Scholarship & Financial Aid

Scholarship Application Process

Filling out college scholarship applications is indeed a time-consuming task that needs much effort and patience. In addition to providing your educational and personal details, you need to arrange all required documents and complete an essay and a narrative. The entire process can often be quite extensive. To ensure you don't go crazy or miss out on any crucial detail, you need to be well prepared. You must look into the nitty-gritty's of your application to ensure that you have an excellent chance of attaining the scholarship. 

To help you with the challenge, we've prepared this guide regarding the essential documents you need to submit with your application. Let's delve deeper into the pool of information that you must provide to the funding committee when applying for a college scholarship.

Documents Needed for College Scholarships

Some colleges and universities specify their particular requirements that you need to fulfill when submitting applications for them. Even if they haven't asked for all the supporting documents, you should have them readily available. Many of them are repetitive, and others will be specific only to a particular application. Therefore, it's sometimes confusing to work with these documents as you apply for more scholarships. 

The primary way to handle these types of documents is to update them now and then. You would require referring to these items for almost every application form you fill. By keeping them in a particular folder or saving them on your desktop/laptop, you can make the process easier.

You can refer this checklist when preparing your file for submission:

  1. Scholarship application form. The scholarship application form is the first and foremost document. It generally has some columns which ask for your necessary details like name, address, date of birth, educational qualifications, the reason for application, subjects chosen, subjects pursued in the past, extracurricular activities related to the area selected, and so on. Complete care is required while filling out the sections of this form. You have to check and recheck the accuracy. 
  2. Personal statement/Letter of motivation/Statement of purpose. Next, you have to submit a personal narrative that clearly explains the motivation behind applying for the scholarship. The deciding committee looks for a firm commitment from a youngster through this statement. Therefore, ensure that all details furnished in this statement are related to who you are as a person. It should also answer the committee's questions about how beneficial it will be to grant you financial support. You have to make sure that you follow the instructions or specific guidelines like word length. You should clearly define the relation of your personality and choice of a particular college, course, and interest in the chosen subject in the personal narrative. The aspects you cover in the application should not be mentioned in the personal narrative, but you need to focus on showcasing your uniqueness through this document.
  3. Transcripts. One of the critical documents you may need to furnish is your transcript. Your high school, or the other colleges you have attended in the past, may provide a transcript. Today, many institutions simply ask you to have official transcripts sent to them directly, either through post or email, if they've finalized you for a scholarship award. Others may ask for hard copies signed by the respective school or college authorities. 
  4. Standardized test scores. Merit-based scholarship programs run by universities or colleges ask for standardized test scores like SAT, GRE, etc. You might need to send them to the applying agency directly or submit them with the application form.
  5. Letter of recommendation. Usually, all universities or colleges ask for one, two, or a maximum of three recommendation letters. But it is recommended that you have at least five letters of recommendation available with you. Ensure to maintain many copies of these letters so that you have enough for all of the college scholarship applications you wish to complete. These letters should be from teachers, employers, and others that know about you and understand why you deserve funding for your education.
  6. Resume. Although this document is a mirror of what you have mentioned in the application form, few institutions still demand it. The committee usually hunts for individuals who professionally formulate their curriculum vitae. If you have prior work experience, you may highlight the same in your resume; but if not, then it is better to mention your volunteer work. You may also specify your hobbies, achievements, and additional skills like fluency with computers, interpersonal skills, or any language proficiency. It is always recommended that you prepare a proper list of such talents. Also, keep a resume template ready so that whenever you have to fill in any application for a specific institution, you may use the template and furnish only those details which are relevant to that institution.
  7. Portfolio/Audition. A portfolio is all about showcasing your excellence in your subject area. You should present your application with great clarity about what you do. Ideally, you should prepare several auditions by collecting examples of your work. These days much technical support is available for completing such projects. So you can try your hands on a few websites and applications for making a portfolio of your work. But you must ensure that the presentation should be appealing enough to the decision-makers.
  8. Financial information. This is one of the most crucial aspects which you should furnish with the utmost accuracy. The approval of a scholarship many times depends on your financial status. So you should provide the information about your parents' income tax and returns data in the paperwork as truthfully as possible. 
  9. Personal references. College scholarship applications often require personal references. The institutions which ask for them refer to such references for verification purpose. In this case, you need to make sure that you have the permission of the individuals you're mentioning in your references to use their contact information. You should write down their name, address, and contact information as clearly as possible. Additionally, you have to inform your references that the institution might contact them concerning your application.

Things to remember while preparing yourself

In addition to minutely scrutinizing all required documents and arranging them in time for your application, you need to remember the following:

  1. Be resourceful. It's always suggested to prepare a detailed log of all the documents you're submitting by creating multiple copies with you. You may also make use of technology by saving all the scanned documents on your hard drive. Doing so might get more comfortable if the information is to be submitted online (some colleges give this facility). Your resourcefulness and preparedness leave you with plenty of time. You can then use that time to apply for multiple scholarships simultaneously, brightening the chances of receiving the award. Additionally, completing the application process online is effortless. It's as simple as filling the form manually. You can always refurbish the details on the computer and save them for later use. Moreover, it's incredibly convenient to edit and update the documents at any time, allowing you to save time and effort and reduce redundancy. 
  2. Accuracy. Accuracy is of utmost importance. You have to make sure that your master list of all information is correct so that you can avoid mistakes in your applications. It is better to get the set of papers checked by someone else while submitting the application form with additional documents. They can be your teachers, friends, or family members. It usually happens that we ignore some mistakes, but when someone else sees the same task, they see it from a different angle and might catch the error. Sometimes, a different thinking approach works.
  3. Maintain the three P’s. Be precise by only submitting the documents that have been asked by the college. Additional documents might increase the chance of rejection. Be proactive by keeping all the additional records ready in case the college asks for them later. Be punctual by submitting everything by the given deadlines or before! Maintaining such an attitude towards your scholarship application creates a lot of positivity in your mind.

Importance of Application Deadlines

If you’re putting in your best while filling the application, a simple mistake like late submission doesn’t hamper your chances of winning that prestigious scholarship.

First and foremost, understand what terms colleges use for the due date. Different colleges may use different names to address the deadlines. It would be best if you knew all of them so that you don’t get confused. 

College scholarship cut-off dates are usually written in two types.

  1. Last date to apply: This one specifies that all the information must be received no later than the given deadline. Few institutes withdraw their support even if you’re late by a single day. They specify the details before handed so that students keep track of the end dates. Exceptions include a moderate financial penalty for being late. Some levy it for only the first academic year, and some take it to the subsequent years. But this is just an exception and not a rule. Hence, they may change or stop extending it anytime.
  2. Send application latest by: This one refers to the fact that the application and related materials must be posted on or before the deadline. The university will still look at it if the application is mailed on the last date mentioned. They consider the time lag of two or three days taken by the post to deliver the package. Some applications specify the receipt date as well. So keep a check while submitting.

When a deadline is specified, it means that no other applications will be entertained after it is crossed. You don’t want to lose the opportunity of receiving funds by staying unaware of such deadlines. Therefore, the point to remember here is that different colleges hold different admissions and scholarship deadlines. Please do not mix them up.

In addition to the above terms, you might come across some scholarships that specify open deadlines. In such cases, colleges continue to grant financial aid without any published date. They continue to do it until they have enough money to support the program.

The next thing you have to do is to hunt, which means you need to start searching for college scholarships early. While you begin the search for colleges post-school, you must make a list of all the education centers and universities you desire to be a part of. All colleges usually create user-friendly websites and publish the date of admission, time of fee collection, date of scholarship, etc. Therefore, make a list of such institutions, and with each name, keep a record of important dates so that you don’t miss out on things. It would be best if you looked into the minutest details of all the essential dates given by all the colleges. For extra support, you can also consult counselors and parents.

Now, when you have understood and listed the colleges and their respective dates, try to make a system or schedule. Keep a careful check on the deadlines mentioned against the list of colleges you have. Generally, first, the application deadlines come and then the financial aid. However, you have to keep track of various other things like enrolment deposit, private scholarship (in few cases), housing deposit, etc. You can use a computer, mobile phones, paper calendar, etc., to remind you of the relevant dates. You don’t want to spend marathon weekends on this task. Commit to complete a certain number per week, though. This way, you can be positive that you’ve done all you could to get your hands on money for college.

Does early submission of the application help?

Few experts believe that it is suitable for students to submit their application before the deadline, be it for admission or financial aid. But keep in mind that it doesn’t mean the institution will look into your request earlier than others. Ideally, it does not affect the decision of grant at all. But definitely, making an early submission provides you with a sense of relief. An early submission provides you with ample time to proofread and amend their application if required.

Additional benefits of submitting an early application

  1. Students may remain stress-free while staying on schedule, and therefore, they make limited or no mistakes.
  2. They may avoid last-minute disasters like internet crashes, power cuts, website crashes, etc.
  3. Submitting the file ahead of time may provide precise time for more scholarship applications for different programs. You can apply for more than one.
  4. As stated earlier, colleges might have overlapping deadlines. Early submission can make things easy for you.

Pro Tips

Missing documents can be dangerous: Keep a check on everything that the college requires the application. Some institutes ask for personal statements and references. Make sure you have them handy and also have a lot of copies. It is a usual process followed by several entities to send you a letter stating the missing items (they might allow you some time to furnish the missing documents), but this is not the case with all educational groups. Others might simply toss your application aside if they find any element missing.

Use time wisely: It’s a modern phenomenon that people have plenty of time, but still don’t find enough time to do everything appropriately. Hence, when you are extremely busy in your life and on top of that you’re trying to get scholarship applications done, you must use your time wisely. You can do this by creating a file and saving it on your hard drive. Also, keep handouts of the information readily available with you in a well-compiled form. You can also maintain the above-said list of deadlines. It is always better to sort the list date wise to make things easy. You want to earn the monetary benefit so you can prioritize accordingly and work on your applications.

Now, if you miss a deadline, what should you do?

Let’s learn about the consequences now. If you realize that you are about to miss a deadline due to any unavoidable circumstances, then you should contact the school/college to request an extension. However, they might not allow you. Hence, you have to make sure that you share your reason behind this request. If you’re lucky, they might consider your plea. Still, if you do miss a deadline, it is advisable to submit all the required documents immediately and check with the college for any appeal process. But be aware that you might not be lucky every time.

In Conclusion

It can be extremely disappointing to know that you found a fabulous college scholarship that you’re eligible for, you missed the deadline for applying to it. But you should take respite in the fact that such a thing happens only to those who aren’t prepared, organized, and proactive. After learning about the importance of such deadlines, you should be well sorted out and calm. You have to stay positive about your college scholarship applications.