Scholarships aren’t only for top academic or athletic students. Criteria for scholarship awards from sponsoring companies, organizations, and foundations can vary dramatically. Their applications and requirements will typically reflect what the sponsor honors, appreciates, or celebrates, and these private scholarships can typically be used at any educational institution.
During your scholarship search, you will come across some awards that are referred to as “fixed criteria scholarships.” Examples include:
- The Mission Street Puzzles Scholarship, which requires students to write and submit a puzzle
- The Autism Can Do Scholarship, which requires students on the learning differences spectrum to design a pair of socks
- The Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship, which requires students to answer a question about the five items they would use in a zombie attack
- Tall Club International Scholarship, which simply requires students to be above a certain height
- The Redhead Scholarship, which requires students to have red hair
Fixed criteria scholarships may also have requirements related to race, religion, gender, nationality, or geographic location. With fixed criteria scholarships, you’ll either be qualified to apply or not. Fortunately, there are other categories of scholarship awards in which you have some control over your eligibility. They include academic achievement, career focus, and extracurricular impact. Here’s how any student can strategically take action to improve their candidacy for awards in these key areas.
1. Academic eligibility: Seek opportunities to increase your GPA
Many scholarships require a minimum grade point average (GPA) in order to qualify. There’s a scholarship myth that you must have an extremely high GPA in order to qualify for awards; that’s not true. In fact, many scholarships only require a minimum 2.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale—which is easily attainable for most students. Becca’s Closet scholarships are a good example of awards with low GPA requirements. But the higher your cumulative GPA is, the more opportunities that will be available to you, so take some action to raise your GPA as much as possible. Ask for extra credit projects from any teacher or professor who allows it. Ask if it’s possible to rewrite a paper/essay or retake a quiz, test, or exam if the grade you initially receive is low. If your strength is public speaking rather than writing, ask if you can present an assignment to the class for extra credit. Remember that every class you have impacts your overall GPA, so if you’re struggling in a class, ask for extra help. Increasing your overall GPA can open new doors to more scholarship awards.
2. Career focus eligibility: Explore your career interests
There are many scholarships for students who are pursuing specific fields. These scholarship opportunities are offered at the high school level as well as the undergraduate, graduate, and advanced professional degree level. For example, The Trotter Project’s scholarships are awarded to high school seniors as well as current college students who are pursuing careers in the culinary arts or hospitality industries. To increase your eligibility and stand out among other candidates, become a student who has gained additional insight into your career field. Consider volunteering in your chosen field each week for a few hours. You could also interview several people in your chosen field, seek out a mentor, or even intern for a company or organization. By taking on these actions, you’ll become a candidate with demonstrated initiative in pursuit of a given career.
3. Extracurricular impact eligibility: Be a leader outside the classroom
Many students are involved in activities outside of the classroom, including sports, jobs, clubs, community service, and artistic and creative organizations—but there’s a huge difference between a student who joined a club and a student who led one. Leadership skills are developed over time. Start developing those skills now by seeking out opportunities where you can learn from other student leaders. Organize, run, or make something happen that would not have happened without you. Students with demonstrated impact in a club, group, or community will stand out in the scholarship application process from those who simply joined and participated. The International Scholarship for Women, for example, awards women with a proven dedication to empowering other women through volunteerism and civic work.
By choosing to strategically increase your efforts in your academic, career, and extracurricular eligibility, you can stand out from other candidates and qualify for more potential scholarship opportunities. Good luck in your scholarship search!
To start finding scholarships you’re eligible for, use the Scholarship Search tool right here on CollegeXpress.