Private scholarships are bae. During my undergrad years I was blessed with two different private scholarships from my university. These scholarships were so helpful for me, and I know they will be so helpful for you as well. I am a believer that when applying for private scholarships, the closer they are to you the better. I want to give you all some ideas on where to look for these private scholarships as well as some tips on applying for private scholarships.
Where To Find Private Scholarships
Check With Your University
As I stated earlier part of my undergraduate experience was funded by two different university private scholarships (one for $1,000 and one for $2,300.) These scholarships were definitely a huge blessing for me during my Sophomore and Senior years and all I had to do was write out my application, a thank you note, attend a university function, and keep my grades up. It was basically great money (and a free dinner–let's not forget that!) This is the time to apply for private scholarships through your university. More than likely you can go to your school's website and look up private scholarships.
Alumnae are amazing and provide scholarships for crazy diverse reasons. The last scholarship I got (the one for $2,300) was for female, juniors & seniors, going to my undergraduate institution that were from the county in Arkansas I was from. Since there were just a handful of us going to the University of Central Arkansas at the time I had a great shot.
Check With Your Sorority
If your sorority is like mine, you may have some great scholarship opportunities within your sorority. My sorority gives out awesome scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students all across the country and the application process is restricted to just members within the sorority. As you can tell, I am a huge fan of scholarships with a reduced applicant pool. National private scholarships are fun but let's face it, if we are investing our time and energy in scholarship applications, we want to win.
If you have invested a large amount of time into your sorority and you are heavily involved with it and other campus activities you have a great shot at getting a scholarship through your sorority. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to apply because these application processes will probably be pretty long-winded.
Check With Your Honors Society
Once you start making the grades you will probably get an opportunity to be a part of an honors society on your college campus. When I was in Undergrad I became a part of Alpha Kappa Delta (Sociology's national honor society) and with that I was also eligible for a few awards like paper competitions. While Alpha Kappa Delta doesn't have a specific scholarship they do offer paper competitions which come with cash prizes that you can turn into money for school. Other honor's societies may actually have scholarships so if you are interested in that I definitely say go for it and see what your honor's society has to offer you.
Check Your Book of Scholarships/Online Websites
This is definitely not the first place I would look for private scholarships due to the huge applicant pool of some of these scholarships, but this is a pretty great tool. A quick search on Amazon for scholarships will show a few different books on scholarships and The Ultimate Scholarship Book 2017 has pretty solid reviews. This book is not your end all be all. Most of the scholarships I talked about in today's post won't be featured in a big book of scholarships so there is a lot of money out there that this book doesn't even cover. Here are some tips on sifting through the scholarships listed in any scholarship book:
- Devote Time: Books like the one mentioned above have 100s of pages of scholarships available, but they aren't all going to work or matter to you. It's going to take time to gather the scholarships that actually work for you versus the ones that don't. It's also going to take time to narrow down the ones you want to apply for versus the ones that you don't think are worth your time. Working through the book and applying for the scholarships you end up choosing is going to take a while so make sure you have enough time devoted to the tasks at hand.
- Be Smart: There are sections of the book you can more than likely skip over. If you are a Sociology major you can probably skip over the mathematics scholarships. There are so many other ways to find out about private scholarships and you don't want to focus too much time on parts of the book that don't work for you.
- Focus In: If you can find reduced applicant pool scholarships within the book like scholarships for a certain region or state apply to those first. You want a laser like focus when it comes to applying for private scholarships so you maximize your scholarships and depend less on loans for school.
There are also a number of websites that list scholarships and are perfect if you are looking for private scholarships. Again, these websites have a huge database, but a lot of these scholarships also have huge applicant pools. Be sure to be laser focused when sifting through these scholarships and follow the same rules listed above. Here are some ideas of where to look if you are looking for private scholarships online:
Check Your Financial Aid Office
Your financial aid office is a treasure trove of information on all things paying for school. If you are interested in alternative ways of paying for school besides the traditional loan/grant/academic scholarship triad I would talk with your financial aid counselor about other payment options. They may be able to give you a few leads and give you some great direction on paying for school through private scholarships or other fun (and free) methods.
Check With Your Friends/Community
If all else fails, word of mouth is a great way to find out about private scholarships. Check with your friends, leaders within your community and churches. Really searching for the small scholarships that are close to home or within your community. It's better to win 10 $100 scholarships than to apply for 10 $1,000 scholarships and get none of them. Ultimately, you may do around the same amount of work, but one will give you some great return on investment versus the other one that could, but probably won't.
Private Scholarship Application Tips
Start With Scholarships Who Have A Small Applicant Pool
Okay, as I stated earlier, if I take the time to apply for a scholarship I want to win. The best way to maximize your likelihood of winning is applying for scholarships with a smaller applicant pool first and then checking out scholarships with a wider applicant pool. Private scholarships aren't easy to apply to, they require way more effort than academic scholarships usually do, so make sure to increase your return on investment.
Revise, Revise, Revise
Private scholarships aren't usually a tweet and you can't make mistakes. Giving yourself time to revise and make a perfect application is key. If you have a person who is great at revising be sure to enlist their help in revising your applications and making them perfect. Your eyes often get used to small mistakes in your paper so having someone else read the paper is key.
Make Sure Your Recommendations Are On Fleek
Recommendations are a big part of private scholarships and you want to make sure your rec letters are on fleek. Choose people who know you well, can vouch for you, and who can put all that awesomeness into words that make sense to the scholarship committee. Also realize that different scholarships require very different recommendations. Have a few go-to's on hand in various different spheres. Also, in order for your recommendations to truly be on fleek give your recommenders plenty of time to fill out the letter. Don't wait to the last-minute on a scholarship that requires a rec letter!
Customize and Perfect
So yes, scholarship essays can be quite boring and similar. So similar that you think you can cut and paste a cover page or essay or two and get away with it. My recommendation is to avoid this at all cost! If you have to cut and paste a bit, make sure you go through and read any parts of the essay that may allude to another scholarship and fill in the right scholarship information. Nothing more embarrassing (and automatically rejectable) than referencing XYZ scholarship when you are applying for ABC scholarship. If you did cut and paste make sure you put another set of eyes on your scholarship application so they can catch things your eyes may have become accustomed to.
Brag About It
This tip is so essential. People hate to brag on themselves, for fear of coming off too strong. This is money for college on the line! Brag about yourself, talk about all of your accomplishments when appropriate. Don't be afraid to use all the awesome things you have going on in life to create a stellar application. The scholarship committee doesn't know you all that well. You have to push for yourself, because more than likely no one on the scholarship committee can vouch for you. You have to be your own superhero in this situation. You are awesome, so make sure the committee knows that without a shadow of a doubt when they are finished looking at your application.
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