College Scholarship Workshop: Application Bonus Points

"I know the price of success: dedication, hard work and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen." -- Frank Lloyd Wright

In part four of the workshop, we have focused on the application documentation/information (day one) and the application essay (day two). The final portion of the application section of this workshop focuses on "application bonus points." 

What are application bonus points? For the purpose of this workshop, the bonus points consist of actions/tips that will, as the title suggests, add bonus points to your application. Think of these bonus points like extra credit -- one or two extra credit points can take your grade from a B to an A!


Be more than an applicant on a piece of paper. Scholarship programs receive A LOT of applications -- how do you become "Tom" rather than "an application in pile 5?" 

  • Make Personal Contact
    • Make personal contact with the scholarship program (ex. request information regarding the application or program -- or just say hi and let the program know you're excited to apply)
    • What you say will leave an impression (very few applicants will make contact and use the opportunity to make a personal connection) 
    • Be nice to everyone you speak with (you don't know who the person is or who the person knows -- it may be a member of the scholarship committee or a friend of a committee member). You should be nice in general, but two words could be the difference between you getting the scholarship or not getting the scholarship (the magic two words = THANK YOU) 
  • Get Involved 
    • If the organization emphasizes involved (like our organization, CCC), get involved!
    • Volunteering an hour makes a tremendous impression. Don't neglect this opportunity. If you're not sure how to get involved, just ask (allows you to make personal contact at the same time)! 

Know the Scholarship Programs

Don't neglect learning about the scholarship programs. Yes, you may be applying to 20 different programs; however, if you treat each program the same, you are making a huge mistake. 

  • Research each scholarship program
    • Write down five key facts (just create five trivia questions for each scholarship program!)
    • Knowing why each program is different will allow you to tailor your application to each program. Small tweaks make a huge difference. 
  • Write a short cover letter to introduce your application materials
    • Keep this cover letter short, but take the opportunity to thank the program and committee for reviewing your application. Mention 1-3 unique aspects of the scholarship program --> tie these items into your cover letter (don't make it look like you're trying too hard!). 

Clean + Simple

When working on your application, see the big picture; however, don't forget about the details. Make sure that you allocate time at the end of filling out your application to "simplify" and proof read. 

  • Simplify
    • Less is More
      • Provide the materials asked for and maybe one or two additional items. Only add these additional items (such as a cover letter) if they are truly important to your application. Don't try to make your application as long as possible. Committees hate reading long applications. Your application is likely going to receive less attention if you include more. 
      • If you are asked for 3 letters of recommendation, only provide 3 -- not 5 or 6. Provide the 3 strongest letters and you will make a much better impression. 
      • Include the activities most important to you. Including two pages of activities you have been involved in is a huge turn off. Committees want to see what has been important to you over the years. Emphasize these activities. 
    • Stay focused on essay questions
      • Answer the questions asked (very important) and weave in your personality. Answering the essay question without giving the committee a feel of who you are as a person is a huge mistake. But don't respond and focus only on yourself without answering the essay question. You must find a balance. This balance is key to your success in the scholarship process. 
  • Proof Read
    • Spell check (important: spell the name of the organization correctly)
    • Grammar check
    • Make sure you answer every question. 
    • Make sure you provide all of the supplementary materials. 
    • Did you sign any required forms? Don't let one signature eliminate your scholarship application (it can). Triple check that you sign all required areas. 
    • Type your essays. We still receive handwritten essays. Please use the public library if you have to-- type the essay. 

You are the Star

Sorry for the cheesy heading, but this item is extremely important so it must stand out! 

  • Applicant or Parent?
    • Please remember that parents are NOT the applicants. Parents can be very involved in the process; however, parents (and applicants) must remember that the applicant plays a key role in this process. 
      • On the application, please fill out the information for the applicant (ex. put applicant's email address). If I had to guess, I would say that about 25% of applications we receive is filled out by parents (ex. includes parent's contact info not the applicant's contact info). Parents contact us with regards to their child's application about 5 times more than applicants. Does this make a difference? Yes. Yes. Yes! 
      • Parents can play a huge role, but please don't forget about the role of the applicant. The applicant must be the star of the scholarship process!! 

Fresh and Current

I highly suggest starting your application early; however, don't forget to update the content before submitting. 

  • Dates
    • Date all application material prior to submitting 
      • Why? It makes you look incredibly organized and will force you to double check that the information is current as of the submission date. 
        • For example, are you still attending the college you wrote down-- have your plans changed? Have you received additional financial aid that isn't reflected in your application? Have you received new grades? Is your email address the same? Is your phone number the same? 
      • Fresh letters of recommendation
        • If you are using letters of recommendation from a past year, try to have them updated by the recommender or add a couple fresh letters of recommendation. You want your application to represent your current status -- not your status from a year ago. 
        • Don't use the same letters that you used for another program (ex. applying to college). It's fine to have your recommender use the "same" letter, but update the content for the scholarship program to which you are applying (ex. letter shouldn't say To: College Admissions Board). Don't just copy the older letters and send them in (big mistake). 

I hope these bonus points help you put the finishing touches on your application and boost your confidence in your abilities to successfully achieve your scholarship goals. The first four parts of this workshop have guided you from the start of the scholarship process to the submission of your application. The final part of this workshop, part five, will guide you from the submission of your application to the end of the scholarship process. 

Best wishes and good luck!!


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