Tips & Advice

Scholarship Application Tips & Advice

Scholarship Application Tips

NSHSS Scholarship Director, Dr. Susan Thurman, offers up some helpful tips for students applying for scholarships. These tips are relevant to students applying for any scholarship, whether one of our NSHSS member exclusive scholarships, one of our NSHSS Foundation scholarships, or a scholarship through another organization.

Most scholarship applications involve three parts, a resume, an essay, and recommendation letters. Dr. Thurman offers tips on tackling all three of these components. The most important tip to remember throughout the scholarship application process, and also the college application process, is to PROOFREAD everything!

Preparing Scholarship Essays

FOLLOW DIRECTIONS

Abide by the essay’s guidelines. If an essay has a maximum of 500 words, writing 1,000 words will not give you an edge over other applicants.

STICK TO THE TOPIC

Don’t try to force an essay you have previously written into a topic that doesn’t match

BE SPECIFIC

Include plenty of details; don’t generalize.

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY

If you plan to write about your extracurricular experiences, it is better to have thrown yourself into all opportunities afforded to members in 1-2 clubs or organizations than to have merely been listed as a member in 3-4 clubs or organizations.

READ ALOUD

Reading your essay aloud helps you determine how your essay will read to its reviewers.

SEEK 2ND AND 3RD OPINIONS

Share your essay with your parent or guardian. Then, run it by a friend or a mentor for a more objective opinion without familial bias.

BE CREATIVE

Don’t bore the scholarship committee. Imagine if you were reviewing hundreds of essays, what would make YOUR essay stand out from the rest. Feel free to use quotes, historical and current event references, or even pop culture references. Be YOU! 

Preparing your Resume

Create a list of all your accomplishments starting with the most recent ones. Try to keep your resume to one page.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Be sure your contact information is up to date, with address, telephone, email and current school.

ACADEMICS

Begin with academics: GPA, academic awards, Dean’s list, math bowl champion, etc.

LEADERSHIP ACTIVITIES

Officer positions in clubs and organizations, leadership conferences, captain of athletic teams, etc. Leadership doesn’t have to mean being the head of a club.  Actions, not titles, make leaders.

EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES

Music, sports, clubs/organizations, hobbies, academic camps, employment, internships, etc.

COMMUNITY SERVICE

Include volunteer activities. Don't forget to list dates of service activities.

REFERENCES

Include a line that says, References available upon request. If you do wish to include references, be sure to ask for permission from your references and make sure that you have the correct spelling and contact information.

KEEP IN MIND

In most cases do not include activities and awards prior to high school (unless you have achieved something truly remarkable, such as winning the National Geography Bee, or founding a charity at a young age).

How to ask for Recommendation Letters

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  • Find an educator with whom you can discuss your extracurricular activities, college aspirations, other classes, etc.
  • Provide your recommender with all of the information they will need to prepare and submit your recommendation.
  • Read the application requirements carefully – an application may have a limit of one recommendation, may allow more than one, or may require more than one.
  • Make sure to give your educator friendly reminders weeks before your scholarship deadline.
  • Give thanks! Surprise them with a hand-written thank you card (not an email or social media post!).
  • Maintain communication.
  • Ask for a recommendation at the last minute. 
  • List someone as a recommender or reference without their knowledge.
  • Skimp on the information they need to prepare and submit the recommendation.
  • Take it personally if the educator is not able to prepare a recommendation for you.