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How to Make a Great First Impression to Win Scholarships

There's one scholarship application strategy that'll make the best first impression and win you more money for college. Read on to find out what it is!

Let’s put some truth on the table: You’ll (most likely) be one of several (if not many) candidates for any scholarship you apply for. This truth then begs the question: Why are some applicants selected to be finalists for a scholarship opportunity when most of the other applicants are just as impressive? The first impression you make with a scholarship committee can separate you from the pile of other scholarship candidates. Your strategic goal should be to catch the attention of the decision-makers immediately. If you create the strongest first impression possible, your application will be flagged as a potential contender. Let’s talk about what makes a scholarship application stand out and one strategy you can use to be the winner.

What impact do you hope to have?

When I’m working with students, I often ask them to describe what impact they hope to have on the world or in their community after they complete their education. It’s a big question, but it’s also the most important question to ask as you start your scholarship pursuit. Scholarships from companies, organizations, and foundations are often created and expedited because doing so aligns with their corporate or organizational missions. Awarding a scholarship is an act of impacting the industry or the community they serve. Having an impact is therefore designed into the scholarship process. If you intentionally include a statement that speaks to the impact you hope to make, you’re aligning yourself with the goals of the committee. There are many ways to catch the attention of the scholarship committee, but one of the most effective strategies is to craft a “why you?” statement.

Related: How to Improve Your Scholarship Applications

The “why you?” statement

A “why you?” statement is a two- to three-sentence statement that speaks to the impact you hope to have on your family, your community, or the world after you complete your education goals. The French mathematician, physicist, religious philosopher, and writer Blaise Pascal once wrote, “The entire ocean is affected by a single pebble.” Each and every one of us has the opportunity to be a “pebble in the ocean” and impact the larger world around us. If you clearly state how you aspire to utilize your education to impact others, you’re reassuring the decision-makers that their scholarship award money will touch the lives of people beyond yours. For example, a student intending to be an Education major could write:

“If your organization grants me this scholarship, I hope to advance in my career beyond the role of a teacher. I aspire to become a principal or superintendent to have the opportunity to impact not only hundreds of students but potentially thousands.”

This “why you?” statement immediately separates the application from all the other Education major applicants. Impact is simply stating how you hope to be the pebble in the ocean in the life you have ahead of you. The majority of scholarship applications are sent electronically; this opens the opportunity to include your “why you?” statement in your introductory email that you submit with any required application materials.

Related: Steering Clear of College Application Essay Mistakes

Stating your intended goal for impacting the lives, community, or the world around you assures scholarship decision-makers that their choice in considering you is a smart one. You’re essentially stating that their award will have impact beyond you as an individual—that their designated or fundraised scholarship money will touch many lives. So take the time to craft your own “why you?” statement. As a first impression, it can open doors to potentially thousands of dollars in scholarships for you.

After you get your “why you?” statement ready, use our Scholarship Search tool to deploy this ultimate strategy and win more money for college!

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About Jean O'Toole

Jean O’Toole is an educational consultant and author of the bestselling book Scholarship Strategies: Finding and Winning the Money You Need. Over the past 15 years, she has helped tens of thousands of students in the United States. Individuals collectively have been awarded millions of dollars by applying Jean’s scholarship strategies. In 2008, Jean co-founded Connections101, a company specializing in providing motivational tools for scholarship searching. It is her goal to empower students to design their paths to their future without college debt. Visit Connections101.com for more information, and follow Jean on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

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