Here we go with the fourth post in our series on the Scholarship Express Package and finally we’ve made it to the important part! You already know that the purpose of your SEP is to help you apply for scholarships quickly and efficiently, but, HOW? Follow these steps to make the application process as fast and painless as possible:
- As soon as you’ve got a fresh, new scholarship application in your hand (or on your computer screen), immediately flip your binder open to your Scholarship Deadline Sheet and get that sucker filled out.
- Complete the actual application. Whether you access it online, scan it into your computer and create a .pdf file with interactive form fields, answer the questions in black ink, or feed it into your grandmother’s ancient typewriter, you need to fill out the information requested on the application pages. You won’t have to go searching for the answers, because all of this data should be readily available right inside of your SEP binder!
You might say, “The application only gives me six short lines to list my interests, but I’ve created an awesome clubs/activities resume with twelve items on it. Should I attach this form to my application?” The answer to this question is “no.” Remember that the scholarship committee will be evaluating hundreds—possibly thousands—of applications! If they only want six, one-word answers during the preliminary round, that’s all you should give them. Pick your most interesting interests to showcase and/or the ones that fit best with the type of scholarship or the purpose of the sponsoring organization.
- Gather any extra pages that you are asked to submit along with your application. For instance, the committee may request items such as a copy of your school transcript or your SAT scores. This is where you HOPE that you are invited to attach the cool resumes you’ve created for your activities, community service, and work experience!
- Pick an essay. You may need to write a fresh one, but chances are that you already have an appropriate composition in your portfolio that is ready—or almost ready—to shove inside your envelope and mail away!
If you need to adapt or revise one of your essays, this is where your nifty USB flash drive comes into play. Plug it into your computer, do a little bit of word processing, and within minutes (in most cases) you’ll be printing out an essay that fits perfectly with your current scholarship application needs. Here are some examples of revisions you may need to make to your essay of choice:
a. You may need to reformat your essay to match the guidelines provided in the application packet. The committee might ask that you include the name of their organization in the upper corner; they may request a certain type of spacing or font; they might want everybody’s essay to share the same title, etc.
b. You may need to adjust the word count on your essay. Let’s say you’ve composed a 700-word piece on your experiences as a day camp counselor for underprivileged kids. If a certain scholarship asks you to “Describe a time when you’ve shown leadership qualities” in 500 words or less, you have the option of simply editing the similar essay that you’ve already written. Alternately, if you have not been given a word limit this time, or if it is a higher number than before, you may want to jazz up an old essay and make it even longer and more exciting!
c. You might decide to adapt a previous essay so that it more closely relates to the provided topic or to the purpose of the organization. For example, you are applying for a scholarship that is being awarded only to future students of chemistry, and the essay question is “How can we use chemistry to make a positive impact on the world?” For a previous scholarship, you wrote an essay about your plan to enter the eld of drug research, and titled it “My Goal for the Future: Better Treatments for Genetic Illness.” With a few changes here and there, this same essay can form the base for a new version called “Cured by Chemistry: Future Innovations in Drug Research.”
- Time to whip out that USB drive again, so you can make adjustments to your letters of recommendation. Do this, of course, only to the extent agreed upon between you and the people who wrote your letters. The revisions you make may be as simple as changing the name of the organization in the heading, or personalizing the salutation. In the extreme case that you need a letter that is geared in a whole new direction, the portability of your flash drive will serve you well. Which of the following requests sounds more reasonable?
“Ms. Lebrowski, could you write me another scholarship recommendation letter, please? This time, talk about what a great job I did serving on the student council and how I was in charge of fundraising for the class trip.”
“Ms. Lebrowski, I want to thank you again for the wonderful recommendation letter that you wrote on my behalf. I have a copy of it right here on this portable drive, and I was wondering if you might have some time to add a paragraph that describes my leadership skills for submission to the Future Administrators of America scholarship competition?”
- You should now have collected each document that you need for your application packet, with most (or even ALL) of it found right inside your SEP binder. The final step is to put everything into an addressed and stamped envelope and mail it away!
Whew! That must be everything, right? Wrong! Check back soon for tips on how to put together your Scholarship Follow-Up File