Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Alexa Greer, International Vice President for Division 4.
Being nominated for the All-Arizona Academic Team through Phi Theta Kappa has been one of the greatest achievements of my life. It was something I had never thought possible for myself — in fact, I only applied because my advisor told me she thought I had a shot at earning one of the scholarships.
Over the next two months, I revised my application countless times and consulted many college faculty members for their thoughts. To make things easier for you, I’ve compiled a list of best practices for filling out your Fall Scholarship Application.
1. Tie it all back
Before starting your scholarship essays, it’s always smart to think about how your past, present and future all tie together. What events led you to your current passions? What made you decide to follow your career path? What struggles have you had along your life journey? What motivates you to do better?
By answering these deeper questions, you reveal to yourself the underlying motives and values that have led you to where you are. By tying each section of your scholarship application back to these motives and values, you will be left with an excellent application that gives judges a glimpse into who you are rather than just the things you’ve done.
2. Diversify your service
This advice is especially applicable to Phi Theta Kappa’s annual Fall Scholarship Application. With more than nine opportunities to talk about various service projects, it’s important that you fill as many of them as you can. While volunteering long-term at a hospital is awesome, judges want to hear you talk about as many of the projects that you’ve been involved with as possible. Consider using those long-term projects for one of your larger essays toward the end of the application.
3. Use action words
Scholarship applications are your time to brag on yourself. When writing, use active phrases such as “I facilitated,” “I created” or “I implemented.” Using words that express the amount of work and leadership involved in your service projects will only serve to highlight you.
4. Lead vs. Participate
When possible, look for activities in which you can be a leader. That doesn’t mean you have to be a chapter president to do well on scholarship applications; instead, look for opportunities to head a special project or to plan an event of your own.
5. Spell check
Judges WILL notice misspelled words and grammar errors, so be sure to have AT LEAST two other people look your application over. Putting a pair of fresh eyes on your application will give you a new perspective on how you’re presenting your story.
6. Fill every blank
Many scholarship applications receive thousands of submissions annually that all must be read manually. As a result, some programmers will develop software to automatically sift out applications that are missing essays or that fall far below on word count. One piece of advice an advisor gave me was to always fill every blank on a scholarship application.
7. Get your letters of recommendation now
The Fall Scholarship Application opened just last month, and while you have until December 1 (or sooner, depending on your college’s internal deadline) to get it in, it’s always best to ask for your letters of recommendation early. Remember that your professors will submit these online. Professors can get busy as it gets closer to finals, and you don’t want to be scrambling at the last minute to find someone who can quickly write you a letter.
All in all, scholarship season is here and YOU have an excellent shot of being awarded one. With the help of advisors and college staff, you have all the resources you need to truly polish your narrative. Good luck!