I was judging scholarship applications over the weekend for the Hispanic College Fund and I thought it might be useful to pass along these observations and tips.
1. Write for your audience. This is basic advice for most business writers, but for some reason it is lost on many applicants. Think about your audience and what will move them to give you a good score.
2. Spelling and grammar count. I was amazed at how many spelling and grammar errors I found in the applications I was judging. I try not to judge others harshly for their errors (I’m not perfect either) but this is a highly competitive scholarship process and spelling counts.
3. Answer the questions. Community service was a big part of the application but several people didn’t address this in their essay. They might have had a great record in community service, but I couldn’t tell from their application.
4. Sell yourself. There’s a fine line between selling yourself and bragging, but successful applicants will walk that line and sell the attributes that make them stand out from the rest.
5. Tell me a story. Everyone loves a good story. Everyone hates reading “dry” applications. Make it a good read. Tell me your story, evoke some emotion, make me identify with you.
6. Use the letter of recommendation to add to and amplify your application. It seemed that a lot of applicants asked someone to write a letter and were happy to include anything they received. Make sure your recommender reads your application before they write their letter and ask them to amplify and confirm what you’re telling me. If you’ve done a good job in the application, this will be easy for them.
7. Ask several people who are knowledgeable about scholarship applications to read your application and make suggestions on how you can make it better. Expect to write several drafts until you feel it is perfect.
Good luck to all scholarship applicants and I wish you the best in all of your endeavors.