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  • 3m.

    How To Win A Scholarship If Your GPA Isn't the Best

    If you think you need great grades to win a scholarship, think again. By connecting personally with a scholarship, you can get that free money without a stellar GPA.
    By Diane Melville - Updated: March 16, 2015

    What You'll Learn

    • What scholarships are best for student with low GPAs
    • How to personally connect with a scholarship through your essay
    • The importance of social causes to scholarships
    a filled out question on a test

    Winning a scholarship isn't always about being the best student. Sure, academic achievements matter, but they're not the only thing scholarship providers look for—that list includes things like personal characteristics, intended major/career, and place of residency.

    If you have a lower GPA, here's how to find scholarships that focus more on you and less on your grades. And if you're a parent, encourage your child to explore these options. Reassure your him or her that a GPA shouldn't stand in the way of pursuing scholarships.

    Find "Close Fit" Scholarships

    The secret to winning a few scholarships when you have an average/low GPA is to find scholarships looking for someone just like you. The more of your personal and academic characteristics that match up with what the scholarship provider is looking for, the better chance you'll have of winning that award.

    For example, let's say that XYZ Organization offers a scholarship for music majors from Illinois who are passionate about using music to serve their community. The student who will win that award will be the student who best fits the mission of that scholarship—not necessarily the student with the best GPA.

    Here are a few types of scholarships that judge applicants in this way:

    • Memorial scholarships: Smaller scholarships set up in memory of a particular person tend to focus less on GPA when selecting a winner. Friends and family members of the person being honored usually run these scholarships, and they tend to base their decisions on how well the student applicant embodies the characteristics of the person being memorialized.
    • Social cause scholarships: These scholarships are all about your dedication to a specific cause that the scholarship champions. If you can demonstrate your commitment to a specific cause (like supporting the LGBTQ community, protecting the environment, or working toward peace) through community service, leadership, or any other creative forms of activism, then you can have a great shot at winning these kinds of scholarships—even with a less than ideal GPA.
    • Local and obscure scholarships: Statistically speaking, local scholarships and scholarships with obscure eligibility requirements will have a harder time finding ideal candidates, making it easier for students with lower GPAs to win them. Honestly, what are the chances of finding a student from Southwest Georgia with financial need who is passionate about Human Services Technology? If that's you, you're in.

    Connect The Dots

    When you find scholarships like the ones mentioned above, the next thing that you need to do is convince the scholarship providers that you are the student they've been searching for. There are a few strategies to accomplish this.

    First, highlight your activism by putting together a one-page document that lists all of your extracurricular activities relevant to the scholarship. Be sure to include the name of the activity, the dates/hours of participation, any leadership positions held, and a brief (less than 200 words) description of your participation. Then, make sure that you fully understand the mission of the scholarship organization and what kind of students they are looking for. With that information in hand, you can tailor your personal statement essay to highlight those aspects of your story.

    Finally, review your completed application to see if you can say anything else or provide any additional documentation to further illustrate how much you deserve this award. For example, if the scholarship focuses heavily on community service, perhaps you can include a letter of recommendation from your community service supervisor. These little details will help you to stand out, regardless of your GPA.

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