Whether a student is in the first semester or last semester of college, the search for scholarships should continue. Scholarships are free money and each dollar won is a dollar less that you have to borrow from a student loan. Penn State York’s Student Affairs office is here to help find the scholarships and complete the essays that sometimes accompany the application.
Penn State York’s Financial Aid website has a great resource that students can use in their scholarship search. It is called the “Scholarship Book” and it is a list of outside scholarship providers who have contacted the campus and requested that we advertise their scholarship. The Scholarship Book is online and we also keep a hard copy in our office for students to stop by and browse. Students are also advised to check their e-mail often as information about new scholarships is sent out as it is received or as scholarship deadlines approach.
Another great scholarship search resource is FastWeb (www.fastweb.com). FastWeb is a scholarship search engine where students enter search criteria and then FastWeb matches that data with scholarship opportunities that are available. The company will e-mail information about new scholarships to student and also remind them about approaching scholarship deadlines.
Private sources such as businesses, foundations and charitable organizations are also great places to inquire about scholarships. Foundations typically sponsor scholarships for students in majors that are of specific interest to the foundation. Students are also encouraged to seek out scholarships from local businesses which could potentially turn into an internship or an employment opportunity after graduation. The pool of applicants for a scholarship from a local business may be small thus increasing the students chances of being selected. Students should also check with local civic organizations and local chapters of national clubs.
Parents of student should check with their employers to see if any education related benefits are available as part of the benefits package offered by the company. Many companies offer this benefit to children of employees and sometimes have specific scholarships for children of employees.
One common scholarship myth is that searching and applying for scholarships is too much work. Students think it is too hard or not worth the effort since the amount of the scholarship may be small. Actually, the more scholarships a student applies for, the easier the application process gets! Most scholarship applications ask similar types of questions so that after the first few, things just get easier. Students can also reuse and adapt previous scholarship essays. Many students will avoid essay contests and small scholarship awards, making them easier to win.
Writing a good scholarship essay helps the application stand out from the rest. Students are hurt more by poor essays than helped by good ones. The quality of the essay and the writing tells the scholarship committee a lot about the student. Some scholarships get thousands of applications, so the essay could be what determines which student gets the award. Essays are evaluated on the quality of the writing and the quality of the thoughts presented. The essay should be organized with an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. There should be no grammatical or spelling errors and the writing should be clear and concise. It is always a great idea to have someone else proofread the essay before submitting it. The piece should demonstrate talent, creativity, leadership, and judgment while being interesting and keeping the reader’s attention.
Before a student writes an essay for a scholarship application, a plan should be developed. The student should brainstorm about the essay question and come up with some topics and ideas to write about. Next, a rough draft should be written. Students should write that first draft and then walk away from it. Many times when students read their own essay, they know what it should say and do not realizes the words are not there. After a day or two, edit the essay again and then proofread it. A good resource for proofreading is a trusted instructor or Professor. The Professor has been to college and has probably applied for scholarships in the past! Finally, RELAX! The essay is complete and ready to be submitted.
Many scholarship applications use different variations of the same essay question. A common question is “Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you and describe that influence.” This question, like many other essay questions, can be answered using different types of essay styles. A student can write an analytical essay breaking down the topic to reveal an inner truth about a personal experience. A persuasive essay can be written to make a case for the influential person and how others should follow that influence. A critical essay can be written to discuss the importance and value of that influential person. A narrative essay can tell a story about the person and the influence they had on the student. Finding the right essay topic and then choosing the type of essay to write is important. Remember, many times you can modify an essay to answer questions on other scholarship applications!
Finally, students should be advised to just be themselves when writing the essay for the scholarship application. Writing about their unique characteristics, what ideas they find meaningful, or what interests them will inspire your student to create a scholarship winning essay!