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Ouachita Stories


Tackling private scholarship applications the smart way

Student on computerJune 10, 2019 - Adam Wheat

While I highly recommend you take steps to begin your college search during the summer before your senior year of high school, it's also important to start early when it comes to private scholarship applications. Private scholarships can be a huge help in paying for your college of choice, but they are often competitive. We recommend students apply for 5-10 scholarships a week throughout their senior year. If you have looked for private scholarships at all, you have probably found it to be an overwhelming landscape, and that can tempt you to not even start the journey. Here are my tips on making this a manageable goal:

First off, this does NOT have to take over your life. If you spend just three hours a week working on scholarship applications, that can be divided into: 3 hours in 1 day, 1 hour a day for 3 days, or 30 minutes a day for 6 days. It is an AVERAGE to apply to 5-10 scholarships per week, so you can adjust the number based on your schedule (you can see why a calendar is handy). The main point is just to get into the habit of applying early so that you don’t miss important deadlines for money you are eligible for.

Second, keep those A+ assignments from junior and senior year in a folder on your computer. Then, get on Google and search “scholarship essay questions.” Pick five and write some amazing essays that show you have really thought through the question, can clearly communicate your thoughts and even have evidence to back those thoughts up. Don’t go for the low-hanging fruit essay topics (Grandma is great – tell her that – but write your essay about someone with a more distinct connection to you). Take your time and develop your own unique, compelling perspective.

After writing the essays (600 words is a good average), show them to adults that you trust will give you honest feedback. You don’t need someone to tell you how good you are; you need someone who will help you make this thing as captivating as it can be. The people reading your essays for scholarships are often volunteering their time on the weekends to read other high school students’ essays, too, so aim for your writing to make them kick off their bunny slippers and pay attention to yours.

Finally – when you sit down with those 5-10 scholarship applications a week – you won’t just be staring at a blank page or empty text box and then descending into a dark shame spiral, wondering how you will ever fill those boxes with words. Instead of starting from scratch, you will just have to tweak an essay or copy-and-paste paragraphs to fit the questions for that particular application.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you apply for a private scholarship. However, you won’t get anywhere if you don’t begin, so push off and start your ride! It might feel like a rollercoaster at times, but not only can you do this, your hard work can also pay off – literally.


Adam WheatBy Adam Wheat, a 2010 graduate, who currently serves as Ouachita's guest experience coordinator and an instructor for the Carl Goodson Honors Program