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Dartmouth_552x240Most college scholarships and grants are available through the Federal and State governments, which are ultimately controlled by the colleges themselves.

However, there are a few Private scholarships that are available through outside, private sources. These private scholarships are very competitive though, and scholarship judges may spend just a few precious minutes or even seconds reviewing the scholarship application.

With such a finite amount of time to make a lasting impression on these important decision makers, it’s crucial that the student make the most of this opportunity. If not, the application may be on the fast track to the circular file.

Here are the Top 10 Scholarship Do’s & Don’ts that you must know to increase your chances of winning a private scholarship:

The Do’s

Search in your own community first . Your community is one of the biggest sources of scholarships. Find out about these kinds of awards by contacting your local chamber of commerce, community chest, Rotary, etc. and by reading your community newspaper, or searching the Yellow Pages under Foundations.

Choose quality over quantity . You’ll need to prioritize which scholarships to apply for. Instead of trying to apply to as many scholarships as possible, try to apply to the scholarships that best fit your strengths, interests and qualifications.

Understand the purpose of the scholarship . Scholarships may be designed to encourage students to enter a specific career field, to reward students who contribute to their communities or to help underserved students enter higher education. Use this information to guide how you write your scholarship application.

Follow the directions . Make sure you take the time to ensure every “i” is dotted and “t” is crossed. Include all the information and forms requested, and answer every question.

Write an essay that demonstrates why you should win . The scholarship application gives the scholarship judges a sense of who you are and what’s important to you. Think about what skills and qualities the scholarship judges seek and then describe how you match them.

Get feedback from editors . You can’t write a strong scholarship essay in a vacuum, and editors are the best people to help. Friends, teachers and even parents can make great editors.

Proofread . No matter how strong of an applicant you are, it would be difficult for a scholarship judge to overlook spelling or grammatical errors. Proofread your application and essays carefully, and have your editors do the same.

Practice for interviews . Ask a friend or parent to do a mock interview with you to prepare for the real thing.

Ask your parents for help . Mom and Dad are capable of doing more than writing the tuition check. They can help you find scholarships, keep track of deadlines and give you feedback on your applications and essays.

Brag a little about yourself . You need to let your best self shine through in your scholarship applications – don’t be bashful about discussing your accomplishments.

The Don’ts

Don’t overlook your high school guidance counselor . Helping students pay for college is not their job, but you can take advantage of the knowledge they’ve accumulated over the years.

Don’t ignore the Internet . Use the many FREE scholarship searches available on the Internet to find more scholarships.

Don’t ignore small awards . When there are scholarships worth tens of thousands of dollars, you might think you shouldn’t bother with the “small potato” awards. The truth is that a $1,000 scholarship is $1,000 less that you will need to come up with for college.

Don’t think that you have to be an academic or athletic superstar to win . There are scholarships based on leadership, art, music, theatre, community service and more.

Don’t be a victim of a scholarship scam . Never pay for an online private scholarship search. You can find private scholarships on your own, and applying for these private scholarships should always be free.

Don’t use the shotgun approach . Remember that all organizations that award scholarships have different selection criteria. This means that the same application won’t work for all of them.

Don’t forget to answer the question in your essay . There’s a reason why the scholarship organizations provide the essay questions. They want to know your answer. An essay can be very well written, but if it doesn’t answer the question asked, then it’s not going to win.

Don’t wait until the last minute . You may think that you do your best work on the day before the deadline at 3 a.m., but if you review your work you’ll probably see that you don’t. Take the pressure off, and allow yourself more time to complete an application.

Don’t turn in an application that is incomplete . Scholarship organizations receive far more applicants than they can support. Don’t give them a reason to take you out of the running for not having a complete application.

Don’t think that it’s impossible for you to win . Every student who has won a scholarship has thought this. And guess what? They won, and you can, too!

The author of this newsletter is Brock Jolly.

If you have any questions about the information contained in this newsletter, or any questions about college funding in general, please contact our office.

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