Scholarship tips: real advice from SPSCC’s scholarship program

The South Puget Sound Community College Foundation gives around $300,000 in scholarship money each year and has it’s next application window beginning on March 11.

For the first time, the scholarship application process will be completely online. Students fill out one application and are immediately entered into the foundation’s huge scholarship pool.

This online scholarship application process should be much more accessible and user-friendly for students. They can apply from anywhere, and they can upload documents straight from their computers—no more paper, said Kerri Chaput, SPSCC’s director of student grants and scholarships.

There are about 150 different scholarship opportunities with varied requirements.

Students need to realize that for every person, there is a scholarship, Katya Miltimore, the development manager of SPSCC’s college foundation.

Some general scholarships require nothing but an application, and students don’t need to be eligible for financial aid.

Some specific scholarships might focus on what you’re studying, such as automotive, welding, or nursing. Other scholarship could require a student to be a single parent or have been in foster care.

Once the foundation scholarships become available, there will be four scholarship workshops for students to attend and receive scholarship tips. Students can find the dates and times on bulletins and flyers around campus. Staff from the writing center will be there explaining how to write a scholarship essay, how to pick topics for essays, and how to proofread.

When applying for scholarships, read the directions said Miltimore. For example, many scholarships require a one- to two-page essay, not four or five pages.

Students who don’t follow the directions, perhaps by giving more letters of recommendations than required, are often disqualified because otherwise it’s not equitable for those students who followed the directions, said Chaput.

Having a limitation promotes quality over quantity, said Miltimore. People who read scholarships want a clear essay, not a long, wordy essay, she said.

It can be a challenge for a student to portray themselves in a few paragraphs, but taking the time and effort to do so is what shows the scholarship judges the student really cares, said Chaput.

Students can take the pressure off of writing the perfect essay by starting early and getting help from the writing center, said Miltimore.

Students have a five-week application window, which is plenty of time to proofread and revise your essay, said Chaput. One of the biggest mistakes an applicant can make is having spelling and grammar errors.

Students should be wary of applying online from their phones though, said Miltimore. Applications sent in by phones are prone to grammar and spelling errors, less extensive answers, and the overall quality generally suffers, said Miltimore.

During that five-week window students should get their recommendations in early; don’t wait until the last day, she said.

According to Chaput, it’s important to not send in a generic scholarship application. An applicant’s essay should be genuine and tell his or her story. The worst thing a student can do is download a scholarship essay from the internet, said Miltimore.

She said people reviewing scholarships want to get a feel for who the student is: their aspirations, history, and goals.

Whatever you write about, it needs to be convincing, said Chaput.

If a student doesn’t have a stellar track record of awards and accomplishments, they should talk about their dreams; dreams are especially convincing, said Miltimore.

If there are significant hardships that a student has faced they should bring that up and explain what they faced and how they overcame it, she said.

In particular, if a hardship is reflected in a student’s transcript, then the student should explain that hiccup in his or her life rather than gloss over it, said Chaput.

Students should always include their engagements in the community and volunteer experiences; and, students who don’t have time to volunteer because they work a lot and have too many responsibilities should explain that, said Miltimore.

Don’t let the scholarship reviewers infer that you’re too busy to volunteer, explicitly tell them so they know, said Chaput.

It’s important to give whatever you write about, especially hardships, an uplifting feel. Scholarship reviewers do not want a saddest story contest, said Miltimore.

Instead, students should write their stories in light of how their hardships made them stronger and contributed to them as a people. Not only does that mean a lot to readers, but sometimes it can match really well with different scholarships and donors, said Chaput.

According to Miltimore, if students are wondering whether some points are significant enough to go into their applications, they should include the points and let the person who reviews the scholarship application decide if the points are important.

Those who really stand out are people who show as many aspects of themselves as they can, people who talk about their personal stories, what they’re proud of academically, said Chaput.

Illustrative anecdotes that link to a student’s career goals or how they got to where they are today can be extremely powerful as well, she said.

It would be wise for applicants to remember that there’s a whole other side to scholarships: the people who grant them, people that want to invest in a stranger, advised Chaput.

Thinking about the reviewers’ stories and realizing that they want to help students can really take the edge off of applying, she said.