Scholarship Tips

Increase your chances of winning a scholarship

If you qualify and are interested - apply!

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" -- Wayne Gretzky


  • Build up a reserve of essays for common questions. Common themes include future plans, career goals, and heroes that may have been an influence in your life.
  • Use schoolwork to your advantage. School papers may be the answer to a scholarship essay later on down the road. Save any papers you think might be useful when it comes time to apply.
  • Learn from previous scholarship winners. Review past winning applications, essays, and other materials.
  • Create an activity portfolio. Keep a list of activities for reference. Include your responsibilities for each activity.
  • Build a list of references - people who know YOU and can speak to what kind of a person you are and what you have done and are capable of doing. This may be a teacher, employer, volunteer supervisor, neighbor, or religious leader. Ask for references at least 3 weeks prior to a due date to give your reference writer time to do justice to your abilities and character.
  • Apply for financial aid with FAFSA as soon as possible after 1 October for maximum aid potential.¬†Some excellent scholarships require a filed FAFSA regardless of actual need.


  • Do some online research. Take advantage of free online scholarship searches. Look up the home pages of the colleges you want to attend because they may have information on scholarships. Be sure to check back at all the searches every couple of weeks for new or updated information.
  • Read the Career Center Newsletter weekly as well as Naviance Student to discover great scholarship opportunities.
  • Search your community. Ask civic organizations, religious organizations, employers of family members, and cultural organizations.
  • Contact your career center, financial aid office, academic program, or department for the latest information.
  • Beware of scholarship and financial aid seminars. Financial aid shouldn't cost more than a postage stamp!


  • Apply early! Most scholarship funds are awarded months before school begins.
  • Apply only if you're eligible. Read all of the scholarship requirements and directions carefully to make sure you're eligible before you spend time and effort on one you can't win.
  • Pay close attention to scholarship application deadlines. List all the scholarships you consider by their deadline date. Start with the ones due the earliest.
  • Read through the application before filling it out. Gather references and keep a scholarship file, make copies of scholarship applications and attachments. Follow all directions and fill in all the blanks.
  • Make sure your essay makes an impression. Your essay should be personal and specific. Include concrete details to make your experience come alive: who, what, where, and when.
  • Give it a final "once-over." Proofread the entire application carefully. Ask someone else to read it over also. Neatness counts!


  • Be brief when requesting an application. Make sure you request the scholarship application by name.
  • Request or download the application early to leave enough time to prepare a strong application package.
  • If you need a recommendation, clearly state when the deadline is. Give no less than three weeks' notice.
  • Provide your correct address and other contact information on the letter.
  • If you win a scholarship, be sure to inform the financial aid office at your college or university and always be sure to thank the provider with a written letter.

Published with the permission of the George Mason University Office of Financial Aid - updated.