personality shines through. Share personal stories that will make others connect with you. Don’t over exaggerate your accomplishments, just be honest and be yourself. If the scholarship committee feels connected to you, you’re more likely to be selected as a scholarship recipient.

Don’t miss the deadline

If your application is late, it may be tossed in the “no” pile, no matter how qualified you are. If you’re applying for multiple scholarships, keep track of deadlines on a list or calendar and set reminders on your phone so you don’t forget.

As we all know, college is expensive. Any amount of scholarship money you receive can help ease the financial burden of a college education. By following these steps, you’ll increase your chances of winning college scholarships and be well on your way to achieving your education goals.


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