The Scholarship Application
Obtaining Information You can find sample application forms and detailed information about scholarships by visiting the funding agencies’ websites, which are linked at the bottom of each scholarship description page. If you cannot find the answer to your question, contact the funding agency directly or email an SOP staff member.
Read the Fine Print As soon as you receive the application, read the instructions carefully. Pay attention to the information required. If the application requires a transcript from all schools you have attended, request this information as soon as possible. After a few weeks have passed, call the schools to be sure that the transcripts have been sent to the proper address. If by chance you have to hand deliver a transcript, do not tamper with the seal. If the seal looks tampered with, the transcript may not be accepted.
The Reason Most Applications Come With a Phone Number If you find that some instructions on an application are unclear, seek advice either from the scholarship provider, the Scholarship Opportunities Program office, an instructor, or an academic counselor. Understand that when you call the funding agency’s office that the application came from and ask questions, many others probably had the same questions.
Letters of Recommendation Ask for letters of recommendation well in advance and discuss the kind of information needed in the letter. A concrete, detailed letter from someone–usually a professor–who knows you and your work well is usually worth more than three or four letters from people who don’t. Find that person and give him or her time to write a strong letter. To assist the people who write the letters, it is helpful to provide a copy of your resume, a copy of your application essays, and something written about yourself. Let the writer know what sorts of things you would like the letter to say. Information that you give them may mean a more substantial and persuasive letter. Be sure the writer knows the deadline. To ensure that the letter is sent on time, ask the writer once or twice, before it is due, whether it is finished, as a “friendly reminder.” If the letter is delayed, ask whether more information is needed. You will be reminding the writer about your letter and at the same time giving the writer information, if needed.
Practice Makes Perfect If essays or statements of purpose are asked for (or paragraph-long answers to particular questions), rework them over a series of drafts until they are as well written as you can make them. A good essay or answer–one that is concise, well organized, smoothly written, interesting, distinctive, and without cliches or errors–may take many drafts to produce. Show your application to a T.A., instructor, counselor at the Scholarship Opportunities Program, or anyone else who can give good criticism. Leave time for rewriting and consultation.
The Finished Product Type all application forms, letters, essays, questionnaires, or any other information that needs to be sent as part of the application process. Proofread all materials and make sure they are picture perfect. No obvious White Out, no last-minute corrections with a pen, no misspellings, no errors, and no crumpling of paper. Just to be sure, after making all the corrections, have someone else look over the application for errors.
Keep a Record Just before submitting your application, make copies of all parts of the application and recommendation letters. You will want to keep these as a reference for yourself at a later date.
Find Out What has Worked for Other People Improve your application techniques by talking and listening to anyone and everyone you know who has won a scholarship. To do this, keep a look-out on bulletin boards for workshops on and off campus and especially workshops offered by the Scholarship Opportunities Program. People who have won can give you new ways to look at the application process that will help you to win, and they can inspire you to make the attempt.
Explore All the Possibilities The last tip is that you continue to seek out scholarship opportunities as you plan your educational future. There are many publications and databases that give scholarship information. Through the UCI Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, you can access a large online database of scholarships. You can also use external scholarship search engines such as FastWeb to find other opportunities.