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    How To Tell If A Scholarship Is Right For You

    It may seem like a good idea to apply only for scholarships that are highly relevant to your personal circumstances; however, the "right" award for you is actually any you're eligible to win.
    By Diane Melville - Updated: November 19, 2015

    What You'll Learn

    • The difference between "eligibility" and "relevancy."
    • When you should apply for a scholarship.
    • Why winning scholarships is a numbers game.
    A stack of magazines, pamphlets, and other papers.

    Many students don't apply for scholarships because they cannot find awards that are relevant to them. However, to win more scholarships, you need to be less picky. For example, I applied for a poetry writing scholarship even though I consider myself a horrible poet—and I won it!

    As a scholarship applicant, your job is to find scholarships that you are eligible to apply for, not to find scholarships perfectly relevant for you. This may seem like a subtle distinction, but truly understanding the difference can make or break your chances of winning a scholarship.

    Eligibility Trumps Relevancy

    If you are "eligible" for a scholarship, that means you meet its basic requirements. The best way to increase your chances of winning a scholarship is to apply for as many as you are eligible for. Decrease that number, and you decrease your chances of winning a scholarship. It's as simple as that.

    "Relevancy" matters for things like employment. It's good to apply for jobs that are highly relevant to your skills/personality because you'll be happier, perform better on the job, and have a higher likelihood of actually landing the job. Scholarships, however, are more like raffles: It doesn't matter how relevant the raffle is to you; the more tickets you have, the more chances you have at free stuff.

    When To Apply For A Scholarship

    Before applying for a scholarship, ask yourself the following:

    • Am I eligible to enter this scholarship? (Do you meet the minimum eligibility requirements?)
    • Do I want what the scholarship is giving away? (Usually, money. Everyone likes money.)
    • Is it worth the effort to enter the scholarship? (Would you write a 5,000-word essay for $10,000?)

    If you answer "yes" to all three, then apply. Consider the following example of a fictional student, Dana:

    Dana's Profile

    • GPA: 3.2
    • Location: Atlanta, GA
    • Major: Chemical Engineering
    • School: XYZ University
    • Status: Junior
    • Other eligibility:
      • Single mother
      • Part-time employment
      • Loves writing
      • Low-income

    "Scholarship A" Requirements

    • GPA: Greater than 3.0
    • Major(s): Science
    • Status: All college students
    • Essay: 500 words on the most significant scientific breakthrough in the in the last 10 years

    "Scholarship B" Requirements

    • GPA: Greater than 3.0
    • Major: Chemical Engineering
    • Status: Junior
    • Other: Must be a single mother
    • Essay: 500 words describing the most difficult challenge you've faced as a single mother

    The majority of scholarships are like Scholarship A: simple requirements for a broad group of students. Scholarship B, however, is extremely relevant to Dana's profile. It appears that she should focus her efforts there, as she has a better shot of winning that award—but we actually have no idea.

    What if Scholarship B gets more competitive applicants? What if Scholarship A awards 50 scholarship and Scholarship B only awards one scholarship? What if the sponsors of Scholarship A want a student just like Dana? Without knowing all of the details, Dana has no idea which scholarship she is actually more suited to win, so her best option is to apply for both.

    Just Apply!

    I've always said that scholarships are a numbers game. When you apply for a scholarship, there is already a good chance that you won't win (statistically speaking)—regardless of whether it is highly relevant to you or not. Rejection is a built-in part of the scholarship process.

    When you apply for many scholarships, your chances of success and number of rejections will both increase. Since you can't avoid rejection, simply attack it head-on! Stay focused on eligibility, apply for as many scholarships as you can, and watch the checks roll in.

    Por Diane Melville - Actualizado: 19 noviembre 2015
    A stack of magazines, pamphlets, and other papers.
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