Easy Ways to Personalize Your Application

In a previous post, I offered a list of Ten Tips for Submitting Amazing Application Packets (actually two previous posts, Part One and Part Two). One more important thing to bear in mind is that it can sometimes be difficult to put your own personal stamp on your college scholarship application — aside from your essay, letters of recommendation, or other inclusions that each individual committee may request, the forms themselves can be limiting in the ways they allow you to express yourself. With that in mind, here are a couple of ways to make your application stand out from the crowd.

Be Specific, If There’s Room

It is standard procedure for scholarship applications to ask you to list your achievements, community service, and awards. Sometimes a simple “list” is all that you can fit into the space provided, but if there IS some extra room, it is always a good idea to expand upon each item and point out the significance of the achievement. This practice is called annotation, which Webster’s dictionary defines as “a note added by way of comment or explanation.” At the end of this book, you will find an annotated appendix of resources for online scholarship searches. Rather than simply listing relevant website addresses, I have also included further helpful details and my impressions of each site. This is what you should strive to do when reporting your activities and accomplishments (though on a much smaller scale). If you write down that you won a “Hostess Award” you may leave the scholarship committee wondering, “Just how many snack cakes did the girl have to eat to win that?” Instead, tell them “Winner of Hostess Award, given to the female student most dedicated to easing the transition process of new students entering our school system.”

Some more examples:

NO – Volunteer at local animal shelter.

YES – I believe that every living creature deserves proper care and a place to belong, so I volunteer for ten hours per week at Furry Friends No-Kill Shelter, where I help abused and abandoned animals find loving and committed adoptive families.

NO – Hobbies: Skateboarding and Sudoku

YES – I enjoy skateboarding because the sport keeps my body healthy, my reactions lightning quick, and also provides fun challenges as I learn new skills and tricks. To exercise my mind, I like to complete Sudoku books and try to beat my own speed record with every puzzle.

The more specific you can be about what you do and why, the better the judges will get to know you as a person. It may prove worthwhile to create a master list of your annotated scholastic achievements, awards, clubs and activities, community service work, etc., which you can use as a guide when filling out paperwork. Some scholarship applications do not provide lines for you to record these items, but instead ask you to submit your own list on a separate sheet of paper. Yours will already be ready— score!

Adjust Your Application for Different Organizations

If you can make some calls or do some other simple research, it will always work to your advantage if you know a little bit about the individual or organization that is awarding the scholarship money. One way to use this information is to adapt your preliminary application so that your accomplishments best match up with the sponsor’s cause or beliefs. You can arrange the order of your list to highlight the activities the organization is most likely to value, or simply focus more attention on those aspects of your resume that pertain to the sponsor’s own agenda.

Your application packet can be tailored in many ways to fit with a specific type of scholarship, so check back soon for more advice on how to stand out from the stack of applications.

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