Emily Barylske is one of our student writers here at CollegeXpress. She takes common college search questions and researches the answers. Those helpful answers end up here in our new Q&A With Emily column! If you have a question for Emily, feel free to leave it in a comment, send us an e-mail, or get in touch with us on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Question: How do I make myself look better on scholarship applications?
This is a great question. Of course, everyone wants to look amazing on their scholarship apps, so they get picked to win that money. Probably the best thing you can do with your scholarship applications is making sure you’re applying to the right scholarships in the first place; you can learn how to do that here.
Beyond finding awards that fit you, these tips can help you make your scholarship applications shine.
Watch your words
When writing out your scholarship essays or short-answer responses, keep an eye on your word choice. You want to sound like yourself—but your best self. And you want to appeal to your audience and impress them with your thoughtful and mature writing. Now, don’t just swap out words at random with a thesaurus. But do take your time and use active language. For example, instead of saying “participated in [insert club name],” you could write “Engaged leader in [insert club name].” This sounds a lot better.
Also, do not be afraid to brag a little about yourself in your scholarship apps—you’re selling yourself to your audience. Just be careful to walk the line between a thoughtful boast and obnoxious bragging. Pro tip: this is easier if you “show” rather than “tell.” For example, you could explain how you helped raise $1,500 for your basketball league’s travel expenses by organizing a dance-a-thon in your high school. That’s impressive without saying “I’m a really great fundraiser.”
Make a handy list
Writing down a list of things you have done throughout high school can be a really helpful reference when you’re filling out scholarship applications (and college apps too, maybe even real-world résumés). Brainstorming all the stuff you’ve been involved in, you also find some extra things to include in case your application looks a little bare.
Your list of high school activities can also help you realize how many things you’ve done—and how many things might make you eligible for a scholarship. Certain scholarships look for certain activities, so you can use your list to search for scholarships and keep an eye out for ones that fit you.
Related: The 3 Steps to Winning Scholarships
Have a trusted adult proof it
When it comes to improving your scholarship apps, you might be surprised by how helpful a trusted adult’s opinion can be, especially someone who has been through all of this before and who knows you really well. Whether it’s your favorite English teacher, a parent or older sibling, a mentor, or your high school guidance counselor, they can tell you which areas to clean up or where you may need to add or take out some information. The adult might also be able to help steer you in the right direction if you wander off…ooh! Look at the kitty!
By following these steps on your scholarship applications, you can make yourself look more appealing to your audience. I have filled out a ton of scholarship apps, and—trust me—you want to stand out a little bit when they see yours. You don’t want to be just a number; you want to be a name and a story that sticks with them.
Got any questions for Emily, scholarship application–related or otherwise? Leave a comment!