Applying for Scholarships

With just a few weeks left until Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, this is a time when a lot of students are sending off their applications for financial aid and scholarships. I’ve been privileged to have received several large scholarships in the past two years, and I thought I’d write about some general tips on applying for them.

Why to apply:

Scholarships are free money! You don’t have to pay them back like student loans. They are a huge help in paying for regular tuition, or for studying additional classes or ratings outside of the school. Besides just the financial help they provide, being a scholarship recipient often opens the door for additional opportunities in the personal relationships that you establish with the sponsors. Many times the application process is also quite similar to what you will have to do for professional internships and jobs later in your career. The ability to present yourself confidently is an important skill to have, and applying for scholarships is great practice. I’ve been keeping this blog going as a requirement for being a recipient of the Globalair.com scholarship, and it’s been an experience that I have greatly enjoyed. It has helped me to get into the habit of publishing an article every week, and it’s taught me to become more descriptive and coherent when trying to write about a topic. I probably would never have started an aviation blog like this if it weren’t for the scholarship I applied for!

Where to look:

The first place you look should always be the scholarship or financial aid page that your school hosts. Nearly every college or university out there have their own “in-house” scholarships, which are specifically rewarded to incoming students. I especially appreciate the WMU College of Aviation for hosting an aviation-specific scholarship feed. After subscribing with your email address they regularly send new scholarship and grant opportunities, along with reminders about deadlines and what is needed to apply.

Next, check any professional organizations in the industry that you plan to enter to see if they offer any scholarships or grants. For aviation specifically, EAA and AOPA often have annual flight training scholarships that are given to students to pursue a pilots’ license. Many other business companies and associations also offer their own scholarship programs for members. Often times it is worth it to pay $40 to sign up and become a member, since it qualifies you to apply!

How to apply:

Read the directions, read the directions again, and then check them one more time. Each scholarship has specific requirements that you have to meet. Skimming over the instructions and missing an important note could disqualify your application. Usually companies and organizations that host scholarships are gracious enough to provide a person of contact who can help clarify details and answer questions about the whole process.

Keep a clearly marked folder for each application, and save essays or other documents you gather to use later. Personal statements about your interest in the subject can usually be submitted for any similar scholarship, and using the same copies as a draft can save hours of your time.

Take the initiative with submitting extra information, typing a longer essay, or calling to ask about scheduling an interview. Every scholarship will most likely have several other similarly-qualified individuals applying, so it’s your job to try to set yourself apart and be recognized as a better candidate. If the requirement is a minimum of two paragraphs, add a third one to show you can explain the topic competently and in-depth. If you know the company or school is hosting the scholarship somewhere reasonably close to where you live, call and politely ask if it would be possible to schedule an interview in person. I always try to submit a brief cover letter and copy of my resume with every application, even if it isn’t specifically required.

Complete most of the scholarship requirements a week or more before the deadline. This will give you at least a few days to look over your work and have a friend or teacher proofread it. It will also provide a safety margin of time in case you run into unexpected problems like computers updating or time zone differences. When submitting the final application, double check who it is addressed to, and use appropriate subject lines, greetings, and closings. Always conclude with a sincere “thank you” for the chance to compete and the opportunity presented.

As a final note, keep trying even if you don’t win any the first several times. Applying for scholarships is a skill that takes practice. If you ask anyone who has won a larger scholarship, I can guarantee that they will be able to name at least 3 other ones that they applied for and did not receive. After some point it is just a matter of statistics; the more times you apply the higher chances you will have of winning. Good luck with applying for them this November!

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