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How can I make myself look like the best candidate for a scholarship?

I have committed to a college and its very expensive to pay and I need all the money I can get. How can I stand out to scholarship readers so that they want to choose me rather than anyone else? #scholarships #applications #essay #college #financial-aid

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Sheila’s Answer

Hello Isabel: Glad to see that you've committed to a college. I researched your question and found some links that you may find helpful to assist you in getting started. . . Notice similar attributes on both sites.

The Classroom.com:


Highlight Your Uniqueness

A key characteristic to set you apart from other candidates is individuality. Purdue University's Online Writing Lab advises you to write about unique elements of your life, such as culture, traditions or hardships. Show how these distinct characteristics have shaped your values and aspirations. Avoid clichés such as "every cloud has a silver lining," "leaps and bounds" and "never a dull moment" – these only make you sound like everyone else. The University of Arizona suggests using "vivid personal experiences as supporting details."

Follow the Leader

Showing that you are a capable, confident and fair leader increases the success of your candidacy. Leadership implies independence, organization and courage – all positive attributes for a scholarship candidate. In your writing you can provide examples of circumstances in which you have held leadership roles, including clubs, organizations, movements, conflict resolution, academics and athletics. For example, you may have been the captain of the basketball team or you may have organized and led a protest at your school. Explain what you learned from your leadership experiences, and why you are a good leader.

Show That You're Goal-Oriented

State your short-term and long-term goals and explain what you have done and what you plan to do to realize them. Writing about past goals you have achieved helps to communicate a track record of successful achievements, motivation and dedication. If you failed or faced obstacles at any point in these past experiences, you can use them as an opportunity to show your persistence and resilience. You should use this as an opportunity to convey to the scholarship panel how their funds will directly help you to accomplish your objectives. For example, you could write that you will use part of the scholarship funds to attend a model United Nations conference which will help you get into graduate school in the field of international relations.


A valuable quality that enriches your candidacy for a scholarship award is being socially conscious and community-driven. You can write about your volunteer work and other ways you have served your community, such as helping the elderly, doing beach clean-ups and providing free childcare. Emphasizing your service experiences highlights your compassion and commitment to others. You should show the scholarship committee if they invest in you they are investing in a person who contributes to the betterment of society.

Financial Aid Finder.com


Strong Academics

You don’t have to be the valedictorian, but most scholarship committees will take into consideration your overall commitment to academics. For some scholarships, you will need to have a minimum GPA. But if you aren’t required to be a better-than-average student, a strong GPA indicates that you take your studies seriously — and that’s something that every committee cares about. After all, you are asking for money to help you fund your higher education, right? A great way to differentiate yourself in a scholarship competition is to truly stand out in your field. If you are majoring in biology, for example, focus on applying for scholarships for biology majors, where you can truly excel.

Work Experience

Even if you aren’t the best student, you can still prove your “salt” to a scholarship committee by focusing on your internship and work experience. After all, many scholarships want applicants who aren’t afraid of commitment. Responsibility and initiative-taking can be demonstrated through your work history, as well as through letters of recommendation from your employers. An internship is also a great way to demonstrate that you are serious about your future.

Community Service

Like paid work, volunteerism and community service are great ways to make you more attractive to a selection committee. Those experiences indicate that you are civic-minded and care about causes beyond yourself. You can draw attention to your service spirit by incorporating your volunteerism into your essay, or by submitting a letter of recommendation from a superior. Making a difference definitely matters to scholarship committees – after all, that’s what they are all about! There are even scholarships that target volunteers and activists. If you fit that bill, be sure to check out these article on Community Service Scholarships and Activist Scholarships.


Whether demonstrated through your academics, work, or volunteerism, leadership is a quality that should shine throughout your life’s endeavors. Scholarship committees like applicants with leadership skills because they are more likely to take initiative (and risks), know how to build consensus, and be able to inspire others to do the same. While leadership positions like student body president are impressive on your resume, even more important to a scholarship committee is how you utilize your leadership abilities to help others or to bring about change.

TIP: Remember, scholarships are very competitive. Do well in putting your best plan forward. :)

Good Luck to You!

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Thomas "TC"’s Answer

A high GPA (relative to what admitted students have) and a rigorous curriculum
Strong test scores (relative to what admitted students have)
A specific, honest, and well-written personal statement
A unique extracurricular interest or passion (a "spike," as we like to call it)
Volunteering experience with measurable impact
Compelling letters of recommendation written on your behalf
Work experience, particularly jobs related to your academic or professional interests