Applying to Merit Scholarships

Who doesn’t love free money? Learn how to apply to merit scholarships to help fund your education with

Admissions expert Jesper Ke will share his tips and advice on applying for and accessing scholarships during a 60-minute webinar and Q&A session.

In this webinar, you’ll have all your questions answered including:

  • How do I apply for merit scholarships?
  • How do I write a strong essay for scholarships?
  • Where can I find a list of scholarships?

Come ready to learn and bring your questions!

Date 01/04/2023
Duration 1:00:53

Webinar Transcription

2023-01-04: Applying to Merit Scholarships for College

Anesha: [00:00:00] Hi everyone. Welcome to tonight’s webinar. My name is Anesha Grant. I’m a senior advisor at College Advisor and I will be your moderator this evening. Today’s webinar is applying to Merit Scholarships. Before we get started, I just wanna take a few minutes to orient everyone with the webinar timing. So our presenter will share some tips, resources, and guidance, and then we will open up the floor to respond to your questions in a live Q&A. On the sidebar you can download the slides under the handouts tab, and you can start to ask questions in the Q&A tab. Please only submit your questions in the Q&A tab. Please try not to chat us or send them in anything else other than the Q&A tab. Now let’s move forward and meet our presenter, Jesper.

Hi Jesper.

Jesper: Hey, thanks for having me.

All right, so I’ll go ahead and kick it off. Thank you everyone for coming today. Really excited to talk to you about applying to merit [00:01:00] scholarships and different types of opportunities, strategies that you can apply as you go through the process. So, I’m currently a medical student right now, and so I’m happy to talk a little bit about pre-med as well on the Q&A, if that interests you.

But, uh, the focus of today’s presentation will mainly be on how to identify, uh, and apply for, uh, merit scholarships. So in terms of thinking about what merit scholarships are, I just wanna set a quick, uh, base for everyone so we’re all on the same page. And the way that, uh, we’re gonna talk about merit aid today is that it is a form of college financial aid, uh, that doesn’t consider students financial need, but rather is awarded based on academic, athletic, artistic, or special interest merit.

So in terms of, uh, the first thing I usually talk to students about when it comes to thinking about these types of scholarships, it’s, uh, when is a good time to think about them? And so I know today [00:02:00] probably a lot of you are from different backgrounds. Some of you might be, uh, high schoolers who are sophomores right now, so you’re still a little bit, um, kind of early on in your journey.

So thinking about school, focusing on school, some of you might be juniors. Um, I talk, when I talk to juniors, I tell them to take some time to learn more about colleges that you’re interested in. You know, start building a list of places you’re thinking about applying to. And then as seniors, um, new knows January.

Now some of you probably have already applied to college. Maybe some of you have applied early action to a place. Some of you just applied, um, or are about to apply regular decision. And some of you are thinking about applying to some schools that are on more rolling timelines. So regardless of, you know, which category you fit into, hopefully you can take away something today that is useful for you, not just in thinking about mayor scholarships, but thinking about your college applications in general.

So to kind of, um, you know, divide this a little further, uh, in terms of the [00:03:00] different types of merit scholarships, I would argue there are a couple of categories. So one of them, um, I would call application based. And what this means is that this scholarship is something you specifically have to fill out a separate application for.

You are not automatically considered for it when you apply to the college that you were interested in. So for example, Vanderbilt, they have a tuition scholarship that you have to apply for by a particular deadline in December. Um, the second type of scholarship, which I would say is probably the most common one that are offered by colleges, uh, are screening based scholarships.

And what these are, are that when you apply to the college, whether it’s, you know, the early deadline, the regular deadline, they will automatically consider you for the scholarships no matter if you fill out a separate application or not. Um, and I would say the majority of colleges in the US will offer screening based scholarships or consider you for screening based scholarships.

So this includes places like [00:04:00] Georgia Tech, Boston College, Berkeley, um, a variety of public and private institutions. And then the final category, um, which might be relevant to some of the seniors who are on this call today are outside scholarships. And so these are scholarships that are not offered by a college.

These are scholarships offered by a foundation, a nonprofit, a private donor. Um, and typically you have to apply for these separately outside of applying to college. So some of the biggest ones are, uh, the Coca-Cola scholarship. Um, but there’s also ones that maybe your local school foundation offers. You know, maybe your local, uh, credit union, maybe your workplace.

If you work at, uh, burger King or a fast food restaurant, a lot of these places will offer specific private scholarships that you can apply for. And all of these are ones that we’ll try and cover today in terms of my tips and tricks. So another question I get from a lot of people is, um, you [00:05:00] know, how do you know the qualifications for a scholarship?

How do you know how to consider yourself for a one? And I think there’s a couple criteria here that are pretty common amongst the, uh, scholarships that I’ve seen, both offered by foundations and by colleges. One of the big criteria some of these scholarships will look at, not all of them though, is academic criteria.

So some of these scholarships might only be offered to students who fulfill a particular SAT or ACT score. Um, in some cases you’ll automatically be awarded these scholarships if you meet those criteria. That’s pretty straightforward. Not too difficult to explain. Now, there are other scholarships that are not offered necessarily based on academic criteria.

They might be skill-based criteria. You might be a recruited athlete to a division one school. Uh, you might have an exceptional talent in a particular field like, uh, music or art, and your school might offer you a scholarship just for that. Um, diversity is in other criteria some of these scholarships might look at.

Um, so one [00:06:00] college in Colorado will offer a scholarship to students whose parents have not completed a four year college degree. And so this is a scholarship specifically for first generation students, uh, which the goal of which is to, uh, increase their diversity in terms of experiences and backgrounds, uh, to this particular college.

And I think probably the most common criteria I see for a lot of these scholarships, especially the largest ones, are just overall quote unquote excellence. And I know that’s really vague and kind of general, and so I’ll try and explain what that means a bit. So for example, here, Miami University in Ohio, uh, has a presidential fellows program.

And so it’s a scholarship opportunity. That’s what they say is for the best and the brightest students. And that can mean a lot of different things. It can mean students who are very, very well rounded. You might have great scores, you might have interesting extracurriculars, uh, a compelling life story.

And for all those reasons, they might offer it to you. Or maybe you’re, uh, very, very good at one particular thing. You’ve been a leader in a particular type of, [00:07:00] uh, research, you know, in your local area and or maybe you, you started a new group or something that does like service work. You know, there’s a lot of different ways that colleges use this general criteria to assess students.

Um, and the same is true here at Duke. A self-motivated sense of discovery and commitment to engage and meet the challenges faced by society at large. So essentially they’re looking for people who they feel like can make a real impact on society in the future, uh, in whatever way that might be.

The most common question that I get from students is, um, you know, how do I know I’m a good fit now that I figured out what the criteria are for this particular scholarship, um, and how do I find these scholarships? So, first of all, to find these scholarships, um, the way I found a lot of them when I was planning to college and the way I recommend a lot of my advisees do is, uh, first start just with simple Google search.

You can look up college scholarships. Um, and if you wanna be specific, you can. If you are looking for foundation scholarships, you can say outside college [00:08:00] scholarships. Look up that. There’s plenty of websites. You’ll find that have a list. Um, if you have particular colleges that you know you’re looking at, you can google that college name and just add, you know, scholarship to the end of the Google search.

And usually you’ll be able to find some page that talks a bit about some of the opportunities they have for. Um, and the other question I get is, am I good fit or are these scholarships in your range or not? Now, if it’s an application-based scholarship, um, you can check the criteria pretty simply, uh, and see if there are specific academic score, other cutoffs, uh, geographic cutoffs, for example, that you know, what automatically qualify or disqualify you for the scholarship.

Um, now if it’s a screening based scholarship, which. are the ones where the college automatically considers you for this scholarship, I would say, um, look at the college demographic profile, the student profile itself. You know, for example, look at what are their average, uh, GPAs, average test [00:09:00] scores. Um, you know, maybe they have some student profiles of students who have been selected for the scholarship.

You can read those. Um, and that might just give you a ballpark estimate of where you might be. Again, I wouldn’t just use academic criteria, and colleges don’t only use, and foundations don’t only use academic criteria in selecting students, but in terms of just getting a rough ballpark estimate, it might be a good place to start.

Other miscellaneous things you can think about. Do you have a specific connection to this college, to this foundation? Um, you know, maybe you did a summer program there, maybe you worked there. Um, do you have a compelling story, a compelling personal story, you know, a compelling award application. Um, and you can also again, look at some of the current scholars if they list them and read more about what they’re like.

Ultimately, what I tell students is that there’s no formula. If you’re interested in a scholarship and you have the time, then you should apply. And I think that’s gonna be the biggest factor that limits how many scholarships and colleges [00:10:00] you can apply to is simply how much time do I have to put together a good application for this scholarship, for this college, et cetera.

Now the next step of the process is thinking about what’s gonna happen after I apply to this college, after I apply to this scholarship. Um, I would check the scholarship website if they have information, and, uh, usually they’ll tell you the rough timeline for how they decide. So for some of the application based ones, especially, they’ll tell you specifically you need to apply by X dtate.

And then for here at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, this scholarship, uh, specifically says the finalist selection interviews are gonna be over this weekend in February. So you’ll, you’ll know if you haven’t heard before then, um, you know, you probably won’t have been selected for the scholarship.

Other scholarships are more vague. They just say that, um, invites might be sent out in a particular time for interviews. Some scholarships don’t even do interviews. They just are awarded to you [00:11:00] and you might only hear about it when you receive your acceptance letter to the college. So it really depends.

Um, but I would just check the website and you should be able to get a better idea from that scholarship itself of when you’ll hear.

Now this is kind of the, um, the core of the presentation that I wanna focus on today. Um, we’ll also leave plenty of time at the end for questions and answers, uh, in case you guys have specific things you wanna talk about. Um, so I’m gonna talk about it today about what are some tips I give to people who are applying to these merit scholarships.

And, uh, again, I think these tips are relevant no matter if you are a freshman, thinking about applying to college in the future, a college senior who’s looking at outside scholarships. Um, I think these are good tips you can think about any time you write an essay for a prompt, uh, which you’ll have to do a lot as you know, if you’re applying to college.

So my three first tips are, one, I think you should create a tracking spreadsheet. I’ll show you an example of what that looks like. [00:12:00] Number two, map out the scholarship application prompt. Um, we’ll go over an example of that later. And then three, you should write early and get feedback often. All right. . So in terms of a tracking spreadsheet, this is an example.

Um, you know, from what you could use, uh, it’s just a simple, you know, Google, uh, Google spreadsheet. You could use an Excel document. Um, and I think it’s very important to have some type of way of keeping track of your scholarships and your colleges because it’s easy to lose track of deadlines, especially if there are different deadlines for different scholarships.

So here you can see I’ve listed the colleges, um, that I’m considering. I’ve listed the scholarships that I’m interested in. I’ve put the deadlines for the scholarship. If there’s a specific deadline for it, um, I’m keeping track. If I’ve completed it, you know, I’m color coding, you know, Green means it’s done, red means it’s not done.

Yellow means I’m working on it. And I think something that’s really kind of underrated and helpful [00:13:00] when you have a tracking spreadsheet is to list the descriptions of the scholarships and also the essay prompts. If you have to write an essay for the scholarship and the reason for this, and this is true also of applying to colleges too.

Um, the reason this is helpful is because as you start listing the different essay prompts, um, you’ll start to see patterns between essay prompts, you know, essay prompts that are very similar to each other. And what that does is that lets you, if you’ve already written one essay, for example, for a particular prompt, you can then use that essay, modify it.

Obviously don’t just use the same one, but modify it, make some changes, tailor it a little more, and then use it for, um, another essay prompt that’s similar. And this helps save you a lot of work because again, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel if you’ve already written, um, a good essay for a very similar prompt to one that you’re looking.

So for example, a lot of these essay prompts for scholarships might ask you about diversity in all of its forms. You know, um, they might say, we have a very diverse [00:14:00] student body, people from different backgrounds, different upbringings, different, you know, religions, different races. Um, you know, talk about a time that you interacted with people from a different background than yourself.

Or maybe they’ll ask, you know, talk about, uh, something about yourself that would add to the diversity of this program. And that’s a very common application, um, and a scholarship essay prompt that you’ll see. And so if you’ve identified that already for one prompt. So, um, here, I think for the Vanderbilt one, you can kind of see the second essay prompt is along those lines.

Then you can use that for another prompt. Maybe let’s say Berkeley or another school has that. So again, keep track of your scholarships, uh, keep track of the deadlines, write your prompts down, and then use that to stay on top of your deadlines and not fall behind. All right. So the second tip I mentioned is I recommend that you map out your essay prompts, and I’m gonna talk a bit about what that looks like and do an example with you here.

Um, [00:15:00] kind of a short overview of what I mean by essay. Prompt mapping is look at the essay prompt, read through it a couple times, um, and even read the scholarship description as well. That’s important too. And then think about what are the key things that they’re trying to get out of this prompt? What are the key questions that they’re asking me to answer as I write my essay?

And if you do that, that’s really good because. Um, I think the problems some students have is that they aren’t really reading the prompt very closely. So the essay they write actually doesn’t relate closely or is not very relevant to the prompt. Um, or in some cases maybe you’ve reused an essay, but you didn’t read the prompt closely and you didn’t make enough changes to make it clear that this is a essay that fits the prompt.

And I think, um, that’s one thing that might turn off, uh, application readers is feeling like, you know, you didn’t really answer the question that they were looking to ask. So here we’re gonna go through the Cornelius Vanderbilt scholarship description and prompt. And, uh, this is a full tuition scholarship of [00:16:00] Vanderbilt.

It’s an application-based scholarship, so you have to answer this prompt to apply in addition to applying to the school. So the scholarship description says the scholarship honors the vision of Vanderbilt University’s founder, who endowed the university to contribute to strengthening the ties that should exist between all sections of our common country.

Scholars continue that mission, bringing intellectual and community leadership to the Vanderbilt campus, where they forged interdisciplinary and interpersonal connections that unite people and ideas across the world. All right, so that’s kind of a lot there with the scholarship description. Um, I’m gonna go ahead and read the prompt and then I’ll give you, uh, a little bit of time to just kind of read through those yourselves and think a bit about what are some of the key things that you wanna pull out.

What are some of the key phrases, for example, you think are very core to the prompt? So the essay prompt says, the College of Arts and Sciences is a liberal arts school committed to introducing every student to a broad range of subjects in the natural sciences, social [00:17:00] sciences, and humanities. How will you embrace the breadth of courses offered by the College of Arts and Sciences, and how will this fit into your academic journey or life’s passions?

500 words? So I’m gonna give you guys, you know, 20 seconds right now, and I just want you to read through the description and the prompt again, and just kind of think into yourself, you know, what are some of the, um, what are some of, like the key phrases, the key words here you think, that really illustrate, um, the core questions that this prompt or this description is looking for in an applicant?

[00:18:00] All right, great. I know that wasn’t a lot of time, but that’s okay. We’ll go over this together, um, and kind of talk through the way that I would read, uh, and interpret kind of this prompt, and there’s no one way to do this. Um, but it’s just a way to think a bit more about, uh, critically, you know, what is this application asking me to answer.

All right. So, uh, in terms of the scholarship description, here are three phrases that I kind of pulled out that I thought were really relevant. The first is contribute to strengthening the ties, which should exist between all sections of our common country. I’m gonna kind of identify these sections first, and then I’ll talk a bit about why I picked them.

All right, so that’s the first phrase. The second phrase is intellectual and community leadership. And the third phrase in the description is forge interdisciplinary and interpersonal connections that unite people and ideas across the world. All right, let’s stop there. [00:19:00] So we’re gonna start with the first phrase I picked out, contribute to strengthening the ties, which should exist between all sections of our common country.

Now this is kind of, um, a pretty broad phrase, pretty like high level phrase in terms of, uh, not being super specific. But what I kind of got out of this phrase is that generally they’re looking for people who are, uh, going to bring other people together, who unite people, who bring people together across different backgrounds, different disciplines, different interpersonal connections, as you can see down on the third phrase that I picked.

Um, so kind of, you know, like a coalition builder, a team builder, you know, someone who unites people. Um, and the second phrase here I picked out is pretty self-explanatory. It says intellectual and community leadership. Intellectual leadership can be pretty general, so that might mean a lot of things. It can mean your academic performance, um, but it can also mean non-academic things.

It can mean what [00:20:00] types of new ideas, you know, new things have you come up with, have thought about, have created through the work you have done. Maybe your extracurriculars, um, you know, for example, let’s say you’re in a club, um, maybe it’s a club for business or something, and you came up with a really cool idea for some type of fundraiser, some type of business fair that had not been done before at your school, and you helped run and execute that business fair.

And it was a success. You know, I would call that intellectual leadership as much as getting good grades or getting good test scores, because that shows that you have identified a gap that exists and you’ve created something, you know, new, uh, that you, that you brought to the community and that added something that wasn’t there before.

I think the same can be set up community leadership. What are things you have done to improve the community around you? And so this doesn’t just necessarily mean like community service, it can mean, you know, maybe what have you done to improve your school? Maybe you’re on student council, right? [00:21:00] Uh, what have you done to improve your local neighborhood?

Maybe you’re involved in some local neighborhood community activities. Um, maybe you’re part of like a science Olympiad team. You know, what have you done to improve your science Olympiad team? So I would, you know, interpret this pretty broadly. You know, even though it says intellectual, again, that doesn’t just mean academics, although that can be something to talk about.

It can mean your ideas too. And the third phrase here, it says forge interdisciplinary interpersonal con connections. I think this ties in with the first phrase I picked. I think they’re very similar. You know, they’re looking for people who’re gonna bring others together across different backgrounds, um, in a united fashion.

All right, great. So we took a little bit of time there to talk about the scholarship description and to kind of think about, uh, what they’re looking for there. And now we’ll talk a bit about the essay prompt now, and I thought this was pretty straightforward because there’s clearly a question being asked, and that’s a thing you should think about.

It says, how will you embrace the breadth of courses [00:22:00] offered by the College of Arts and Science, and how does this fit into your academic journey or life passions? So, This one. I would say, the way I think about this, they’re not necessarily asking you to tell them what is your very specific 10 point plan for what you’re gonna do after college, what you’re gonna do with your college degree.

You know what career you know you’re gonna go into. Not everybody knows that. If you do know that, that’s great. You know, you can talk about that here. But I think what they’re looking for is, again, going back to the scholarship description. They’re looking for people who are intellectually curious. You know, community leaders, people who bring people together, and how are you gonna utilize the opportunities available to you?

In the College of Arts and Sciences, how are you gonna utilize the courses available to you to kind of advance your own academic journey and the things you care about? So, um, this is a good example of where maybe you can do a little bit of research, you can read about this particular College of Arts and [00:23:00] Sciences, maybe see what are some specific course offerings, what are some specific academic opportunities they have, and then think back to yourself, you know, who are you as a person?

What are things generally that you are hoping to do with your college degree in the future? And how does this tie into that? Um, I think kind of going through the scholarship mapping can be a little bit of extra work, obviously, but I think just taking that time to sharpen the ax before you start chopping the tree, uh, is a good way to make sure that you are actually answering the prompt and you can come up with a good, um, you know, story and example of what you’re looking to do.

So for me, um, the next tip I’ll give here is once you’ve done the mapping, uh, you know, you have to think about how you’re gonna respond to it. And, um, I’ll give you some examples from myself when I was in high school of how I did this. But I think the way to think about it is to think about what are stories that you can start off with, you can lead off with [00:24:00] what are examples that you can give, because the best, you know, predictor of your future, uh, behavior is you know, your past behavior.

And so giving specific examples of things you have done prior to applying to this program is a good indicator and proof, you know, to the admissions committee, to the scholarship selection committee of, you know, that you’re actually gonna be with someone who can do this in the future as well. So what I usually like to do is I usually like to do kind of a web exercise.

Um, I don’t have a good picture, I think here to show you of what this looks like, but what I, what I like to do is, um, you know, imagine you have a blank piece of paper in front of you. Um, you write your name in the middle of a blank piece of paper, and then, um, think of it as a web. So, or you know, a branches or whatever.

You know, you draw out different branches from your name to perhaps, uh, extracurriculars to personal qualities to, um, experiences you’ve had that you most associate with [00:25:00] yourself. So for me here you can see one big thing for me, uh, that I associated with myself in high school was being in Key Club, which is a community service type club in high school.

So that would be one of the branches I draw out from my name, key club or volunteering. And then from the Key Club branch, you can draw more branches of what are specific stories and examples that you think about when you think about that activity. So for me, um, things I would draw from my key club branch here are, for example, I worked on, uh, for example, free music performances.

So getting some of my classmates to go to local nursing homes, to, you know, sing, play, piano, violin, guitar, that type of thing for nursing home residents. And so I have an example right there from my mapping my, you know, my web activity. And then I can link it back to the prompt. You know, the prompt asks, asks about bringing people together from different backgrounds, being an intellectual and community leader.

So I can talk about my experience in Key club, [00:26:00] um, you know, uh, talk about, you know, how I brought, I noticed that a lot of these nursing home residents seemed to be kind of lonely, didn’t have a lot of musical entertainment options, and how I brought people across different generations, you know, young people, old people together to share our love of music together.

So that’s just kind of one example for how I might go about this prompt. Um, you know, everyone has their own stories and examples to share, but doing this map and this web activity is a really good way for any type of essay prompt that you need to respond to. Whether it’s a scholarship essay prompt, whether it’s a college application prompt, whether it’s, you know, uh, application prompt to be on, you know, the board of like one of the clubs you’re interested in your school.

Um, you know, take some time and, you know, think about what you’re trying to answer in the question. All right. Now, some other, uh, kind of miscellaneous questions I often get about scholarships before we get into the q and a. Um, one question we [00:27:00] often get. Is, um, if you know I need a letter of recommendation, either for the scholarship or for the college I’m applying to, or I want to get a scholarship, how do I decide who to ask?

And, um, I would consider a few things. Obviously, one thing that’s important is that you, you wanna know the teacher pretty well or you know, the advisor well, that you’re asking, you know, when you go up them to them to ask, you wanna ask, you know, I’m applying to x, y, z scholarship, or I’m applying to x, y, z colleges.

Um, would you be willing to write a strong letter of recommendation for me? And just asking that, you know, virtually or in person, you can get a pretty good feel for how excited that teacher is or how excited that advisor is to write you a letter of rec. Um, you know, some other things to consider before you ask them are, you know, how well did I do in this class?

You know, how engaged was I, um, was I putting in, you know, good effort? And does, does it seem like my teacher recognized that maybe they’re [00:28:00] an extracurricular advisor? You know, what types of activities have I done with these advisors and did I spend a lot of time with them? What can they say about me, uh, leadership, you know, what leadership did I demonstrate?

Are there personal qualities I feel like that they noticed in the work that I put through together with them in this class or in this extracurricular? And like I said, how strong is my connection to this recommender? Um, which you can kind of figure out just by common sense a lot of times, but also in the way that you ask for your letter of recommendation.

All right, so kind of some final advice. Um, I’ll give before we get into the Q&A. Um, just like my final tips again, you know, start looking now whether you are, uh, you know, a junior in high school, a senior in high school who’s already applied to colleges. You know, start looking for scholarship opportunities.

Um, look for scholarships offered by colleges. See if you’re still eligible, eligible for them, for example. And then also start [00:29:00] googling outside scholarships. If you know, money is a very important thing for you going to college, and then look through those, those, uh, example scholarships, you know, and start applying to them.

You know, map out the prompt. Start early, write. and then get a lot of feedback too. You know, ask people who you trust to read your essays. And then if it’s a scholarship, uh, that requires an interview, uh, and you receive an interview invite, then um, hopefully they’ll give you some idea of kind of what questions they’ll ask.

And then you can use that to have people practice with you, do some practice interviews with you. I think that’s always helpful to practice, um, because there’s nothing like figuring out what the real thing is like by doing something very close to it. And if you can try and find people who have already gotten the scholarship, you know, if it’s a very big one and it’s an interview-based one, um, and try and reach out to them and get their advice.

All right, so, um, before we get to the Q&A again, just want to encourage you to, uh, go to college [00:30:00], kind of look through some of the opportunities we offer to help you individually in your own, uh, own kind of story, your own background as you navigate this kind of confusing process of figuring out colleges to apply to figuring out how to apply to scholarships, figuring out how to become a better candidate for all of the above.

Um, so definitely encourage you to take a look at our website, um, after the presentation. All right, so, um, we’re gonna go ahead and go into the, uh, question and answer section.

Anesha: Yes, we are. Um, so I wanna, we got a few questions as you were going through. So I might backtrack and go back to the beginning of your, your presentation and then work through the questions as we get closer to some questions that came up towards the end.

So, um, initially, uh, someone said, for application based scholarships is a due date after you are accepted, or do you do it while you are applying? So clarifying those, um, scholarships that are attached to specific universities.

Jesper: Yeah, great question. Um, so I [00:31:00] think like when you are applying, um, to colleges, typically a lot of these college-based scholarships are, they run at the same time with the college application deadlines.

So, for example, to be considered for scholarships, um, maybe at Georgia Tech for most of the scholarships, you’re probably gonna need to apply by the deadline, and that’s like screening based scholarships. But if it’s like an application based scholarship, usually it will list the deadline on a scholarship website.

And in a lot of cases, I think that’s usually at the same time, or it’s before the college application deadline. For the particular school you’re looking at. Yeah.

Anesha: Yeah. I guess nuance for that is for some schools it’s earlier, so in order to be considered for the scholarship, you have to be submitting earlier than the deadline.

So I know for BU, in order to be considered for some of their scholarships, you have to submit by November 1st, even though, or by December 1st, even though their official application deadline is January 1st. So you just wanna look at the specific programs and, [00:32:00] and to your point, um, Jesper just yeah, make sure you’re tracking all the deadlines cause it might be earlier or similar to the specific school.

Um, one person asked, uh, they’re currently a junior, they’re having a hard time finding scholarships that they can apply to now. Um, and that actually applied to them. Do you have any suggestions? And I’ll just share with you really quickly, I let them know in the chat that I said it’s still a little early for juniors, um, for some scholarships.

Um, but I wanted to make sure that, you know, you gave, offered some perspective on that as well.

Jesper: Yeah, of course. Yeah. Thank you for the questions. So I think, um, yeah, as a junior it is a little early. You could, again, Google is a great resource. You can Google scholarships available to high school juniors. I know that one of them is there’s like the Nordstrom scholarship. I think you actually have to be a high school junior to apply and you have to be in a state where they have a Nordstrom store. I don’t know if the deadline for that passed though already, but [00:33:00] I would say there’s only a handful that are available to people who are not high school seniors.

Um, but yeah, I mean, if you’re a junior, just take some time and start looking for colleges perhaps you’re interested in, and that’s a good way to go about it. Yeah.

Anesha: Um, and then I also, she, uh, followed up and said she wanted to start preparing essays now because she doesn’t want to be overwhelmed come senior year.

Do you have any, uh, I guess tips for people who are trying to get a jump on some of the scholarship essays that won’t be applicable to them until next year? Should they wait or should they get started this year?

Jesper: Yeah, I mean, again, I think, I think kind of your junior winter is a little early to start preparing college applications, and I think the reason is that you’re gonna have a lot of interesting experiences over the next six to eight months before you have to fill out your application.

And that might be, uh, you know, meaningful experiences that change the type of college essay that you write. Uh, it might change the way you approach a [00:34:00] scholarship application and I think you’ll be a very different person as well in a year when you’re applying to colleges, cause like it’s a year from now you’d be applying to a lot of places, uh, for college on a regular decision deadline.

So I think kind of my advice. and, you know, uh, Anesha, I’d love to hear your thoughts too, is, you know, as a high school junior, uh, focus on your classes. Do well in those. You know, figure out your extracurriculars that you like. Spend time on those. Get to know your teachers well, especially ones who you have a good relationship with and could perhaps write you a letter in the future.

And then maybe start building your list of colleges that you’re interested in.

Anesha: Yeah,

I will. I will say for my juniors right now, we’re not focusing on scholarship essays, we’re focusing on the Common App essay, cause that’s the one essay we know won’t change. Um, like the topics won’t change and maybe we’ll refine it.

But, um, I would, I would agree with you of say focused on school. If you’re working with CollegeAdvisor, you might wanna start working on your thinking about your personal statement or setting that up. And then I also gave her the advice in the chat of like, you can look at some of the prompts for [00:35:00] scholarships that aren’t open to you yet, um, and start to organize them.

But I wouldn’t say to do too much work, maybe outline or light drafts if you are worried about feeling overwhelmed. So I might just say to identify some of the scholarships, look at some of the, um, prompts, and then start. I, I love the sheet, the spreadsheet that you have. If you wanna start creating that now to get organized, I would say you can start laying a foundation, but I wouldn’t go too deep into your essay writing at this point.

And yes, stay focused on your academics and, uh, extracurriculars for sure.

Anesha: Um, alright.

Sorry, I lost my. Um, oh, this is an interesting kind of real time question. So someone said there are some scholarship deadlines that are coming up, but I just found out about them. Should I rush and still try to apply to them? Or should I try to find others that will allow me time to write a better essay?

Jesper: Ooh, yeah, that’s, uh, that’s like a tough, uh, situation. I think. I think that’s really that’s kind of a personal thing, a [00:36:00] personal question in that you just have to kind of look in the mirror and figure out how much time do I have before this deadline? What are the things that going on right now before that deadline?

Um, can I try and put together a draft, like a decent draft that I’m happy with? Um, I think you just kind of have to make a decision at a certain point, especially if it’s coming up soon. Um, and just try and go for it. Or if you decide you don’t have that time, that’s okay too. You can, like you said, um, look for other scholarships, outside scholarships that uh, you might have more time to prepare for.

But I think it’s hard for me to give like a definite yes or no. Um, cause it just depends kind of on what you have going on and how willing you are to try and push to see if you can get something together before the deadline. But if you think you can then, you know, have some confidence in yourself and give it a shot.

Anesha: I think that’s a good answer.

Um, outside of giving a yes or no, um, and I would, I would say, yeah, I think, I think it definitely is how, how strong are you at writing, how well do you feel? And I think also sometimes high [00:37:00] school students treat the college application like it’s a homework assignment. Like you just have to get it in by the deadline and that’s not what we’re doing.

You should take the time and be thoughtful and, and try to make, providing your best, like don’t rush it. Um, but if you feel comfortable in your writing skills and have the time and capacity, then um, yeah, I think I agree with you. Inner reflection on that one. Um, another question was regarding, I think you brought up recommendation letters.

Um, and so what students said, how many recommendations should we have? Do we need them for scholarships and for schools? If you could clarify, you know, the scope of recommendation letters.

Jesper: Yeah. Um, yeah, I think this is probably most relevant to college applications themselves. I can only think of like maybe one scholarship, well, college scholarship I applied to that require a rec letter, although some of the outside scholarships offered by foundations definitely will ask for a recommendation letter, a recommendation form, so, I think kind of the [00:38:00] question in terms of like, you know, how do I figure out how many recommendations I need?

It’s just gonna be dependent on the scholarship you’re applying to. They’ll usually tell you, you know, one recommendation required. Um, so the thing, there’s more to think about who I want to ask, which I kind of talked about earlier. Uh, with college applications. I think it depends on the school.

I think most schools are like usually two. Some of them might be more. Some of them you can just send one. Um, but just kind of read more on the college or the scholarship you’re looking at. And it should say.

Anesha: Yeah,

I think, um, yeah, with scholarships it’s kind of tricky with letters of recommendation. Also, they don’t necessarily have to be from a teacher.

They could be from a community leader, they could be from a coach or something like that. So you have a little bit more flexibility with your letters of recommendation. Um, for scholarships, I normally say you should try to have about three or four, like a math teacher, uh, English or history teacher, and then a coach or a creative teacher.

If you’re into something, um, specific, like you’re [00:39:00] into engineering or things like that. Definitely having a physics or a calculus teacher as a backup. So I, I would say to try to cover math or English or math or writing and then having a flexible, um, or extracurricular letter recommendation or person you could ask within your extracurriculars.

Um, so having about three or four in the chamber. Um, someone asked when in the school year would you need to, would you recommend asking for teacher recommendations if they’re required?

Jesper: Ooh. Yeah. Um, I think it depends on like what deadlines you’re looking at if you’re applying early action to a school.

So those are some of the earliest deadlines. Um, and some of the scholarships have early deadlines in November. Then I think for me, I, I usually tell students like, the summer is a good time to start thinking about that. Your teachers are not in school anymore. They’re not crushed by a lot of assignments to grade, and you’re probably not gonna do a lot more over the summer to get to know a teacher unless you’re doing like an extracurricular or like a school sport with them.

[00:40:00] Um, but the very latest, like, I think you wanna give at least like a month, ideally, for a recommendation letter. Two weeks is like the least I think I’ve ever asked, I’ve ever given to ask for rec letter for anything. The longer, the better. You know, it, gives them some time to stew and think over it, and I think they’ll put together a better letter for you.

Anesha: Yeah, I agree. Definitely don’t give two weeks. Um, people can do it, but as someone who writes letters or recommendation, would definitely say it a month. Um, someone gave a follow up to the question regarding junior year scholarships. So there is a scholarship out there called the Coolidge Scholarship, which is a full ride, and it is available just for juniors.

Um, I appreciate you raising that because I am actually working with one of my students on that one, and I forgot about it. I will also say if folks are, uh, financially eligible, QuestBridge, um, has a junior year program that you can apply to. It’s not a scholarship, but, uh, at least for me this year, a hundred percent of my students who earned the junior year program earned the [00:41:00] scholarship in senior year.

So I would definitely encourage you if you, again, are financially eligible to look at QuestBridge National College Match and their 11th grade application program, which I think is about to open. You get access to workshops, um, and things like that for junior year, but it’s a setup for the scholarship in, uh, 12th grade.

Someone asked a question. I don’t know if you have, this is a broad question, but how can I find scholarships? Um, do you have any, I guess, research tools or resources that you would recommend?

Jesper: Yeah, um, so like I said, definitely Google is like a great resource. I think, like I found a couple websites before the, uh, webinar that just popped up, like there’s like or something.

There was like the College Board, which says the SAT had a list. Um, Google’s a good resource. Um, I will say something we didn’t talk about as much today is that a number of colleges will, uh, they say that they’ll meet a hundred percent of your demonstrated need like financial aid, and, um, that’s a big [00:42:00] avenue for receiving.

They’re maybe not necessarily like merit scholarships in the sense that they consider your financial aid. But, um, there’s like another, there’s like, there’s many other avenues to finding ways to fund college besides feeling like it’s a merit scholarship or bust. Because if you feel like college is arbitrary, like the college application process arbitrary, then the merit scholarship process is probably even more arbitrary.

So, um, if you know that your family will qualify for financial aid and a lot of colleges have financial aid calculators on their website, it’s a good way to get an idea of if you know what you might get, um, then definitely, you know, look at some of those colleges too. Um, so I think that it’s kind of like a long-winded, an non-answer to the question.


Anesha: Uh, no, it’s hard to figure out the best sort of search engines and finding legitimate ones and things like that. Um, I’m dropping in the chat a few websites that I have recommended for students. Um, that, but again, Google, I think being strategic about your Google searches, [00:43:00] um, adding your major, adding any identity markers, um, so scholarship plus engineering, plus female plus, um, all these different things might yield a bunch of different results for you.

So, um, yeah, I, I dropped a bunch in the chat just as an fyi to folks. Um, if you want to check over there. All right. Going back to our questions, um, do you have any advice for international students, um, who are trying to find scholarships? And then someone also asked, are immigrants eligible for scholarships?

If you could talk about the experience of scholarships or if, if you, if you can, um, for folks who, who may not be U.S. citizens.

Jesper: Yeah. I, I’m less familiar with that. Like I did advise a student who was an international student, but I think when we were looking through, through a lot of the outside scholarships, unfortunately were mostly for U.S.

People, like in the U.S., like U.S. citizens, people who had grown up in the U.S. for a while. Um, I think it’s [00:44:00] harder to say for colleges because they don’t really describe it as much on their websites, um, whether you’d be eligible or not. I think one good way to go about it is if there are colleges you are really interested in, you can email their financial aid office and you can ask, Hey, I’m an international student.

I’m really interested in applying to your school. Uh, will you consider me for, you know, scholarships? And if it doesn’t say on their financial aid website, whether they consider you as a national student, you can ask that as well in your email. But, unfortunately, I think there are fewer options for international students.

You might have to do more searching using some of these resources that Anesha put in the chat and some outreach of your own to financial aid offices.

Anesha: All right. Yeah, sorry. Some folks asked to get about websites in the, to apply. So again, check the chat, not the Q&A tab, but the chat for some recommended websites around their, um, someone [00:45:00] asked, do merit scholarships cover the four years of college? And I know the answer is, it depends, but I’ll give you an opportunity to expand on it.


Um, yeah, short answer, it depends, you know, look at the scholarship if you know what it is. Um, otherwise you’re gonna hear from the college, you know, after you’ve applied what you receive, if anything.

Anesha: I’m gonna take this quick, uh, moment just to do a quick PSA around College Advisor. So we know you all have a ton of questions.

We’re gonna try to get through as many as we can in the next couple hours, but, um, or the next couple minutes. Um, but for those in the room who aren’t currently working with us, um, we have a team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts that are ready to help you and your families navigate the process through one-on-one advising sessions.

You can take the next step in your college admissions journey by signing up for a free 45-to-60-minute strategy session with an admission specialist on the team. You can use the QR code that is on the screen. During that meeting, we’ll review your current extracurricular list, your application strategy, and discuss how everything [00:46:00] aligns with the potential college list and outlined tools for you, um, in order to help you stand out in the competitive admissions world. So again, if you are not currently working with, we encourage you to get involved with us using the QR code that is on the screen.

All right. I think we covered actually a lot of the questions that are in the chat. Um, so I’m gonna turn to some others, but please keep submitting questions in the chat if you have any. What is the, if you have any, uh, what is the difference between a scholarship and a grant, and do all schools offer scholarships?

Jesper: Yeah, great question. Um, so typically the way I think about the difference between the grant and a scholarship is that, um, in most cases, scholarships are offered for, um, not only financial [00:47:00] reasons, like maybe some scholarships will consider your finances as part of it, but, um, they’re also considering what we talked about with like the quote unquote merit and however, the, the scholarship defines it earlier.

So maybe that’s like academic excellence, extracurricular excellence, a compelling life story, diversity. Um, a grant, um, in some cases can be similar, but typically the way I think about it is that it’s usually a part of a financial aid package that is offered to you by a college. Um, so some colleges, for example, they, instead of offering loans or in addition to loans, they’ll offer you a grant, which means, uh, financial aid that doesn’t have to be repaid to the college.

Um, and typically I think grants offered in financial aid are not things you apply for specifically with an essay, you know, besides just applying to the college. You, you are eligible for it because you applied for financial aid. Um, and then the other question [00:48:00] was about do all colleges offer scholarships?

Yes. Um, yes. I think, ooh, so I say the vast majority of colleges will offer merit scholarships. Uh, some of the most selective ones don’t offer a quote unquote scholarship. You know, like Ivy League schools don’t offer merit scholarships. As you think about it, they only will offer financial aid. Um, but I mean, if you can get into an Ivy League, I would consider that a scholarship, you know, to get financial aid from them.

So, uh, I’d say, yeah, the majority of schools, but not all of them.

Anesha: Yeah, I think we’re getting down into like the parsing of terms. So merit aid, academic aid, need-based aid. So Ivy Leagues are typically gonna only provide need-based aid, so it will be, you might see a scholarship in your financial aid package, but it is based on how much financial aid you have as demonstrated by your family’s income.

Um, and someone asked a similar question in the chat of like, are merit and academic [00:49:00] scholarships the same or different? Um, if you could, I guess, add some clarity to that one.

Jesper: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of similarities and in some cases you could argue like an academic scholarship is a form of a merit scholarship.

Um, but I just think there’s, is the only difference is just the specificity in that. Maybe an academic scholarship tends to be one that’s primarily awarded based on your test scores, your GPA, that type of vein. Um, whereas a merit scholarship can be more broad in how it’s defined. Maybe it’s not just your academics.

Maybe it’s again, your whole package, you know, your story, your extracurriculars, your recommendation letters, all of that.

Anesha: Sorry, I just lost my question. Oh, no worries.

Jesper: Oh, no worries. I have a question for you Anesha, that I see in the chat. It says, when is [00:50:00] the best time to reach you guys for a college admission strategy session, um, like what year of high school and do you guys also help community college students?

Anesha: Um, yeah. I mean, I think when is the best time is kind of dependent on you.

I usually say junior year is a pretty good time to get started so that you’re not kind of stressing yourself out. On a sophomore year. I have some sophomores, um, sporadically and talk about their passion projects and try to get that solidified for them, and especially talking about brand, but then it really picks up in junior year.

So if you wanna lay a foundation, if you have a passion project that you’re interested in, you want thought partnership there, you wanna help develop it and really help it be, uh, a signifier for your college application, then I would definitely say sophomore year is a good opportunity or a good time to get involved.

Um, if you are, if you already kind of know what your brand is or you have some kind of established projects that you’re working on that you know will support your application, then I think it’s fine to get started in [00:51:00] junior year. Um, but that is not, there’s not an official stance on that from CollegeAdvisor.

I think they would take it involved as soon as you can. And then I don’t think we discriminate against whatever college you’re applying to, whatever support you want or need, um, we will help you with. So if it’s community college, if it’s four-year college, um, we will definitely help you. I think the line stops for us at like graduate school.

I don’t know if we do graduate school advising, which is a bit different. Um, , someone said, oh, okay. Someone’s asking a financial aid question about offers if is the first offer that a college makes the final offer when it comes to financial aid award letters? Uh, yes, typically, but I don’t know if you have more context on that, Jesper.

Jesper: Yeah. I would say yes in the sense that if nothing else changes, they probably aren’t gonna change your [00:52:00] financial aid package. Um, but if you receive multiple financial aid packages from similar schools, you can try and negotiate with the schools, especially the one you really wanna go to and say, Hey, this school, um, offered me, you know, this much grant financial aid, so you know, financial aid, I don’t have to pay back.

Um, would you be willing to match that you know, as a a school? So yeah, the short answer is no, they’re probably not gonna change it. But, um, there are ways that you can like, kind of talk to colleges you’re interested in and negotiate a bit.

Anesha: Yeah, I would, I would pick and choose which colleges. Some colleges, especially Ivys, the ones who have people waiting to take your seat, may be less willing to negotiate.

Um, they might say, if that school gives you more money, great go there. But for, um, other schools. So the negotiation is absolutely possible. Um, but I would pick your battles. Pick your battles, um, sparingly.

Oh, someone said, what is the difference between a [00:53:00] merit scholarship and a normal? Okay. There are a lot of different types of scholarships. Merit-based, uh, scholarships are normally something you have to apply for. Usually some can be rooted in a talent or academics. Um, and then there are a variety of other scholarships.

Please if you are confused about it still, I would just say to reference back in the slides because Jesper actually gave a really thoughtful definition of all the different types of scholarships that are available and how they’re broken down. Um, someone said this CollegeAdvisor charge a fee for college service?

Yes. Uh, we are a paid program. There are a variety of packages. I do not know what the breakdown of all of those packages are, so I would encourage you to use the QR code, um, on the screen or check out the website. Um, alright. Some more. People have a variety of questions. Good. Hope folks can keep it focused on scholarships for the remainder of our time.

Um, someone asks, will scholarships follow you to whatever school you attend? [00:54:00]

Jesper: Ooh. Yeah. That depends on the scholarship. So if it’s like from the college, then probably not gonna follow you to another college if you decide not to go to the place that offered you the scholarship. If it’s an outside scholarship, I think in a lot of cases, unless there’s a specific criteria, you know, maybe the scholarship is only for universities in a particular state, um, you know, if they don’t have those criteria, then typically they will, uh, award them to you if you get the scholarship to whatever, uh, you know, college institution you choose to attend.

Anesha: Yeah, I, I would add to that of like checking for external scholarships. So anything that’s not coming directly from the college or university, how do they disperse? Do they disperse it to you directly as the student or family, or do they send it to the school? Either way, they are likely to travel with you.

Um, but it will depend. So definitely look at eligibility and look at what’s called disbursement of all of the scholarships that you are applying to. So how, [00:55:00] how are the funds then, sent out.

Um, do need-based scholarships require FAFSA or the CSS profile?

Jesper: Need-based. Oh yeah, definitely. I would think you’d have to, uh, fill out FAFSA if you wanna qualify for a need-based.

Need-based aid. Yeah.

Anesha: And the CSS profile, one of the S’s is scholarships. So I know some scholarships do require the CSS profile. Um, so again, checking kind of part of the application requirements for each of the schools that you are given. Um, how can students increase their chances of receiving scholarships, especially if they have already applied to a few and not been successful?

Do you have tips on maybe rethinking your application strategy if you haven’t been successful?

Jesper: Hmm. Yeah. Well, I mean, for one, not to like be annoying about it, but I think if you get some, like. kind of, uh, input advice from people who are experienced the [00:56:00] process. So, you know, CollegeAdvisor is one place, for example, um, working one-on-one with someone who can really like, dissect and go through your application, your essays, um, more granularly and give you some feedback that you’re not gonna get from just being, you know, rejected from a scholarship is one good place to start if you’re looking for like, short-term things that you can do now. Um, I’d say big picture things you can do. Um, that’s harder to say cause it depends on like the scholarship and in some cases if you’re a really good applicant, you still won’t get it just because of how many people are applying.

Um, so, you know, try and get some advice, whether it’s from people who have expertise in the topic or it’s like people you trust. Um, and go back through your essays, go back through your application, try and identify maybe what are some places you can improve, um, especially in the essays. what do you think, Anesha?

Anesha: Yeah, no, I love that answer. And I, it makes me think about what you shared earlier with your table, um, of, I, this, this is the trick I’m gonna pick up and, and steal from you [00:57:00] of like actually putting in the scholarship description because I think sometimes we get into answering the specific prompt and you forget what the mission of the scholarship is.

Um, and so it might be helpful if you haven’t been getting some scholarships to go back and be like, okay, was this actually aligned for me? And not just a question that I wanted to answer. So I would definitely say looking at the mission statement or the point or the goal of the scholarship as well as the prompts.

And then kind of reassessing if you are speaking to those things thoughtfully in your application. Um, someone said, for international students would applying for merit scholarships, reduce your chances of acceptance?

Jesper: Ooh. Uh, that’s tough to say. I don’t have expertise in that specifically, but I would assume the answer is no, that it would not decrease your chance of being considered.

Anesha: Yeah, I mean, and they, they said specifically for top tier institutions, so to the point that Jesper was making earlier for like Ivy Leagues [00:58:00] or the very top of it, they are usually looking at admissions, on what’s called a need blind basis. So they’re not even looking at your, um, financial need as they’re evaluating whether or not they’re gonna accept you.

Um, that’s not always the case. So you might wanna look at specific schools, um, admissions policy, but for those top tier institutions, they’re probably gonna be need blind. So it’s never going to, whether you’re international or local, whatever it might be. Um, usually your need for aid is not gonna impact, um, your likelihood of acceptance for most schools.

But check if they have a quote unquote, need blind admissions policy or not. from, in order to clarify, uh, someone said, will we get access to the recording? Yes, you will. You’ll receive an email. Um, uh, you’ll receive an email with a link to the recording based on the email that you use to register for this session.

I don’t know, do you have any parting thoughts, Jesper, as [00:59:00] we are in the last minute and we have run through almost all of our questions in the chat?

Jesper: No. Yeah, these are great questions. Hopefully, you know, kind of the tips from Anesha and I today are, give you a little bit more insight to a pretty confusing process.

And again, you can view this online later. If you’re interested in rewatching it. Start early, you know, like we said, review often, or edit often, and, read the prompts closely and the description. Those are, I think, some key steps to approaching the process.

Anesha: And I would definitely just emphasize doing that table, getting organized, getting some kind of system to track everything, track your questions, track the applications so that you can stay on top of all of the scholarships, resources, in addition to all the college applications that you’re gonna have in the coming months.

So, we have gone through all the questions, so I’m gonna end it there for us this evening. Thank you so much, Jesper. Really appreciate your time and [01:00:00] thoughtfulness and your tips. And like I said, I’m gonna borrow some materials from you, or some strategies from you as we move forward. Thank you all for joining us tonight.

We hope you gained some valuable strategies and information. Just as a reminder, you can join us later this month for additional webinars. On January 9th, we will have a Yale alum, who will share their admissions journey. We’ll explore financial aid on the 11th. So for folks who had a lot of those questions, please come back and join us then.

And then on January 15th, we’ll be discussing identifying summer opportunities. So for those folks who are wondering how to spend your time, juniors, that might be a good opportunity for you to check in with us as well. That is it for us tonight. We hope to see you soon. But until next time, have a great evening everyone.

Take care, and thanks again, Jesper.