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General Tips for Strengthening Award Applications


1. Plan ahead.   Don’t wait until the night before the application deadline to begin writing your statement of interest or essay questions. Your responses will not be as compelling or competitive as they could be if you start early.

2. Look carefully at the scholarship criteria.  Most scholarship programs first screen applications by looking at who meets the eligibility requirements. Apply for scholarships you are eligible for unless you can provide a strong case for why the scholarship committee should consider your application even though you do not meet the requirements. 

3. Make sure that you answer the essay questions that are being asked.  Stay on track and focused on the main points of the essay. Also, answer the questions with conviction and passion for what you are pursuing.

4. Write an outline for the essay portion.  An outline can help provide focus and structure to the essay. Using an outline will allow you to present your arguments and ideas in a manner that supports your conclusions, yielding a more powerful essay.

5. Concentrate on your opening paragraph.  The lead or opening paragraph is generally the most important.  It is here that you grab the reader’s attention or lose it.  This paragraph becomes the framework for the rest of the statement. 

6. Give concrete examples.  When writing, support your statements with concrete examples.  For example, if you say that one of your best qualities is leadership; give an example where you have demonstrated leadership.

7. Avoid clichés.  Stay away from common language and overly-used statements.  For example, an applicant who writes that she wants to learn about a new culture and have a once in a lifetime experience is not adequately setting herself apart from other applicants.

8. Consider working with your on-campus advisor.  Academic advisors may be willing to offer you feedback on your application. If you are applying for a scholarship in a particular field of study, you may find it helpful to talk with your academic advisor so that you can tap in to their knowledge of the field. 

9. If you have questions about your essay(s), or would just like someone else to read them over, you should visit the Writing Center. The Fred Meijer Writing Center, located in 120 Lake Ontario Hall, has on-site consultants that will offer you feedback on how to strengthen your application.

10. Type your application.  You are making a first impression with how your application appears.  Typing an application is always more professional than handwriting.

11. Proofread your application. Carefully review your entire application. Check for spelling errors, grammar errors, etc. Ask at least two other individuals to provide feedback on your application. Be sure to read your essay aloud.

12. Apply for other awards. Once you’ve done the legwork for your first scholarship application, don’t hesitate to repackage it and apply for others. Just make sure revamped essays fit the new target audience.