6 Tips for Applying for Scholarships

June 30, 2022: THRIVE Conference 2022 Photography by Portland Oregon Photographer Craig MItchelldyer 503.513.0550

Applying to scholarships for college, graduate school, or even summer programs can be intimidating. Here are 6 tips to ensure you have a strong application.

  1. Remember: You Are Not Alone
    Every year, more and more Native students apply for scholarships. This means there are a growing number of resources available to help you with your applications. You don’t have to go through the process on your own! For example, the American Indian Graduate Center offers application assistance (and lots of other support) to Native students looking to apply to scholarships. The American Indian College Fund offers tips and FAQs for applying to their scholarships. Your own Tribal Nation likely also has some sort of support for students interested in higher education programs.
  2. Start Your Research Early
    Sometimes students think it’s best to wait until after being accepted into a program before starting to search for funding opportunities. However, scholarship deadlines may pass while students wait for acceptance letters. That’s why it’s important to start looking for scholarships right after submitting your applications for school. This gives you plenty of time to research applications, find out their deadlines, and put together your application packet. Now you know when to start looking for scholarships (early), but how do you learn what scholarships are out there? There are thousands of scholarships available based on different interests, academic achievements, identity, and more.

  3. Ask for a Letter of Recommendation Like many things in life, it can feel awkward to ask for help with your scholarship applications, but many of your teachers, mentors, and fellow community members want to help you and see you go to college without a financial burden. When considering who to ask for a LOR, make sure you ask someone who you have some sort of relationship with. Asking a teacher who you never spoke to might not be as helpful as asking a coach or a teacher you spoke with frequently. Ask your recommender for a positive letter that speaks to your strengths and qualities that make you a strong applicant. While someone may agree to write you a letter of recommendation, it is up to you to communicate with them what sort of qualities or skills you want them to highlight in their letter.
  4. Be Confident
    When applying for scholarships, it feels like we should maintain extreme humility when requesting money. However, application review committees often want to see a student who is confident in what they are interested in or what their career goals are. They also want to be able to understand your qualifications, which requires that you share what activities and experiences you have been a part of. Even if you aren’t 100% certain this is what you want to study for the rest of your time in college, letting the review committee know you are confidently committed to your personal and professional growth makes your application better.

    • If you need some help hyping yourself up, check out these tips on boosting self-esteem and confidence in yourself.
  5. Ask for Feedback
    Asking someone to read what you have written for an application essay can feel embarrassing. You might ask yourself, “Why would I want a close friend or a mentor to read an essay where I only talk about myself?” However, think of it as an opportunity to improve your writing skills and not a reflection of who you are as a person. Having multiple people view your essays will also make them better. One person may point out a grammatical error another didn’t, or someone may provide a new perspective on how to describe your skills. All of these things help make your overall application stronger and increase the likelihood you receive the scholarship. Going back to the lesson in asking for a LOR, people want to help you and see you go to college without a financial burden. You may be surprised at how excited some adults or peers in your life will be that you asked them to review your application essay.
  6. Simply Ask
    When you receive your financial aid packet in the spring/summer, you might be a little disappointed in the amount of scholarship money you were awarded. A lesser-known secret of financial aid is that you can ask your financial aid office or your soon-to-be academic department if they have any additional funding available. The worst that they can say is no, but the best is that they offer you additional funds.

    • Asking earlier helps as more funding will usually be available soon after financial aid packages are sent out rather than right before the school year starts. Check out this article on how to negotiate your financial aid packet.

For more info to help you apply to scholarships, check out these additional resources:

Author: Originally from Oklahoma, Summer Lewis is a Muscogee and Seminole woman working in Tribal public health in Northern California. She is preparing to start her first semester of her Master’s program at the University of California-Berkeley’s School of Public Health and enjoys baking, beading, and being outdoors.

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