Scholarship Tips

Finding the Right Scholarships

  • If you know what college you are planning to attend, apply to their in-house scholarships. If you know what major/program you are interested in, see if they offer field-specific scholarships.
  • Prioritize state, local, or school-level scholarships. There is a higher likelihood of receiving these awards compared to national searches, because there is a smaller application pool.

Planning ahead

  • Carefully read the entire application. Then make a copy of the original document so you can use it as a working application.
  • Request letters of recommendations and school transcripts well before the deadline.
  • Track hours and level of involvement in extra-curricular, volunteer, and community service activities. Numbers are more impressive on applications. If the application asks for hours involved in a project, be specific. Do not write “varies.”

Avoid common mistakes

  • Enclose everything the application requests (application fees, recommendations, transcripts) OR make arrangements for these items to be sent separately. Do not include anything that is not specified.
  • Do not use acronyms in your writing until you have used the entire title once with the acronym in parentheses.
    • Example: "More than 600 applications are managed by the Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC). Oregon residents can apply for these scholarships through the OSAC Student Portal."

Essay WRITING Tips

Essay writing is the part of the college/scholarship application process that a student has the most control over. OSAC required four personal essays for its application, and some scholarships may require an additional essay.

  • Answer the question: Pay attention to prompts and required formats (style, word count, etc.) for each application. Review committees want to read a response for the essay prompt, not a generic essay. Students need to craft their essay for each application and remember to answer all the questions, especially prompts with multiple questions.
  • Consider the reader: Most application readers are foundation members or retirees looking to be impressed by a student. They are also often current/former educators who may be sticklers for proper grammar and punctuation.
  • Be clear and genuine: Students should state their academic and career goals plainly for reviewers. Don't be indecisive about what you want to do or who you are. Use concrete examples of what you've done to provide the foundation for what you hope to achieve. Avoid re-using essays for multiple applications. These can come off as generic and impersonal.
  • Proofreading: Students should have others review their essays for clarity, grammar, and content. Awkward writing or spelling errors can be instant red flags for a committee member. Slang and excessive humor should be avoided as well, as these references might be lost on (typically) older application reviewers.

Tips for Volunteers

  • Brainstorm key essay questions (OSAC prompts and other popular scholarships in your area) with your students. Help students find their unique qualities by providing your insight, have students reflect on their own accomplishments, or have students ask their friends and family what their unique qualities are.
  • Invite a panel of readers to edit your students' essays. This can be a great opportunity to incorporate volunteers who want to work with ASPIRE but cannot commit to being a regular, weekly participant.

If you have tips you'd like to share here, email them to!