My Scholarship Background
I served on the scholarship selection committee for a local technology board for 5 years (2015-2019). During that time, I also served on their board as Incoming President (2015), President (2016-2017), and Past President (2018-2019). I was also extremely involved in managing, promoting, and fundraising for the scholarship program during my two years as President.
The organization established the scholarship program as a benefit for members of their college Student Chapter and for members/families of their Professional Chapter. Two scholarships were offered to members each year:
- One $1000 Student Chapter scholarship
- One $1000 Professional Chapter scholarship
Application Selection Factors
Your chances of being selected for the scholarship are based on the number of eligible applicants and the quality of your application. Most people would be surprised to learn how many applicants are eliminated due to not meeting the application criteria or not following the application instructions. When coupled with how few potential candidates there may be for some scholarships, applicants with a great personal statement or personal essay have an extremely strong chance of being selected for one of these scholarships.
Consider Number of Potential Candidates
The Student Chapter had between 50-100 members, which means each student member could have a 1-2% chance of being selected assuming all students are eligible to participate and submit applications. These are great odds!
The Professional Chapter had between 200-300 members, plus their children and grandchildren, which could equal 1000-2000 candidates total? Keep in mind only a small percentage of those candidates (under 5%) are likely to be enrolled in 2-4 year college courses, which means there are likely less than 50-100 candidates eligible for this scholarship. These are the same great odds!
To recap, I’m suggesting these two scholarships could have a maximum of 50-100 potential candidates each year, or 1-2% odds per candidate. If you are planning to apply for many scholarships, begin by seeking out (or completing applications for) scholarships only available to smaller groups, such as members of local trade associations, employees of companies, families of churches, etc.
Carefully Review Eligibility Criteria
Each scholarship has clear and specific eligibility criteria, such as membership requirements, GPA requirements, declared major/degree requirements, citizenship requirements, etc. Applications that do not meet the eligibility criteria requirements are not considered because the program was created for a specific student demographic. This will be true of most scholarship programs.
Most of the applications we receive each year are not considered because the applicants are NOT a member of the Student Chapter or not a member/child/grandchild of the Professional Chapter. Make sure you meet the scholarship criteria. It is very helpful if your application clearly confirms you meet each criteria requirement, such as confirming your GPA, declared major, or citizenship.
Warning regarding GPA – Most schools use the traditional 4.0 GPA scale, but we are seeing some schools use a variety of scales such as 5.0 GPA, 11 GPA, etc. If your school uses a non-traditional GPA scale, make sure your transcript includes the 4.0 GPA equivalent OR have your school attach a letter that clearly shows your 4.0 GPA equivalent grade. We took the time to confirm the 4.0 GPA equivalent when it was missing, but this can be very time consuming. I suspect larger scholarship programs will ignore or discard applications that do not clearly show the 4.0 GPA equivalent.
Carefully Follow Application Instructions
Each scholarship has clear and specific application instructions, such as application deadline, requiring a recent high school or college transcript, requiring FAFSA, requiring a letter of recommendation, and a specific length statement/essay. Applicants who do not follow the instructions are not considered.
The volunteers on our selection committees understand that mistakes can happen and have made minor exceptions to this strict policy (e.g. when an applicant discovers a mistake or omission and submits a correction shortly after the due date).
Many of the applications we receive each year are not considered because they are missing one or more of the required documents or information items. Double check the application requirements to ensure you have attached each required document or information item. Have someone review your scholarship application(s) to help ensure you have followed all instructions and included all required information or documents.
Make Sure Your Personal Essay is Personal
Scholarship applications usually request an essay or statement describing your personal situation. After reading many of these essays, I will share insights that may help you better communicate your personal situation to the scholarship selection committee.
Your personal essay is your opportunity to tell your story and differentiate yourself from the other scholarship applicants. For applicants who met the scholarship criteria and provided all of the requested information, the personal statement was perhaps the single largest influence in the selection process. Required information and letters of recommendation were reviewed to ensure the applicant qualified for the scholarship, but these items were rarely a major differentiator among applicants.
When writing your personal statement or essay, pay close attention to what the scholarship application is asking for. Applications might specifically ask about relevant schoolwork, relevant extracurricular activities, or your interest in your field of study. Sometimes applications might be more vague (e.g. demonstrate leadership potential, how will scholarship impact you) or may not provide any guidance at all.
It was always very helpful when applicants shared insight into several of the following areas. You do not need to discuss each area, but this should give you some direction if you are not sure where to begin with your personal statement:
- Schoolwork – Have you been engaged in schoolwork related to your field of study? If you’ve done well in any courses or projects related to your field of study, mention the specific courses or projects and any outcomes (e.g. high grades, recognition, awards, etc).
- Extracurricular Activities – Similar to above. Have you participated in activities outside of school that are related to your field of study? Mention if you’ve participated (or done well) in any relevant after school programs, competitions, volunteering, internships, work programs, etc.
- Interest in Field of Study – Why are you interested in the degree you are pursuing? Describing your personal interest supported by any schoolwork and extracurricular items you described is always well received. This is especially important if the scholarship is meant for someone pursuing a specific field of study (e.g. technology) so the selection committee can identify applicants who are genuinely interested in that field.
- Level of Need – This can mean many things to many people, but usually comes down to describing any sacrifice(s) you or your family will have to make if you do not receive scholarship support. Are you trying to keep costs down, trying to minimize student loans, ineligible for student loans due to a personal or family situation but your FAFSA says otherwise, or would a scholarship mean the difference between attending and not attending school? Regardless of your financial situation, almost every case is worthy of consideration. Just be honest when describing your situation in your application.
- Leadership Potential – One of our scholarship applications required a personal statement that demonstrates leadership potential. Be sure to address specific topics such as these if they are requested as part of your personal statement. Did you serve in leadership for your class or a school club? Did you take the lead on any relevant group projects? Do you help organize or run any activities outside of school? Are you managing other people or are you assigned extra responsibilities at work?
If you are applying for multiple scholarships, be aware scholarships that are only available to smaller groups will likely have a lot less competition. Small groups might include employers you or your family works at, or organizations your family is a member of or involved with. You should ask these companies and organizations if they offer any scholarships. Your school counselor will be able to provide a list of local scholarships. You may also have a local community foundation that can also provide a list of local scholarships.
If you can show that you meet the scholarship criteria and you can provide all of the documents and information requested in the scholarship application, your application will be one of the few actually considered! Remember to pay close attention to detail and have someone else review your entire application.
When you write your personal statement, be sure to discuss any topics required as part of the personal statement. If space allows, discuss relevant schoolwork, extracurricular activity, your interest in the field, and your level of need. This will give the selection committee a complete picture of your personal situation so we can compare you with other applicants and award the scholarship as fairly as possible.
Do you have questions? Please comment below. If I cannot assist you, I will share your question in case any of our other visitors have feedback for you.