While you may be relieved once you submit a scholarship application, there is a whole new dimension to what happens behind closed doors. Wouldn't it be great if you knew how the reviewing panel judges and awards scholarships? Believe it or not, developing a better understanding of the process will help you refine your applications. Knowing about how panels seek unique applicants can help you define strategies for future applications.
The First Glance
Once you apply within the prescribed deadline, the judges just glance through it for the main points. This only takes about 15-20 seconds. Though short, most applications might not make it through this initial evaluation, and the reason is that judges use a few critical points to determine sincere applicants.
The most essential point that judges consider during this phase is eligibility criteria. Surprisingly, a ton of applications that get rejected due to this parameter. Carefully go through the eligibility before applying. The panel won't spare a thought before ruling your application out if you are not eligible. Ensure that you've read all specified requirements carefully. No matter how lucrative and enticing your application is, it will never make it further the initial screening if you violate the eligibility criteria.
Other than eligibility criteria, any applications that was submitted post the deadlines are also rejected. Therefore, you need to ensure that your application is submitted before time.
The Second Screening
This stage analyzes applications with a much detailed outlook. The judges usually filter out the best applications here based on a list of criteria that evaluate everything thoroughly. Chances are there might be a scoring system in place with some key areas to focus on. They may include academic performance, sports, community service, and essay. Also, specialized scholarships (for example, art or music scholarships) will undoubtedly focus on your original work that is required to be submitted along with the application.
So that your application and essay make it through this stage, they should include well thought out exceptional content that conveys originality and confidence. Make sure your responses are complete and adequate. There must be no grammatical and spelling errors. You need to understand that panels will generally assign more weight to essays. While you should always write original content, your essay should include focused answers that radiate confidence and creativity.
The Final Decision
Now that the panel has narrowed down on a few deserving candidates, the quest for the ultimate application begins with the scrutiny of every detail. The committee will review your application in pieces as well as a whole entity. During this phase, judges pay attention to:
- Academics: While it is crucial to have an excellent academic background, your GPA should be competitive, too, as it will be compared to other candidates as well. The judges also consider the challenge-level and difficulty of the courses you have undertaken in your academic career. Also, they will try to understand if there is a clear vision behind taking different classes or not. The goals that you might have outlined in your application become critical here. There must be some correlation between the courses you have opted and what you want to achieve. The judges are completely aware that some applications might contain lucrative courses just for making the application look credible. You need to understand that the reviewers are highly trained to point out these anomalies, and only an honest application will deserve their thoughts.
- Leadership: If the panel is on the lookout for leadership skills in candidates, they will study your activities to find instances of it. They will look for a range of leadership positions that you might have held. Make sure you mention and stress on them in your application. Regardless of how minor the position you held was (like heading your school's quiz team or handling household issues), make sure you flaunt all leadership roles in your essay and application.
- Services: Some scholarship providers might be interested in knowing about the community services that you have overtaken over the years. Continuous volunteering efforts go a long way in such scholarships. If there were a provision for community service from your school, they would look for activities and gestures that you might have taken beyond the requirement.
- Creativity: A must in art and music scholarships, the judges are very particular about original work and abundance of creativity in the candidate. Even if you are not applying for such creative scholarships, outlining your talented side is not a bad idea. If you know how to play an instrument, write content, paint, or act, make sure your application makes the panel aware of it. The judges might just give you an edge over others.
After carefully analyzing your applications, judges often discuss, debate, and fight over their choices. There might be a vote taken to determine the winner. The final process is not easy and is taken most seriously by the panel.
Steps to Follow If You Win the Scholarship
Cracking your way to the awarded list of any scholarship program is not easy. There are thousands of students to compete with. So if you've managed to bag the prestigious award, it's natural to feel a little overwhelmed.
So firstly, accept your victory and congratulate yourself that your hard work has been paid off. And now that your celebratory dance is over and you're a step higher on the ladder to graduate debt-free (assuming that the scholarship you have achieved is enough to pay of all your expenses in school), you should look into what your next steps should be.
This guide has been formulated, keeping all the crucial next steps in mind. If you're reading this, in addition to feeling happy about where you are right now, you should grasp the fact that you're going to have to shoulder some additional responsibilities from now on.
Even after getting the confirmation that you have been awarded the scholarship, you're still a step behind on receiving the scholarship money. Go through the following steps and suggestions which will keep you prepared:
1. Keep all your documents in place
The first and most important task is to keep all your scholarship documents in a separate dedicated folder as you may require to submit them to your school's financial aid office or scholarship provider. This may be the case for a one-time scholarship or even if you are going to receive awards at regular intervals. Also, if your scholarship is renewable, or in case of any issues in the future, you may need these documents for reference.
Some scholarship providers take all money transfer details while along with the form at the initial stage, while some ask for the details only after the scholarship has been approved. These documents will come handy if you have to provide these details at any point of time. Also, keeping the following information ready at one place may be helpful –
- Name of your institution/school
- Address of your school
- Admission letter to the school or any other proof of admission/enrolment to the course for which you have applied for the scholarship. There can be different requirements to prove that you are a student of a particular course or school.
- Details of the financial aid office of your school, mainly their contact information like address, phone number, email address, contact person in the office, etc.
- Student enrolment and/or identification number.
- List of documents that were provided during scholarship application – athletic achievement certificate, social service experience, musical performance experience, etc.
- Copy of your photograph. This may be used by the scholarship provider to publish a list of the students who have been selected for the scholarship.
It would be best if you took note of all the information required by the scholarship provider to receive the scholarship money in full.
2. Accept the scholarship
Different scholarship providers have different rules regarding this. Some transfer the money after they've confirmed your scholarship, while some ask for your affirmation before sending the money. By asking for confirmation, they are making sure that your plans have not changed, and you are still going to study at the same school for which you have applied for a scholarship. You might have applied for multiple schools and scholarships, but by accepting a scholarship reward, you are confirming to join a particular school and avail that specific scholarship. In case you do not accept the award, it will be offered to some other deserving candidate.
There are multiple processes offered for scholarship acceptance by different providers. Few will ask for mail confirmation, and others may ask you to fill out all the details online. All this acceptance information will be intimated to you when you are awarded the scholarship.
3. Keep tabs on important dates
Keep a tab on the due date of providing acceptance or filling up the form or providing money transfer details to the scholarship provider. Don't wait for the last day to complete this process. In case you have some queries or questions, you can always ask your scholarship provider.
Most of the scholarships are time-based, which means you have to confirm your acceptance within a stipulated time. In case you do not accept the award within the time frame mentioned, you may forfeit the amount. So, keeping track of the scholarship acceptance date is another crucial task after receiving scholarship confirmation.
Also, check with your scholarship provider about the date when the money will be provided. Usually, scholarship providers will communicate this to you on their own, but keeping a tab on dates is necessary in case there is some issue in receiving promised money. You should check and review your account within a few days of the scheduled date. In case you have not received the money, you can always check with your school or scholarship provider for any issues.
4. Send a ‘Thank you’ note
Thanking your scholarship provider on winning the scholarship is an excellent way of showing gratitude. They have selected you for the award based on their assessment from a large pool of students who've applied for the scholarship.
You can write a simple thank you note to let them know how grateful and appreciative you are on receiving this scholarship and how it will ease your burden of concentrating on the most critical task, i.e., learning in school.
This is also an appreciation of their hard work, which they have put in to raise funds, conduct the scholarship process, analyze a large number of applications, and then selecting the deserving candidate – that is you. By sending a 'thank you' note, you are letting them know that this scholarship means a lot to you and that it will help you greatly in your education.
5. Inform your school
You need to inform the financial aid department of your school about your scholarship and the date when the scholarship money will be deposited. It is required for the calculation of financial aid or loans provided to you. This way, they will be aware of the expected amount of scholarship, which may help them plan for disbursements to you and the other students.
The process of informing the school may vary from school to school – it may be a simple process of filling a standard form or an online form on the school's website. In case you have any confusion regarding the process or you have any issue, always contact your school office for help and guidance.
Sometimes your scholarship money is directly transferred to the school, and in other cases, it will be sent to you, and you have to deposit it to school. In both cases, the school needs to be informed about the expected date of deposit and the scholarship amount.
6. Prepare to meet all future requirements
Along with the above steps, some renewable scholarships have additional requirements, for example, that you must maintain a predefined GPA. Some awards may want you to do something extra like attending a lunch with all the other students who have won the scholarship. Some non-profit scholarship providers have the condition to volunteer for some social initiative by their organization or any other accepted activity mentioned in their terms. There may be some additional terms of scholarship which you must be well aware of beforehand.
One should be prepared for all these future requirements, as not fulfilling these may let you forego of all your scholarship money.
What to do with the extra money you have from the scholarship?
Sometimes (by a sheer stroke of luck), you may end up receiving more money than what you need. In case there is money left after paying off the school fees and other expenses like books, tuition fees, room charges, etc., you can receive that extra amount from the school. You'll need to check your account for this, and in most cases, you will have to ask for the remaining amount to be mailed to you. You could even offer to pick up the cheque from the school's accounts office in person. It's advisable to check with the financial aid office to know about the process of receiving the extra money cheque.
Apart from this, you should always read the terms of your scholarship provider. In rare cases, scholarship providers do not provide any extra money other than what is required for covering your school obligations. On the other hand, some generous scholarship providers do not care about what you do with the extra money, and they only keep a check on other things like your scores and accomplishments.
With all the extra money you have, you can buy products or services which may help you in your education or interests. You can go for purchasing a better laptop, memberships to journals, which may help reference and enhance your knowledge, transportation, or any other useful product or service. There are additional costs you may not have thought of, and keeping some money for these unprecedented times may be helpful in your future. In case everything runs as planned, you can use the saved money for a pleasure trip!
Also, remember that you may have to pay taxes on this extra amount you receive after paying for your scholarship. You can take help from the financial aid office to calculate any tax liability on your end for the extra money you have received from the award.
Scholarship Thank you Letter
Thanking your scholarship provider on winning the scholarship is an excellent way of showing gratitude. You have been selected for the award from a large pool of students who've applied for the scholarship.
You should always write a simple thank you note to the scholarship selection committee to know how grateful and appreciative you are on receiving this scholarship and how it will ease your burden of concentrating on the most critical task, i.e., learning in school.
The thank you letter should especially appreciate their hard work, which they have put in to raise funds, conduct the scholarship process, analyse a large number of applications, and then selecting the deserving candidate – that is you. You should let them know that this scholarship means a lot to you and that it will help you greatly in your education.
Scholarship committees and donors really appreciate knowing how the award has made a difference in your life. Your letter will encourage the scholarship provider to continue supporting students like you in the future.
Your letter doesn’t have to be long to get your point across. It shouldn’t be longer than a few paragraphs.
Before sending your letter, make sure you review it several times. It’s a good idea to ask a family member to go over it as well. Your letter should not contain any typos and/or grammatical errors.
Here are additional few tips that you can keep in mind when writing your scholarship thank you letter:
- Pay attention to spelling, grammar, and the organization of your letter
- Include your full name, email, phone number and email. If you have been given a scholarship id, include that as well
- Be sure to reference the specific scholarship that you received, but NOT the amount
- Always proofread! Try reading it aloud before sending it off
- You should tell the donor(s) a little bit about yourself, including: Your hometown, Family background, and Experiences and life situations that led you to - where you are right now
- Describe how the scholarship support will help you meet, or exceed, your educational goals\Finally, you may want to talk about your future plans
- Finally, you may want to talk about your future plans
This may sound like a lot of work, but the benefits of a scholarship are way more than the hard work you put in to earn it. Winning an award is a stepping stone for your future and will help start a debt-free life after school. By taking care of all the steps mentioned above and the process, you will have nothing to worry about concerning the financial side of your education. Here's wishing you the best of luck for all your future success!