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Tips on Applying for Scholarships

Search early and often.

All scholarship search engines, whether the EIU scholarship search engine or an outside source, continuously updates new information regarding old and new scholarships. It's important to know what is available now and a month from now as more scholarship options may become available.

Know scholarship deadlines.

There are many different scholarship application deadlines throughout Eastern Illinois University. Typically each department has a specific deadline for all of the scholarships they sponsor and some departments award twice per year. Many of the scholarship selections occur in the spring and deadlines occur between January and March of each year, however there are several fall deadlines as well. Review the scholarship search engine often to know what the deadlines are.

Read scholarship application instructions thoroughly.

It's important to review all of the application instructions more than once to ensure that nothing is missed when completing the application. Some may ask for a personal statement, essay or letter of recommendation that would need to be completed separate from the application itself. It's important to include everything that is requested to ensure a winning application.

Complete the entire scholarship application.

Don't leave blanks. Leaving blanks on the scholarship application will ensure denial. Instead, read through the application more than once to make sure that all questions are answered. If there is no appropriate answer to a question that is asked, write N/A instead.

Writing your personal statement.

When writing your personal statement, think about who your audience is and what you would like for them to know about you. To ensure that you stand out from others, grab the reader's attention by distinguishing yourself in telling your story and why the scholarship is important to you and your education.

Personal essay tips.

When writing a personal essay, consider the following questions:

  1. What is special, unique and impressive about you?
  2. What unusual obstacles or hardships have you had to overcome to get where you are today?
  3. What have you learned from the challenges you have had in your life?
  4. What events or people have shaped and influenced your life?
  5. Why are you the best fit for the scholarship?
  6. What have you done to prove that you are worth this scholarship's funding?
  7. What are your personal, academic and professional goals?
  8. How have you contributed to the community and what have you learned from these experiences?
  9. Why might you be a stronger candidate than other applicants?
  10. What are the most compelling reasons you can give to the scholarship committee to be interested in you?

Double check all spelling and grammar.

Be sure to proof read the scholarship application, personal statement and essay once complete. Enlist help from a guidance counselor, parent, or friend to proof read everything also to ensure that everything looks correct. Errors with spelling and grammar could potentially cause elimination from scholarship selection.

Type essays.

Be sure to type all personal statements and essays to ensure that the reader can read everything that you are trying to convey to them. Handwritten personal statements and essays could potentially cause elimination especially if the reader cannot see what you would like for them to know.

Collect letters of recommendation.

Many scholarship applications require letters of recommendation, typically one to three letters based on the scholarship requirements. Thus, it's important to identify key people to request letters of recommendation from. If you are still in high school, you might consider collecting letter of recommendation from the principal, assistant principal, guidance counselor or a teacher who has helped you in some way. If you are in college, you may want to seek letters of recommendation from a professor, department chair, or an academic advisor.

Complete the FAFSA each year.

Many scholarships have an eligibility criterion that includes proof of financial need. In this case, a FAFSA must be completed to prove the financial need of the scholarship applicant. For more information regarding the FAFSA, please visit this website.

Apply for more than one scholarship.

If there are several scholarships that you are eligible to apply for, be sure to apply for all of them. There is a possibility that you could be awarded more than one and this could help with financing your education. If you aren't awarded anything the first few times that you apply for scholarships, don't give up. Perseverance can pay off later.

Avoid applying for scholarships that request payment.

Any scholarship application that requests money upfront to apply is a fraudulent scholarship. Valid scholarships will not request payment and instead will only request scholarship applications.

Before mailing your scholarship application, do a final check.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is your application filled out correctly?
  2. Have you signed your application?
  3. Have you proof read and edited your essay?
  4. Did you follow the essay guidelines?
  5. Do you have all of the required documents? Personal statement, essay, transcripts, letters of recommendation?