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Top 5 things to know when applying for school scholarships

Date posted:  4/21/16 09:00:00 AM

Furthering your education is a great way to invest in your professional future. However, tuition can be expensive. According to College Board, the average cost for tuition of in-state undergraduate students at a public, four-year college is $9,410 for the 2015-2016 school year, which is 2.9 percent higher when compared on a year-over-year basis. Private, nonprofit four-year universities average even more, at $32,405 for the year.

Because higher education is so expensive - you may need to seek alternative financing options, even with federal student loans. Scholarships are a great way to alleviate the costs associated with getting a degree. Follow these five critical tips when applying for scholarships for school: 

1. Get organized 
According to Sallie Mae, an education loan provider, there are many deadlines for available scholarships, so staying organized during the application process is of utmost importance. Head to the store and buy a calendar or use an app on your smartphone to plot out when you need to take action on certain scholarship applications throughout the year. 

In addition, different scholarships may require varying materials for application. Ensure you gather all pertinent documents and complete any additional tasks requested by the scholarship committee well in advance. For example, you may need to prepare an essay to apply for a certain scholarship. 

You may also want to have a file folder organizing all necessary documents so you can quickly grab these items when applying for different available scholarships. Or, if you prefer digital documents, create a folder on your computer specifically for scholarship materials.

2. Do your homework  
When you are applying for scholarships, it is critical to reflect precisely what the sponsors want in an applicant to solidify your chances of receiving the award. To do this, Fast Web suggested understanding the sponsor's goals as well as what they stand for and deomonstrating this understanding in your application. You want to have enough background knowledge to show that you have put a great deal of effort into your application. 

In addition, make sure you follow all instructions carefully when submitting your materials. Know whether you need a letter of recommendation, an essay or a combination of both. 

3. Be on the lookout for all types of scholarships 
There are a plethora of different types of scholarships available. Keep an eye out for new ones as they become available for application, and apply for any and all opportunities which you are eligible. 

In addition, you should not limit yourself only to bigger scholarships. Smaller ones will be valuable as well. Take advantage of as many opportunities as possible. 

4. Proofread before sending 
While it might be tempting to send through all your information, materials and essay as soon as you complete it, make sure you get a second pair of eyes on all documents. You want to ensure your application has no spelling or grammatical errors  before you submit it to the sponsors of the scholarship. Mistakes will likely impede your chances of winning, so taking the extra time is worthwhile. 

5. Be honest and true to yourself 
When applying for academic scholarships, you should personalize it and show your passion. By being yourself, you can stand out from the pool of other applicants and show sponsors why you are uniquely deserving of their scholarship. While creative and passionate applications can help, ensure you stay within the guidelines as well. 

In addition, it is critical that you are honest when sending out applications. Don't exaggerate information in an effort to win the scholarship. Any dishonesty will be frowned upon by sponsors and can eliminate your eligibility. 

Scholarships can help alleviate the burden of paying for school, and knowing how to apply for various opportunities increases your chances of securing scholarship funds.