Upping Your Odds of Winning
You've got to play to snag scholarship dollars
Dress like a winner. Robin Gorneau, an Allstate staffer who helped judge last year's Connecticut Boys and Girls Club's $3,500 "Youth of the Year" contest, said she voted for the contestant who not only had an impressive application and showed poise during the interview but dressed in a way that would make the judges proud when she accepted the award on stage. "Some kids were too casual," she says.
Play the odds. The scholarships that are best known, give away big money, or have easy applications tend to get flooded. The Coca-Cola foundation received over 70,000 applications for its 250 scholarships of up to $20,000 in 2005. But the competition for local scholarships is often easier. The Central Scholarship Bureau of Maryland, for example, has yet to find a graduate of a Baltimore area public high school with good grades who is attending Southern Vermont College and would thus qualify for a $7,500-a-year award.
Expand your scholarship search. Simon Hanna knew he'd have to raise lots of money to attend his dream school--Drew University in Madison, N.J. So besides entering local service clubs' scholarship competitions and essay contests he found on the Web, he wrote to hundreds of relatives, friends, and acquaintances. A mentor happened to mention his letter over lunch to someone whose father ran a foundation. Though the charity didn't typically give out scholarships, the father was so impressed with Hanna that he awarded him $10,000 scholarships for each of his first two years. "I didn't have a 4.0 [grade-point average] or high sat scores. I wasn't on sports teams, so I wasn't going to get [much] aid," says Hanna, now a junior majoring in theater and business at Drew. "I was just going to have to find it elsewhere. . . . There is money out there. It is about taking the time to go after it."
For an edge in scholarship contests, be creative, but master the basics. Judges toss essays that wander off topic, contain bad spelling or grammar, or bore them with obvious conclusions.