Applying to Merit Scholarships: Writing Your Essays

Join for “Applying to Merit Scholarships: Writing Your Essays” where we delve into the art of crafting compelling scholarship essays that stand out in a competitive landscape.

In this comprehensive webinar, we will explore the essential components of creating impactful essays for merit scholarship applications. Guided by admissions expert Ashly Cargle-Thompson, attendees will gain invaluable insights into:

  • Understanding Merit Scholarships: A breakdown of what merit scholarships entail and why they play a crucial role in funding your higher education.
  • Essay Prompts Deconstructed: Analyzing common essay prompts for merit scholarship applications and deciphering what admission committees are looking for.
  • Showcasing Achievements: Strategically highlighting your achievements, leadership roles, and extracurricular activities to demonstrate your merit.
  • Conveying Personal Growth: Techniques for showcasing your personal growth journey and resilience, emphasizing how you’ve overcome challenges.
  • Dos and Don’ts: A compilation of best practices and common pitfalls to avoid during the essay-writing journey.
  • Q&A Session: An interactive opportunity to ask your burning questions directly to our presenter.

By the end of this webinar, you will be equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to craft essays that resonate with admission committees and elevate your chances of securing coveted merit scholarships. Join us in this enlightening session to empower your college dreams!

Date 09/20/2023
Duration 1:01:01

Webinar Transcription

2023-09-20 – Applying to Merit Scholarships: Writing Your Essays

Hi there, everyone. My name is Joseph Recupero, and I’m your moderator for this evening. Welcome to “Applying to Merit Scholarships, Writing Your Essays.” To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation, then answer your questions in a live Q& A. On the sidebar, you can download our slides, as well as handouts, and you can start submitting questions in the Q& A tab.

Now, I’ll hand it over to Ashly so you can meet our panelists. Hi, thanks, Joseph. My name is Ashly Cargle-Thompson. I am actually the team lead for the financial aid milestone team at CollegeAdvisor. So we are all a team of current or former college financial aid administrators. We’ve read a lot of applications.

We have given a lot of scholarships. And so hopefully some of that experience on the back end of everything can help you prepare. Your applications I really want to encourage you to download the handouts, the sample scholarship essay and the sample autobiographical or autobiograph autobiography repository.

I’m going to talk about them, like, don’t get distracted by them. I’ll get to them later on, but it can be helpful to actually be able to see the entire document. Before we get started, I think we’re going to do a poll though to see what it is that you’re looking for tonight. Yes, so if you want to go ahead and respond to the poll on your screen and let us know what you’re hoping to get out of this session, I can tell you that Ashly has so much knowledge to share with you, but we are interested to see what specifically you’re interested in learning.

So if you want to go ahead and respond to that poll on your screen, and Ashly, what do you think is one of the, the first things people really need to think about when they’re thinking about merit scholarships? I know that’s a little bit of a vague question. Well. that it is a marathon, not a sprint in every way, shape and form in the same way that you prepare for hours and hours and hours and hours for a marathon.

The same way that things don’t always turn out the way that you want to, but you still end up being able to have a sense of accomplishment and a sense of leaving nothing on the table. applying for scholarships is like that. It’s nothing is guaranteed, but it’s so necessary. And it’s really hard to be successful if you do it in half measures.

Absolutely. So it looks like as the name of the webinar would suggest people are most interested in how to work on their essays for writing their scholarship. So I’m excited to hand it over to you and we’ll get started. Awesome. So today I’m going to cover a few things. I’m going to start with some scholarship application basics.

So not necessarily focusing on the essay but just some things that you should know as you’re starting to apply for merit based scholarships, whether they’re institutional or whether they are with external organization or a third party. So the first thing that I want to talk about is the difference between admissions applications and scholarships app, scholarship applications.

At the end of the day there’s a ton of overlap, there really is a lot of overlap, but there are some distinct differences that might be worth noting. The big one is actually deadlines. Right now we are in, we are maybe a week out from some of the deadlines for some of the largest scholarships out there for the Coca Cola scholarship for, I believe the Dell scholarship is not too far off of that.

Scholarship application season run, starts a little bit earlier. and run significantly longer than your admissions application season. So, you should be looking and applying now and you should be planning on doing that all the way through May or until you have a financial aid package that covers your full out of pocket responsibility and is renewable.

That’s when I tell people that they can stop looking. Other differences are that scholarship applications often only have One essay per app. Some might have a couple of small, shorter questions but usually they’re wanting something like a personal statement, but something that’s very targeted toward whatever The organization is that is offering the scholarship recommendations are only sometimes required for scholarship, scholarship applications, your admissions applications, you have to do it, not every scholarship application is going to require recommendations, which is why it’s important that, you know, which ones do.

Because it’s more often that they don’t require a recommendation. It’s more often that they might require a transcript but not necessarily a recommendation. The other difference is that a lot of times in admissions applications, you’ll get to choose your writing prompt. They’ll say, choose one of these three Essays to write or choose one of these three short answers or supplements to tell us about yourself usually what you get is what you get.

The question they’re asking is the question that they want you to answer and you don’t really get to pick something that’s more in your comfort zone or more geared toward your interest. Ideally, your interests are whatever you’re applying for, whatever funding source you’re applying for, you have a shared interest.

The other thing to note is that with admissions applications, you know, you’re going to get a decision, you know, they’re going to tell you whether you’re in or you’re out scholarship applications, not so much. And a lot of people can find that really disheartening to put a lot of work into something and submit it and just.

never hear back to get ghosted. But at the end of the day, scholarships are a volume game. You have to put so many out there because they’re so competitive in order to get things in return. And so if you’re putting that amount of work in and you’re sending out all of these applications, someone is also reading them.

And a lot of scholarship organizations are just Not going to notify people who aren’t recipients. So it’s important that you know when the notification date is. When they announce the recipients of the award. They’ll all, they’ll usually always tell you that much. So then by process of elimination, if you haven’t heard from them by that date, you know that you weren’t selected.

And like I said, notification dates are specified for admissions applications, for scholarship applications. They’re not always published, but you’re always welcome to contact the organization to find out explicitly what is the timeline for you making the decision and notifying recipients. The other thing that I want you to keep in mind with applying for merit scholarships A lot of it is working smart.

A lot of it is figuring out ways to maximize your efficiency because this is another thing that you’re adding on to an already busy senior year. It’s something that you’re also adding on to your actual admissions applications. There’s a lot going on. And so you want to make sure that you’re doing this in a way that is sustainable in a way that won’t burn you out.

So, I have a little thing, WORKSMART and it’s an acronym for things that I want you to keep in mind while you’re trying to set up your scholarship application strategy. First of all is have a system. Figure out a system of when you are searching for your scholarships. When you are applying for your scholarships, how you’re organizing all of your information, you want to do everything that you can to get yourself into a rhythm so that once things start to get busy, you’re ready to go and you’re not really having to think through it or track things or lose track of things.

You already have a system that has everything that you need. Secondly, is to maximize your time. figure out ways to avoid time sucks. And what I mean by time sucks are just relatively benign things that we do that just Over time, those few minutes or seconds add up. So, for instance, finding a scholarship kind of matching platform that works for you is one of the best ways to avoid time sucks.

Yes, you should use Google. You should absolutely. Use search engines to see if there’s anything out there that you’re missing. But a lot of times there are red herrings that pop up in those searches. Or you’ll find a list of an endless list of links and you click it and you’ve already missed the deadline.

And then you click this one and it’s a dead link and it just wastes a lot of time. So finding a, I really like going Mary. As a scholarship kind of matching portal, it really prioritizes efficiency, and it makes it really easy for you to know what the scholarship is. What it’s going to require of you, when it’s due, and what its value is.

And if you can see all of that at once, then you are saving precious minutes. A is apply, apply, apply. Like I said, it’s a volume game. You can’t half do. This if you really want it to work. The students who are really successful with this throw themselves into it. They have a goal, a weekly goal. I usually say to aim for 3 to 4 applications submitted per week.

And they do everything that they can to hit or exceed that goal. In terms of trying to figure out, Oh, what’s the likelihood of me securing a scholarship. I usually tell students to expect that for every 20 applications they submit, assuming that you are putting together quality applications you should expect to get maybe one award.

Some people get that full ride right out of the gates. Other people have to work a lot harder and just can’t seem to find one that lands. But ultimately, You have to keep applying in order to increase your chances of securing funding. A third or fourth is revise and reframe. Don’t reinvent the wheel with every single application.

That’s another time suck. That’s another thing that just burns you out. Reading very similar Application prompts and then writing one, sending it in now, reading another one, writing that one, sending it in after a while, you just exhaust yourself trying to think of different ways to say the same things about yourself.

So the good news is, is that so many people are asking you the same questions. You have a lot of framing material. You have sort of the bare bones stuff that you need. And so. The trick is to dress it up and to make it fit into different environments and fit different prompts, but don’t reinvent the wheel.

It is okay. There’s nothing that, that’s not cheating. It’s literally your life story. You can only tell it so many different ways so many times so allow yourself to use some of the work that you’ve already done and we’ll get into what that looks like. And then finally, tenacity. Stay positive.

I know that it’s hard to put all of this stuff out, to hear nothing back, to have all the stress of how am I going to afford this if I don’t get this, I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that. Try not to think that far in advance. Once you have submitted an app, forget about it. It does not exist anymore.

You’re moving on to the next one. Ideally, if you can have a goldfish memory about these applications, that, okay, I worked on it, I submitted it, I forgot I submitted it, and then two months down the line you get an email saying that you’ve been awarded a scholarship you completely forgot applying for, you’re doing it right.

You’re not putting too much emotional weight and stress and anxiety into the process. So what I want to do with you tonight is actually go through a sort of sample case of a scholarship essay writing strategy. And this is the one that I recommend. Again, it helps you avoid time sucks. It helps you not reinvent the wheel.

And This way you can kind of see how it works out. So just to give you some context about what this is going to look like this case study, these essays and these sample documents that are also in your handouts are for a high school senior. She’s the valedictorian neuropsychology.

She is the lead clarinet in marching band. She’s a formerly nationally ranked tennis player but her career ended because of an injury. She has a younger brother who is diagnosed with ASD, Autism Spectrum Disorder. She’s a volunteer at a local senior assisted living community where she works with dementia patients.

So those are the broad strokes of who this student is, this imaginary student. She is applying for a scholarship being offered by the Alzheimer’s Project. I made that up. It might exist, but I made it up. I think I did. The award name is the Women in STEM Scholarship. For 20, 000 a year for the entirety of her time in undergrad and the prompt in the essay for, for her essay is what led you to what led to your interest in STEM and why do you deserve to be a women in STEM scholarship recipient that is just giving you nothing.

Right? And so imagine being tired and just worn out on talking about yourself and having such a broad prompt. And feeling like I have to sell myself, but I have to do it in a way that’s attractive and I just don’t know where to start. Okay, so the first thing that you want to do is kind of think through the four C’s.

That’s, that’s how I talk about it. And the four C’s are copy and paste, categorize, color code, customize. Okay. So what you see here, and this would be the handout called Sample Autobiography Repository. What you see here is an example of kind of the four Cs in action. What I recommend that you do, this is an example of a repository where the student has taken every single piece of right autobiographical writing that she’s done.

Everything from a personal statement for an application, to a eulogy that she wrote for a friend, to a poem that she had to write for a class to an offbeat supplemental draft that she had to write. She copied and pasted them all into one long document. So that’s the copy and paste part. Then she categorized them, meaning that she went through and found what themes were consistently coming through in her writing and when she talks about herself.

And she created categories for those things. So you can see neuropsychology. academic interests and success autism brother inspiration, adversity, tennis, injury, adversity. You can see all of those on the on the handout. And you don’t, it doesn’t just have to be about the thing. But again, what were the lessons that you learned?

What were the other things that they’re going to ask you about those experience experiences? So again, when you need to refer back to these categories, you have multiple ways that you can spin it. The next step is to color code. So, she gave each of those categories a color, assigned them each a color, and then went through her big, long repository document and color coded each section that had, that was strong, most strongly communicated in color excerpts from all of her writing so that now she has a long document where she knows that if she’s looking for anything that she’s ever said about herself or her interests or her academic success that she just has to look for the yellow column.

If she’s looking for anything about adversity, she knows that she can look at purple or she can look at green. If she’s looking for anything about Kind of loss or grief or anything like that. She knows she can look at blue and then I also you can see at the very bottom have an application specific Category down there and what I recommend is that if you are writing and if you were adding application Materials to this so personal statements where you talk about the school or you talk about you share specific details Either get rid of them completely Or highlight them in red, red text, red highlight, so that you know not to copy that into another document.

So that’s the color code portion. Now we’re going to get to the customized portion. And this is where you actually start to build it. So, in this case, The student has to tell the selection committee for this scholarship how she got into STEM, what interested her about STEM, and why she deserves to be a recipient of this award.

So obviously she’s going to want to go and use, she’s going to want to look at yellow primarily, right? Because this is a women in STEM application. So she pulls together. Everything that’s yellow, and then she also pulls together and then she also makes a connection to something that interested her in her life, a personal life event that was also in, in all of her writing.

And the first thing that she does once she kind of puts all of those, all of these kind of unlinked pieces together, the first thing that you can do to customize it is to add detail. There are going to be details. that you haven’t written about. There are going to be small, I mean, tiny details. What did the room look like?

What did it smell like? Was it cold? Where were you before you got there? What was the historical context of the argument you’re trying to make? Whatever it is, there are absolutely, I promise you, details that didn’t make Any of your the other iterations of that story. So add some details. The next thing is that she starts to tell a story so you can see and I’ve also highlighted it so you can see here where it says like the small detail here where it says like the Mayweather how home for senior.

So that’s a detail that I don’t think you’ll find anywhere else in the repository, right? Then she starts to tell a story about someone that she’s talked about in other essays. Or she kind of sets that ground, that framing. But then she goes into kind of a storytelling mode and a narrative mode that you don’t see as much in her other writing.

So she’s figured out a way to personalize it and to talk about it differently, even though it’s a lot of the same. stuff. It’s a lot of the same facts. So, but you can also see she’s adding the detail. One summer day as I played my clarinet, like I don’t think that there are any passages where she really kind of gets into that sort of kind of world building.

But she does that there. The next thing that you can do to customize is to sort of synthesize and connect. So what I mean by that is that you might have been talking about one thing over here. and another thing over there, and you can actually link them. If you can figure out a way to link them, do that.

So, in this example she decided, like, she synthesized and connect connected her relationship with her friend Colleen at the senior home who had dementia, and her interest in Neuropsychology, and she says something in there about how music can unlock our memories and our emotions, and that’s the sort of synthesis that you don’t see anywhere else.

In fact, in a lot of the essays and writings that she has, she actually talks about her interest in neuropsychology coming. from her relationship with her brother who has ASD. I want to mention that it is okay for your interest in a particular field, in a particular career, in a particular major, to have multiple origins.

So, I’m not implying or suggesting that you should be dishonest and that you should just Make stuff up or really, really stretch to make a point or to, to make something fit. But if there’s something, if they’re asking you to give them a singular example of something, and one of those examples fits better than the other one, but they’re both true for you, Then it’s okay to use the one that fits best and leave the details out for the other.

You’re not being dishonest. You are framing an essay that had a very specific point and You’re doing it for an organization that has a very specific purpose. Again, you should not be making things up because at the end of the day, if you do receive it, they are going to expect you to follow through in some, in some sense.

Right? You can obviously always change your mind. She could obviously go to school and not know whether or not she wants to really pursue neuropsychology, focusing on ASD or neuropsychology, focusing on dementia, or maybe she can synthesize the two. She might, it’s okay that she doesn’t know that.

And as she figures it out, usually that’s fine. Your funding will be fine. If you say that you are interested in biochemistry and you know for sure that you want to be a fashion merchandising major. Don’t apply for the biochem money. Don’t, don’t put yourself in that position. Even if you were really good at biochem in high school, even if you might take a class or two because you thought it was interesting.

That’s not, that’s not this. Okay. The other thing that you need to do to customize is you need to state your purpose. Tell the people who are reading it what they are funding, who they are funding. So in this she says that I’m driven by the desire to unlock the human mind’s potential, improve the lives of those affected by neurological disorders, and encourage greater understanding and implementation of music and art as a required part of treatment for patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

So right there, this is the Alzheimer’s Project. She’s put it out there. This is who I am. This is what’s important to me. This is the kind of research you’d be funding. My approach to it is based on the power of music and creativity to improve people’s cognitive function. All right. So you want to be clear on that.

Then you want to always add a personal appeal. So that’s the part where you say, I believe I would be a great candidate for this award. And she says, I believe I am a desert. I’m deserving of the women in STEM scholarship because I am not. Because I’m not just passionate about STEM, I’m driven by a personal, I’m driven by a personal connection and a deep sense of purpose.

And then she says more. This is really small on my screen, that’s why I’m struggling with it. But that’s the personal appeal. This is why you should pick me. This is, this is why it matters to me. And then finally you want to have a memorable closing. You want to leave them and whoever’s reading this application with a sense of connection to you with a sense of.

your humanity and Who you are and what your heart is and so this is in this one She says in conclusion My journey has been marked by a profound connection with Colleen whose friendship ignited my passion for stem and neuro and neuropsychology I am committed to using my experience Experience experiences and knowledge to contribute to the field positively and impact and positively impact the lives of those around me.

And I think beyond that the last few sentences is that like she, if she were to get this award, that she would kind of owe it all to Colleen, that, that she would be doing this in her honor. It’s hard to read a whole essay like this. And not feel that. She really pulls everything in so nicely and tells the story of their friendship so nicely and then at the very end brings it back to the power of that friendship, the power of what that friendship taught her.

And so that memorable closing will stick with you. I tell students all the time whether they’re writing scholarship applications or admissions applications. That when I was in admissions at a university at Emory University, you knew a student had a great essay when the admission staff called that student by some theme in their essay, right?

So there would be an applicant who used like a rivers metaphor. Honestly, this happened and I still remember this. This essay, like nine years later, there will, who used this river winding river motif. And it was so beautifully done that for the rest of the year or the rest of the cycle, our staff referred to that student as the rivers, the rivers app.

Oh, you mean rivers? Yeah. Rivers. We’re going to give rivers this scholarship. And again, it was to the extent that when that student ultimately came, we had to, Remember that they had in a different name and that they weren’t called rivers. But that’s what you want, right? You want your essay to stick in such a way that people can’t get it out of their head and that they actually not only remember it, but are able to refer to you because of what you wrote was so memorable.

So that’s the customized portion. We have another poll. Yes. So we are interested to know what grade you all are in. And kind of how this presentation applies to you. So I’m gonna go ahead and start that polling, but I do really want to agree with Ashly when I would be reading applications. At university, we used to call them pass around essays.

What are the essays that actually make you get up out of your chair and go to your colleague at the next reading table or in the next cubicle and say, you have to read this one. Like, this is one that you have to see. Some people talk about the essays you remember when you go to lunch, but I always say the ones that made me get out of my chair and walk over to someone else and be like, you absolutely have to read this.

Those are the types of impacts you’re really hoping to have. So it looks like our Students are majority 12th graders which again is what we would expect, a good handful of 11th graders as well, and a couple in 10th. So that is fantastic. This does mark the end of the presentation portion of our webinar.

I hope you found the information really helpful. I love that Ashly went through and did a really thorough example. I think that’s one of the best ways to learn about these essays. And remember that you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab. We are going to move on to the live Q& A.

I’ll read through the questions you’ve submitted in the Q& A tab, paste them in the public chat so you can see, and then read them out loud to Ashly to give you an answer. As a heads up, if the Q& A tab isn’t letting you submit questions, just double check that you’re jo that you joined the webinar through your custom link in your email, and not the webinar landing page.

You may need to rejoin if you have. The first question we have is about finding scholarships, and what are a couple platforms that you would recommend for locating scholarships? So going Mary is my number one favorite one. I think that they launched in during the pandemic. And so I don’t know that they got all the props that they deserve but it is.

It’s visually simple to digest it has great tools. It’s really easy to keep your stuff organized. And it really does. It’s the kind of thing that allows you to build a system. So going Mary is my favorite one, not sponsored. Other good ones are scholarship owl. That’s a good one. If you’re an international student, international students.

com is a good one. It is still a lot of links. And there is a little bit more digging in that one that you have to do, but at the very least it has filters, which you don’t find a lot of times for international student resources. Things like FastWeb are good. I think that that’s a good kind of secondary place to look, because it’s easy to just kind of quickly scroll and see if there’s anything that looks good.

interesting or any if any titles are jumping out to you that look different. But I usually suggest that you kind of find one and really dig into that one. There’s because there’s a lot of overlap. There’s a ton of overlap. So once you’ve kind of exhausted all of your opportunities on something like Going Mary or Scholarship Owl or Scholly, then other resources that you find are going to have a lot of the same thing.

And so now it’s more like searching for a needle in a haystack. Also, it’s rare that you’re able to exhaust all of the opportunities that you’ll find on someplace like Going Mary, Scholarship Owl, Scholly. Yeah. So that’s, those are, those are the ones that I would recommend. I think that the approach should be a little bit like, I don’t know if they give you this advice when you’re studying for the SATs, but they definitely give you this advice when you’re studying for like the GREs or the LSATs that your study manuals that you should get a couple of different kinds.

Like, don’t just go in all on Kaplan because Kaplan might have some good stuff, but there might be another manual that. is really strong in a way that you really need it to be that Kaplan isn’t. So it’s always good to kind of have a little bit of a balance there. And that’s how I kind of suggest you approach finding that platform.

Great. This is a question that I expected would come up just because we’re talking about scholarships and that’s that, you know, students are getting discouraged AI because of AI apps and people using them to write their essays. Do you have any advice on AI apps when it comes to essays? Right?

That’s always my response. You know, this is a weird time for that because ultimately I think that academia is going to have to catch up with the fact that AI is a real tool and figure out ways to help people use that tool ethically and encourage and encourage people to use the tool ethically. I would say that if you think it’s wrong, don’t do it.

If you think that you’re not Putting in the work that you should be, or that you found a shortcut, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Using an AI tool to help you, for instance, organize your thoughts. That’s totally fine. Totally fine. If you’re, if you’re kind of trying to think about like a big overarching subject and you ask it to give you four details or four characteristics of that subject to kind of trigger you into writing and give you a good prompt for writing, that is totally fine.

It should not, the prompt for the essay though, or some version of the prompt for the essay should never go into an AI an AI field. It’s, it’s not worth it right now for you. It’s a waste of your time. Like if you, if you think you need to use a app to help you get it out there, then you just don’t have time to do it and that’s okay with, with these applications.

It’s totally fine that you don’t have time to do it. But don’t, don’t trade your integrity to just try and hit, you know, an application goal. And I will say as an instructor currently, they’re not as smart as you think they are yet. We can tell. I, at least reading papers and reading application essays at the same time, like I can tell when a student has used AI.

And one of the big things I always tell students when I’ve read applications is authenticity wins the day. And there’s something about knowing that someone used an AI device that doesn’t feel as authentic. So just That would be my little caveat, is just keep that in mind. This is a good question.

You know, there’s, applying for scholarships can be quite daunting, and, and can make people nervous. Any recommendations for how to just get started? You know, you kind of just have to start. At the end of the day, make it bite sized pieces. Right? If you’re, if the goal is three to four a week, don’t start with that goal, right?

Start with one. Actually, start with, I’m going to create a profile on a scholarship app this week. And this is one way, actually, and this is actually something I recommend that people do to make it easier. And it’s back to that kind of systematic kind of strategic approach to it. So I never want students to combine the application search and application completion processes.

I want you to separate those completely. So when you have time to kind of, you know, it’s like passively scrolling, like you’re waiting for a bus or you’re, you know, you’ve got your phone in your hand and you’re scrolling. For some of that time. Open your scholarship app and just start window shopping, applicate for scholarship opportunities and just favorite them very low stakes.

Just favorite stuff that looks interesting that you think might be a good match. Just that’s all you got to do. Then set a date for yourself a week in the future, two weeks in the future, whatever it is, at least pay attention to the deadlines of whatever it is that you’re getting. And. That’s going to be the day that you sit down and you try and start an application.

But the good thing is that you will have created kind of this list of scholarships that are good, that are a good fit for you. And guess what? A lot of the scholarships that are in that list are going to be the categories that you’ve already identified about yourself. Right? Which means that now I don’t have to look at this big daunting list of things that are about every corner of my being.

I can say, okay. I’m just going to focus on the philanthropy scholarships because I had one experience that I just have to frame and reframe depending on who the organization is and depending on what it is that they’re asking me and I can knock out three of these applications more or less at the same time.

So, let me just do that and then I’ll come back to. My academic stuff another day, but being able to bunch things together like that makes it again, think of it kind of like you can tell I’m from Detroit cause this is like very Henry Ford of me. But think of it like that, like an assembly line. That’s how you want to start constructing your applications.

You don’t want to build a whole car, pull it off the line and then start again from scratch. Just. add pieces as you’re going. But that’s a good way to get started. Just, just look for some applications. Absolutely. Absolutely. I think we had another really good question. Which is, if you don’t know where you’re going to school, this is a pretty quick one.

Is it okay to start applying for scholarships? Yes. Most external, first of all, even if you’re applying for institutional scholarships, There’s nothing lost, nothing gained. If you apply for a scholarship, get it and don’t go to that school. Trust me, they’ll just give it to someone else. You’re not, you’re not sitting on money that won’t get used.

They have a list of people who, and they expect people to turn it down, right? If their external scholarships The majority of external scholarships do not have a requirement of what school you’re going to go to, and if they do, they’ll tell you, and again, just like with institutional scholarships, if you end up saying, hey, I’m actually not going to go to that school.

They’re like, cool, we’ll give it to this next applicant. So you are able to apply for any and everything. And that is the dream. The dream is to be able to have so many offers that you have to turn some down. Because what that means is that you’re operating from a place of choice. You’re able to say, these are the things that are meaningful and exciting to me.

These are the things that I’m really grateful for, but don’t quite fit the profile that I’m looking for. So I’m going to let those go. I’m going to take all the great stuff that I love and I’m going to go to the place that I want because guess what? I funded myself. Absolutely. And I know that this process can be overwhelming, but just keep in mind, we do have a team at CollegeAdvisor of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts, like Ashly and myself, who are ready to help you and your family navigate the college admissions process in one on one advising sessions.

We’ve already helped around 6, 000 clients in their college journeys. And after analyzing the data since 2021, we found that CollegeAdvisor students are 3. 6 times more likely to get into Stanford. 4. 1 times more likely to get into Vanderbilt and 2. 7 times more likely to get into Harvard. So if you’re ready to increase your odds and take the next step in your college admissions journey, please sign up for a free 45 to 60 minutes strategy session with an admissions specialist on our team using that QR code you see on your screen.

During this meeting, we’ll review your current extracurricular list and application strategy, discuss how they align with your college list, and outline the tools you need to stand out in the competitive admissions world. Now we are going to throw it back to the Q& A with a very good question. What is one thing you definitely want to avoid when applying for scholarships?

What is a red flag that often jumps out to the person reading your essays? Well, one, you don’t want to use the wrong organization name. That’s that’s a big one for any applications ever, which is why you want to double highlight or get rid of anything that is explicitly for one single organization.

But beyond that I think what what makes me stop reading or what makes me kind of say, okay, this student isn’t really, isn’t coming to the top of the pile. Is Students who very clearly use a hard template, right, where it’s so obvious because they’re not really saying anything, you know, they’re saying that, you know, they’re saying something like, as I approach Let’s get it.

my, you know, collegiate career. I think about the things that are important to me and meaningful in the world. And by going by, you know, volunteering, I’ve learned that I can contribute to the world. And that’s why I should be a recipient for your organization here, because I care about the world. You’ve said nothing.

You’ve told me nothing about your experience. You’ve told me nothing about nothing that you know anything about what I do and what we’re offering. And you haven’t told me anything about how, what I’m going to do for you is going to make the world a better place because you didn’t want, you didn’t have the time or you thought that having kind of that sort of a template would work.

And that’s why I encourage you to have this more fluid approach to Kind of editing and pulling things from things that you’ve written before because you still are you’re still very much Writing these things you’re just able to pull enough in that you’re you can give yourself the brain space and start with an editing Eye, which is much easier when you’re tired then starting from scratch but that is that’s something if if you’ve written an identical essay for another organization They both know They both know.

So the things that are really important is that you know who it is that you’re is offering this money and that you can show that and that you can tell them. This is what I’ve always told students. Tell me why you want to come here. Tell me what it is that you’re going to bring to this community when you come here and then tell me what you’re going to do with the lessons you’ve learned from this community when you go out into the world.

If you can answer those three questions, then you’re, that’s going to be a solid application. Absolutely. This question hits a little on, you mentioned a little bit about international students earlier, but if a student is planning to apply abroad, I’m assuming this means international how would you recommend searching for or applying for scholarships?

So you would want to look for scholarship portals or matching, Well, first of all, a lot of the matching sites like Going Merry and things like that ask you, where are you going to study? And so, if you say, I’m going to study in England, I’m assuming that you’re American. If you’re not American, internationalstudents.

com is a great resource because there’s very few resources for international students wanting to… Study in the United States. If you are a United States citizen or permanent resident wanting to go someplace else, then usually because you’re a citizen, you can find those funding opportunities just by saying, I’m looking to study abroad.

These are the schools that I’m interested in. There’s also a couple of resources out there. It’s. a little bit thinner for undergrads, but there is some stuff. I think there’s like, like fellowship searches, much more common overseas for an undergrad to be able to get a fellowship. It’s, it’s not a thing as much the other way around.

So looking at those two resources. Are, that’s probably where I’d start. And if, just in case the question was, because I’m not sure, if it was about studying abroad while you’re in college, actually check your, check the merit scholarships your college offers. A lot of the time, study abroad offices do have study abroad scholarships for students.

And, if it’s an exchange, it doesn’t matter. Like, so if you’re studying abroad and it’s an exchange program, then that means there’s an agreement between your university and that university that you’ll go there and continue paying tuition to your university. So, nothing changes for you. You’re just paying tuition.

From over there now. Okay. So as someone who has never applied to a scholarship before. Oh, wait. Sorry. Oh, no, no, no. We’re talking about scholarships. I won’t get into that. Sorry. Go ahead. If you’re someone who’s never applied to a scholarship before, what are some of the most common prompts they are likely to ask you?

You know what? Scholarship prompts are almost identical to admissions prompts. Like you’ll find the same category. So you’ll, they’ll want to hear about a moment of adversity that you’ve overcome. They’ll want to hear about a time when you’ve shown exemplary leadership. They’ll want to know about a moment of like a moment of like creativity or of kind of intellectual awakening and what that did and where that’s going to go.

They will have the offbeat questions about like if you could be an NGO, which one would you be and why? They are almost identical. The only difference is that it’s much more expected that you have the hard sell in a scholarship application. Like I should be considered for this award because that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that we don’t really say it that strongly in an admissions application.

We just kind Let it lie and let them connect the dots scholarship applications. You can absolutely say this is why I would be a great recipient for this award because this is what I do with that money. Yeah. I think that’s the big difference. Admissions essays. We kind of were like, don’t be that outright about it.

And Scholarships, like say it this one’s good. If, how soon can you start applying for scholarships? Let’s say you’re a junior now how long should you be waiting or should you already be applying? So you can start looking now. You can create your profile now and you’ll find a few things. You will.

There are things out there. I think, I mean, there’s definitely scholarships that will award freshmen in high school. I don’t know how they administer that, because they just have to keep up with people for so long. But you can absolutely start looking, and there will be things that you find. It’s really going to kick off for you, though.

Like, the scholarships are going to start, opportunities are going to start flooding in. Probably around, you’ll start to see it really pick up around July. Prior to your senior year, and that’s summer. Because… Most scholarships, the big, oh, and this is the other thing, scholarship applications and scholarship kind of opportunities are like a funnel.

So the earlier you are in your senior year, that’s where all the big, juicy, full ride, with a stipend, like those giant awards tend to have deadlines earlier in the fall. And then as you continue through your senior year, the opportunities and like kind of individual amounts start to get smaller and smaller and smaller.

Now you can still stack up those amounts, like 5, 000 here, 1, 000 there, 500 there will get you much further in college than you might realize when you’re looking at these big tuition numbers. They really does make an impact. But making sure that you’re checking in as a junior, I would say. Check in and look at scholarships and kind of window shop for scholarships monthly.

Once a month, just check in and see what, what there is. And if there’s something that looks really, really great to you, feel free to apply for it. Once you have finished your junior year, I would say give yourself June to breathe. And then in July, start checking weekly, start window shopping weekly and set, you know, one Saturday aside or one day aside to Tackle those applications that you’ve favorited.

Awesome. This is an interesting question and, and hopefully by getting enough scholarships, we don’t fall into this question, but can you apply for scholarships to pay off student or school loans even after graduating? Those are not usually, you would not call that a scholarship. So a scholarship would be something that is funding your current.

Cost of education. There are fellowships, though, after you’ve graduated, depending on what you’re doing. So, for instance, my best friend was named a Skadden fellow in law when she was in law school, and the Skadden fellowship has a loan forgiveness bent to it or where they or loan payoff kind of benefit.

So she was able to get some funding to help pay off the loans that she had to take out in law school. And then there’s like a trickle down effect, right? So now she doesn’t have to pay the law school loan so she can focus on undergrad loans if she has them. But that’s usually how that would, how that would work.

So what you would want to look into if you’re going to borrow is understand, like how, based on what you think your career might be right now Research loan forgiveness. We research not just federal loan forgiveness because that is out of our hands, unfortunately. But companies and organizations that have loan forgiveness for their employees.

You might find something you really love. You might decide to intern for them your sophomore or junior year and you might get a foot in the door and You know, that’s kind of come up. I will also say Peace Corps does have a l component, but and this i who travels a lot, please just thinking it is an ea forgiveness.

Peace Corps rewarding experience and on it if you feel prepara Get rid of your lungs. Okay, if you volunteer for multiple organizations, when writing an essay, should you just focus on one or should you talk about the multiple organizations you’ve volunteered for? I think it depends on the prompt. If the prompt asks you to, to Well, first of all, it depends on the prompt and the people providing the prompt, right?

So if you, if you, just like with our example, if you volunteer for multiple organizations, you volunteer at the Humane Society, you volunteer at a local church and at a Boys and Girls Club, if you are applying for an organization for Future Teachers of America, which one do you think is the best example?

Which one do you think you should? hone in on. Now you can mention that you do the other two things, but you don’t want to confuse it by trying to explain what, you know, what you’ve learned at the humane society, working with animals and what you learned, you know, at your local church and what you learned at the boys and girls club and how all of those things can come together to make you a great teacher.

Actually, that is true. They will all come together to make you a great teacher, but you have limited real estate to get your point across. And you have an opportunity to really speak to these people in their language. And so you want to maximize on those opportunities. Okay, and I’m going to throw a question in here just as we start to round out.

How important is finding and applying for local scholarships? Very. Because here’s the thing with local scholarships, it’s already a smaller pool. If big national scholarships, you are, you’re competing against literally everyone in the country, local scholarships, especially super local scholarships, so city, county, you know, township, that type of thing.

It’s a, it’s a much, much smaller pool. Your chances are so much higher just because the competition. There’s there’s less competition. So absolutely look for those. And those are the ones that stack up right? The local scholarships might be 500 here. It might be a book allowance there. You might have a couple for 2000 or whatever, but those stack up.

So make sure that yes, it’s a volume game, but you also want to look at the cost benefit analysis and kind of The competitiveness of the award, you want to factor that in when you’re deciding what to apply for. You don’t want to just go for all the big, kind of, impressive scholarships. Yes, apply for those, but your chances are better.

Like, the more local you, it’s like governing. Like, start local. Absolutely, and just on top of that, what’s the best way to find a local scholarship, someone just asked? So your high school is a good place to start your high school. If you have a college counseling office or anything like that, that’s a great place to start one thing that I think.

And so usually they’ll have a, well, I’m so old. They’ll have like a folder. I think they might still have a folder. They might have a folder or a bulletin board, or they have like a, if you have like blackboard or something like that, they’ll post things there. So don’t ignore that. The other thing that can be really helpful when you’re trying to find out scholarship opportunities from your college counselor is to know that this college counselor is the only one usually for all of you seniors and open ended questions like do you know of any good scholarships for me will not yield any answers.

They will tell you to go to the Internet and Google and find it yourself. One good trick to get anything out of them is to ask them if they have a list of recent graduates and the scholarships that they’ve been awarded, like in the past three or four years. Usually they do because usually you have an honors day or it’ll go in the graduation program or, you know, usually you have to report, you report that back.

But what that does, one, it allows them to just pull a document and hand it to you. But it also. Is kind of like building your own local scholarship list in that your career quasi local in that you now have a list of scholarships. That people who are from your area who’ve had similar curricula, who probably are generally same socioeconomic status and have relatively similar life events have been able to successfully secure these awards.

And you also would be applying with the benefit of name recognition with the selection committee. So I get an application from this high school and we’re like, Oh my gosh, Regina went to this high school. She was great. Just that little bit of recognition. Is going to make me read your application closer because you have to realize all of this is subjective.

These are all human beings reading applications. And so they all have their biases. They all have their things that they connect with and that will resonate with them. And so you want to make sure that you’re doing everything that you can to stick. Absolutely. Well, that will round us out for the evening.

Thank you so much, Ashly. And thank you all for joining us to hear about how to apply for merit scholarships and write your essays. Keep in mind, CollegeAdvisor does still have a variety of webinars coming up later this month, including the Ultimate Guide to Supplemental Essays. How to get started and stand out and a little bit about MBAs and their application timelines.

But again, we thank you all for joining us for the evening. We thank Ashly so much for everything she was able to tell us and we hope to see you all at another webinar soon. Bye everyone.