How to write a Scholarship Application: Step-by-Step Guide

So you want to apply for college scholarships to help pay for your education? Great idea. Winning scholarships can make a huge difference in affording your dream school without being saddled with a ton of debt after you graduate. But to win scholarships, you first need to nail the application process. Applying for scholarships requires time, effort, and a bit of work, but follow this step-by-step guide and you’ll be well on your way to crafting a killer application. We’ll walk you through finding the right scholarships to apply for, what information to include in your application, how to write a compelling personal statement, getting great references, and tips for acing the interview. With some determination and the right technique, you’ve totally got this. Now roll up those sleeves and let’s get started!

Research Scholarships and Determine Eligibility

The first step is doing your research to find scholarships you’re eligible for and that match your strengths. Check sites like Fastweb, Cappex, and Look for scholarships based on things like:

  • Your intended major or career goals
  • Your extracurricular activities and community service
  • Your cultural heritage or religion
  • Where you or your parents work

Make a list of scholarships that interest you and that you seem qualified to win based on the eligibility criteria. Then, determine what each requires in terms of GPAs, test scores, essays, letters of recommendation, or other materials.

Gather what you need

For most scholarships, you’ll need:

  • Your high school and college transcripts to show your GPA. Request copies from your school’s registrar’s office.
  • Standardized test scores like SAT, ACT, or AP scores. Login to College Board and ACT websites to send your official scores to the scholarship organizations.
  • A resume summarizing your accomplishments, work experience, volunteering, and extracurricular activities.
  • Essay prompts and questions for any required essays. Review each prompt carefully and think about compelling stories and examples you can share in your essays.
  • Letters of recommendation from teachers who know you well. Meet with teachers in person to discuss the scholarships you’re applying for and how they can speak to your character and achievements. Provide any forms and envelopes for them to submit the letters on your behalf.

With the right preparation and materials in hand, you’ll be ready to work on your scholarship applications and ultimately win funding for college! Stay determined and don’t get discouraged. Even small scholarships can help pay for books, supplies, and living expenses. You’ve got this!

Gather Materials Needed for the Application

To apply for scholarships, you’ll need to gather some important materials.

  • First, collect information about your grades, test scores, and GPA. Transcripts, report cards, and any standardized test results like SAT or ACT scores will be required for most applications. Make sure you have official copies on hand.
  • You’ll also need letters of recommendation from teachers, coaches, or mentors who can speak to your abilities and potential. Ask them if they would be willing to provide a recommendation letter for your scholarship applications. Give them plenty of time and be sure to follow up to ensure the letters are submitted properly.
  • Gather records of your extracurricular activities, volunteer work, internships, sports, clubs, and any awards or honors you’ve received. Many scholarships look for well-rounded candidates who are involved in their communities. Be prepared to provide details about your contributions and accomplishments in these areas.
  • Start researching and make a list of the specific scholarships you want to apply for, including their eligibility criteria and deadlines. That way you’ll have all the relevant details in one place and can create a schedule to complete the applications on time.
  • Finally, draft an essay that can be tailored to different prompts. Come up with a theme that highlights your key attributes, experiences, and future goals. Have friends, family, and teachers review and provide feedback on your draft so you can polish it before including it in your applications.
  • With these materials handy and a solid essay, you’ll be well on your way to applying for scholarships successfully. Keep records organized and be meticulous about following all instructions. Good luck! Scholarships can be life-changing, so put in the effort required to make yourself a strong candidate.

Write a Strong Personal Statement

The personal statement is your chance to bring your application to life and show the scholarship committee who you are beyond your grades and test scores. This is where you can share your personality, passion, and motivation. Follow these tips to craft a compelling personal statement:

  • Focus on your key strengths and most significant experiences. Choose one or two and dive deeper into what you learned or how you grew from those events. Discuss your goals and how the scholarship will help you achieve them.
  • Use specific examples and stories to illustrate your key messages. Show, don’t just tell, why you stand out. Discuss challenges or obstacles you have faced, and what you did to overcome them. Explain how these experiences have influenced your goals and outlook.
  • Have a clear theme or message that ties your statement together. For example, discuss how a meaningful experience sparked your interest in a subject or career, and now drives your determination to succeed. Refer back to your theme or message in the conclusion to tie it all together.
  • Use vivid language and imagery to bring your story to life. However, avoid being overly poetic or flowery in your language and expression. Speak naturally but articulately, as if talking to the scholarship committee in person.
  • Ask others to review and provide feedback on your statement. Get input from people who know you well, like teachers, counselors, or mentors. Make edits to tighten your language, strengthen your theme, and clarify any points. Then, have someone else proofread carefully for any errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation before submitting.
  • With thoughtful reflection and compelling expression, you can craft a personal statement that will resonate deeply with the scholarship committee. Highlight your passion for learning and share your vision for how the committee’s support can help shape your future. If you speak from the heart, your unique voice and spirit will shine through.

Get Feedback on Your Application

Getting feedback on your scholarship application from others is critical. Their input can help identify any areas that could be improved to strengthen your application.

Ask teachers, counselors or mentors to review

Ask teachers or mentors in subjects related to your area of study or interests to read through your application draft. They know your abilities and potential well and can provide valuable feedback on how to convey your strengths. They may also suggest additional accomplishments or attributes to highlight that you have overlooked.

Get input from friends or family

While friends and family want the best for you, ask them to provide constructive criticism. Let them know you want their honest input on how to improve your application. Have them check for any grammar, spelling or punctuation errors. Ask if any parts were confusing or needed more details. Their fresh perspective can help identify sections that would benefit from rewording or reorganization to better showcase your abilities and convey your passion for the opportunity.

Consider hiring a professional editor

For highly competitive scholarships, consider hiring an editor experienced in reviewing scholarships and college applications. They can provide guidance on content, structure, and coherence to polish your application. They have reviewed hundreds of applications and know what separates the winners from the rest. While an investment, their feedback and suggested improvements may significantly increase your odds.

Make final edits and proofread carefully

Review all the feedback and make any final edits to strengthen your application. Double check for any typos or grammatical errors, as these can reflect poorly on your application. Read through your entire application out loud to identify any awkward phrasing or sections that need improvement. Make sure the overall content and structure are logical and compelling before submitting your application.

Putting in the effort to get valuable feedback and make revisions will result in a stronger, more impactful scholarship application—and bring you one step closer to achieving your goals. With the investment of time and input from others, you can craft an application that helps you stand out from the competition.

Submit Your Application and Follow Up

You’ve crafted a stellar application, now it’s time to submit it! Double check that you’ve completed all required forms, written any necessary essays, secured letters of recommendation if needed, and signed all documents. Make copies of the entire application for your records before mailing it.

  • Mail your application packet before the deadline, allowing plenty of time for any unforeseen mailing delays. Send it via certified mail, return receipt requested so you know it was received. Don’t forget to thoroughly proofread one last time!
  • A few weeks after the deadline, follow up on the status of your application. Call or email the scholarship organization and politely inquire about the review process and when applicants may expect to hear the results. Express your continued strong interest in the scholarship. This helps to keep you fresh in the minds of reviewers and demonstrates your enthusiasm and perseverance.
  • If selected for an interview, be sure to practice and prepare thoroughly. Review your application and be ready to expand on any points. Prepare some thoughtful questions to ask your interviewer about the scholarship and organization. Make eye contact, smile, and convey your passion for the opportunity. Follow up with a thank you email or note within 24 hours to reiterate your interest and appreciation.
  • Waiting to hear the final decision can be nerve-wracking. But stay positive—you did your very best and should feel proud of putting together such a strong application. If you are awarded the scholarship, be sure to formally accept it within the required time period. You should also send a thank you letter to express gratitude for the support and reaffirm your commitment to the organization.
  • Apply for multiple scholarships to increase your odds. Don’t get discouraged if it takes a few tries to land an award. With determination and persistence, you’ll get there! Keep tweaking your applications and never give up. There are lots of resources and opportunities out there if you look for them. Stay focused on your goals and keep working hard—you’ve got this!


At the end of the day, you have to go for it. You’ve done your research, refined your materials, and put in the work to craft a compelling application. Now it’s time to submit with confidence, knowing you’ve given it your all. While there are no guarantees, you absolutely have a shot if you showcase your passion and potential. The worst that can happen is you don’t get it this time but learn and improve for the next opportunity. But the best that can happen is life-changing. So take a deep breath and hit that submit button. You’ve got this! Who knows, in a few weeks you might just be writing your acceptance letter. Now wouldn’t that be something? You’ll never know unless you try. So go on, show them what you’re made of! The future is yours to shape.

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