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How To Win Scholarships - Part 1

Why You Should Apply For Outside Scholarships

Scholarships are meant to help you cover The Gap, as described in The “We’ll Figure It Out Strategy”. If you’re not sure it matters whether you search for scholarships or just take more loans, read about the difference in this blog post.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

How To Get Started With A Scholarship Strategy

You need to lay the groundwork to make this strategy easy and efficient. Without this step, you’re not likely to stick with your plan and actually win scholarships. Do you remember how much of a pain it was to apply to a bunch of different colleges and deal with the fact that they all have a different process, different forms, different notification practices, etc? Well, scholarships are just like that. At first, you’re going to notice the differences a lot more than the similarities. By laying the groundwork, you’ll deal with those differences a lot more efficiently and realize that there IS actually a lot of redundancy between various scholarship applications.

So what do I mean by Laying The Groundwork?

Basically, this is the part where I tout the importance of organization - yes, that thing that most high school students hate and most moms love, and most high school students love to hate that their mom loves it so much!

This is going to take some dedication. And, by some, I mean a lot. But, you’re in control of how much time you spend.

Decide Now On Your Goal For Completing This Step

Let’s start with the end in mind.

  • On what date do you want to be ready to start applying?_______________________

  • How many hours do you think it will take?___________________________________

  • Hint: Probably more than 2 and less than 10, but read through the article to see what you think.

  • How many hours per week do you need to dedicate to this goal?_________________

  • What days/times will you work on this every week?____________________________

Go ahead and put your work sessions on the calendar.

How To Get Organized For Your Scholarship Applications

Where should you keep your information?

You’ll probably need both a physical and electronic filing system. Believe it or not, some scholarship applications are paper only.

Physical Information

  • Print out and/or make copies of all of the information you need (see below for a list)

  • Place those documents in a file folders, a notebook, an expand-a-file, or just toss them all over your bedroom floor (no, don’t really do that)

  • Keep multiples of your sealed school transcripts if they will allow you to request multiple copies

Electronic Information

  • Set up a “Scholarship Application” file where it is most convenient for you to access what you need. If you will be splitting scholarship duties with someone else, make sure both of you can access these documents.

  • You can use your computer’s hard drive (if you keep it backed-up) or a cloud storage solution. I personally use Google Drive for this so that my son and I can share documents.

  • Keep one document with all of the tidbits of information that you need to access to make filling out applications easier and add to it as you discover new information needed that you don’t have memorized. Even if you do have something memorized, you may want to be able to easily copy and paste it into an application.

  • Keep a single spreadsheet where you list the following information

  • Name of the scholarship

  • Link to access the application itself and more information about the requirements

  • Due date

  • Date applied

  • Date results received

  • Where to send thank you note

  • Date thank you note sent

  • Amount of award

  • How the award is to be received

  • Requirements for requesting renewal in subsequent years (if applicable)

  • Notes

  • Add potential scholarships to the list even if you missed the deadline so that you can apply next year

What Information You Need To Organize


  • Name

  • Date of birth

  • Contact information

  • High School

  • College you’re planning to attend


  • SAT/ACT scores

  • Weighted and Unweighted GPA

  • Transcript - both unofficial and official sealed copies

  • Class rank


  • Teachers

  • School Admin

  • Coach

  • Community Leader


  • Job experience

  • Sports

  • Extracurricular activities

  • Community activism

  • Volunteer activities

  • Awards

  • Achievements

  • Skills

  • Leadership demonstration

  • Hobbies


  • How Will This Scholarship Help You

  • What Is The Value Of A College Education

  • Keep everything you write to reuse or repurpose

Work Product

  • Samples of project plans

  • Pictures of projects

  • Video/Audio samples of your sports, artistic abilities, hobbies, etc


  • Honestly, there is no telling what else you’ll be asked to provide, but keep it filed away just in case you need it again

Once you have everything together, you will be ready to start listing relevant scholarships in that spreadsheet you created. By the time you’ve put all of this together, I’ll have posted another article on just how to find the right scholarships.

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