Applying to scholarships can be incredibly difficult. How do you start? How do you find the right ones? How do you keep track of everything? How do you write an essay that stands out? There are thousands of questions and limitless distractions, but with the right process, and an ample amount of support, it can start to feel almost easy. Below I’ve taken the techniques I used to win and built an action plan you can follow to guide you through the process. At the end of the day consistency, getting help, and persisting through the apps will be your greatest keys to success.
This approach is core to Scholarship Junkies, where we’ve helped students attend every Ivy League, every top 50 school, and win more than $90 million in scholarships. We’re not only giving you the inside plan but the support you need to stand out from the crowd, all for free! Yeup. Get the plan, get help finding scholarships, and get the best feedback to transform your essays all for free.
I started late, like really really late, so you don’t have to. The first scholarship I actively applied to was the Gates Millenium Scholarship in January of my senior year. After weeks of writing, I was excited to have eight fresh and powerfully written essays. It was the night of the deadline, and I was immersed in tweaking every sentence to perfection. I lost track of time and when I went to refresh I was locked out of my account. It was just hitting 9pm PST and I had never realized that the deadline was actually midnight EST. I sat there for hours, fixated on the screen, on all my hard work, on my future. I felt broken. I was looking at eight essays I couldn’t use and the biggest scholarship opportunity in the nation slipping through my fingers. In that moment I couldn’t tell you anything except that I’d never again let timezones stand between me and opportunity.
In reality, I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing. I didn’t know when to start, how to prioritize, or any good techniques for reducing how much work I was doing. Now, after years of working with students, and millions of dollars in scholarships won by people just like you, I have a four-core strategy that will help you plan for success and get the help you need.
Now that we’ve laid the foundation let’s get down to the action!
The first step is realizing two important things. First, you don’t have to win all of the scholarships you apply to. In fact, you don’t have to win most of them. We’ve seen that most full ride students are winning between 10%-20% of the scholarships they’re applying to. This means you can get almost nine no’s before you ever get a yes. This doesn’t mean that when you don’t win, your story isn’t valued or that you have bad writing. It only means you weren’t the best fit at that time, and that’s okay.
The second is that failure is a stepping stone towards success. Failure allows us to push the boundaries, test the unknowns and set the foundation for growth. Rejection is our teacher, and through it all, the full-ride students learn that success isn’t about the first step, it’s about the next step. No matter how many rejections you get, take it in stride, learn so you can improve for the next time, and ask for help to speed up the process.
Get a cheerleader. Seeing applications pile up and being bombarded with rejections can weigh down anyone. It’s not easy getting a series of no’s, but having someone in your corner can make a world of difference. Find someone, it doesn’t matter who, that will tell you-you're worth it despite the rejection. Someone who’ll be there to talk about how you feel as you go through the process. It’ll keep you rejuvenated through the process and push you to keep going. If you’re ever feeling down, or just need a pep talk, for any reason, let us know. We’ve been there and know how impactful consistent support in your corner can be.
Getting everything in place gives you the best chance to make sure you can stay on top of mounting deadlines and the little details that pile up. Take these three steps to set yourself up for success and stay on top of the multitude of applications.
- Create a new and professional Gmail email (ex. davidcoven@gmail, covendavid@gmail, davidcoven94, covendavid94) that will live ONLY for scholarships, college apps, and extracurricular programs. We want to keep everything contained and focused. Make filters so you can keep as organized as possible.
- Sync this email to your phone and check it daily, and sync your deadlines to your Google calendar. Once this is done, set your reminders for 5 days before so you have plenty of time for each application.
- Build a personal list of scholarships and take the challenge to add at least ONE new scholarship EVERY DAY. Want the scholarship list template we use to help thousands of students? Sign up, and we’ll not only give you a template, but we’ll find scholarships for you. Sign up to get the tracker, scholarship matches, and a Success Coach to help you through the process. -> http://bit.ly/enroll-sj-students
Searching for scholarships can feel like chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Elusive, time-consuming, and fruitless. But I can assure you that the size of your pot of gold is determined by how much time and effort you put in. The goal here is to minimize your time spent while getting maximum scholarships to come to you. There are too many free resources out there to pay for scholarship results. If the site you’re on is charging you just to view your matches, or selling your data, get out.
While there are a lot of tools out there, we wanted to bring you one that just gets it. One without ads, that doesn’t sell your data, and that gets matching right. We’ve rebuilt search from the ground up and it comes with our promise; if you can’t find a scholarship you’re eligible for, let us know and we’ll find one for you.
- Our bank is full of scholarships with new opportunities added nearly every day. Check it out here http://bank.scholarshipjunkies.org ! If you want to unlock every opportunity out there, make sure to sign up so we can refine the filtering and find ones that fit you! You can sign up here: http://bit.ly/enroll-sj-students And if you can’t find a scholarship, let us know and we’ll find one for you.
- If you’ve completely exhausted our bank you can check out some of our friends at Get Schooled, College Board, and College Greenlight! They’re all free resources that focus on you, the students! Put some time into completing your profile. This will help you maximize your return on time investment and will really allow them to only send scholarships that match your goals, personality, and interests. Remember that new email? It’ll come in handy here! Make a GDoc with all of your profile details so you can save time by copy/pasting the details into as many sites as possible.
- If you can’t find any scholarships let us know via r/scholarshipjunkies and we’ll find some for you!
Writing To Win
Writing about yourself is hard; it's not just you. As you begin writing, you’ll realize that most of the scholarship prompts begin to blend into the same questions. After you have a few really good stories your focus should be on tweaking them to apply to as many opportunities as possible. This will help you save time and maximize how many scholarships you can apply to! The key here is to get something on paper, revise until you have something great, and then apply to as many scholarships as possible.
- Pick moments that shape you. More often than not, the stories that create the biggest emotional connection have to do with our growth and the lessons we've learned because of it. Take the top 15 moments in your life and think about how they make you feel. For each prompt pick the moment whose emotional tone best fits the prompt.
- Focus on building an emotional tone in your writing. When you establish an emotional connection you create new pathways in the brain. This gets the scholarship judges on your side, fighting for you over other cookie cutter stories.
- To make your writing stand out here are some of our favorite posts about writing techniques! How to write a college essay part 1 (stay tuned for the entire four-part series) and How to Write an Autobiographical Essay.
- Get your essays read. This isn’t optional. If you can’t inspire emotion in the people next to you it can be pretty hard to build a connection with strangers. Ask your teacher, ask your friends, ask your parents, submit them to Scholarship Junkies, whatever you choose (though I'd love for you send them to SJ) do what you can to at least get 1 - 2 rounds of feedback.
You don't need EVERYONE to read your essays, but you do need someone to. We have a team of experts who’ve helped students win more than $90 million in scholarships waiting to help you. We’re here every day to make sure stories like yours stand out and get the transformation they need to be competitive.
Bonus: Asking Questions
More often than not you’re not the only person with your question! No matter where you’re at in the process, there may be something you’re unsure about and that’s okay. At any point you can ask us, your friends, or your teacher for help. No matter how silly it may seem, don’t stop asking until you feel your question has been answered. This is about your success, so don’t let outside perceptions stop you from getting the support you need.
Best ways to ask us questions:
- Sign up for a Success Coach while we have open spots. Every so often we open our Success Coach program to give you one-to-one guidance and help on anything scholarship/college related. Your coach is your personal support who will be there to answer any questions you may have. Sign up here -> http://bit.ly/enroll-sj-students
- Ask us on Reddit r/scholarshipjunkies! We love the Reddit community and are working on making a more inclusive, supported, and focused scholarship success community. We’re there every day, answering questions, and working with students just like you.
- You can also hit us up on Insta/Facebook/Twitter, Email (firstname.lastname@example.org), pretty much everywhere!
And there you have it. With the techniques above I won nearly $1 million in scholarships and went to college for free. With this template for how to structure your scholarship journey, the rest is repeating until you have enough $$$. No matter what age, experience level, or college ambitions, there is a scholarship you qualify for.
From here on out it's a numbers game. Regardless of if you're a finalist or not, work until you have nothing to worry about. Work until you run your own scholarship organization. Work until you’ve graduated debt free. Once you’re at this level, and you’ve won all the scholarships under the sun, what happens? Well you’re in luck! We wrote an article just for you–What happens if you win more scholarships than you need?