How to Master Your Scholarship Applications

Paying for college, managing student loan debt, and finding scholarships are popular conversation topics. College students and students-to-be are finding ways to afford education and to master their scholarship applications.

While budgeting for private university tuition can seem scary to both students and parents, Southeastern University provides multiple financial aid options to make a private education attainable and affordable. In the 2017–18 academic year, Southeastern was in the top 25 percent of surveyed schools for affordability. In fact, 98 percent of students attending Southeastern are granted financial aid to make their education more affordable.

As a prospective student, you may think finding and applying for scholarships is confusing or time consuming. According to Natalie Wolfe, Assistant Director of Student Finances, finding both institutional and outside scholarships can be made simple with organization, relationships, and time management. Here are three steps to make applying for scholarships less stressful and more productive.

1. Build relationships.

Being involved in your church, school, and community opens doors to finding scholarship opportunities. “Those are key organizations that usually have scholarships available, but they won’t know a student is interested unless they ask,” said Wolfe.

Kaitlyn Brett, a junior in Southeastern’s School of Honors, used her high school involvement to build her portfolio and connect her with scholarship opportunities. During her high school years, Brett was involved in organizations like Junior Rotarians, Student Government, and Girl’s State. “Through these opportunities, I was eligible to apply for additional financial aid from third-party funding,” said Brett.

These organizations helped Brett not only find scholarship opportunities, but also it helped her grow as a student and as a leader. “Each of these opportunities allowed me to gain valuable leadership experience, which has also benefited me as an honors student,” said Brett.

Also, connecting with your admission counselor at Southeastern can help you find the right scholarships and potentially receive matching assistance. “The students that have connected with an admission counselor have a more clear idea of what’s out there and when the deadlines are,” said Wolfe.

These counselors not only help students ensure that their applications are complete, but they can also help them find aid and scholarships. Students can create this partnership with their counselor by calling the admission office or by visiting campus.

2. Work hard.

One of the most important keys in applying for scholarships is working hard both in school and in the application processes. Students with good GPAs, community involvement, athletic experience, and church service can diversify their applications and make them stronger candidates for financial aid.

Connor Keith, a junior studying marketing, received a scholarship for her involvement in Fine Arts, the Assemblies of God’s annual arts and performance competition. In high school, Keith won the Award of Merit at the Fine Arts national competition and now receives a scholarship from Southeastern for this award.

Scholarship applications and essays that reflect a student’s hard work and academic excellence stand out to scholarship committees. “Your application, your essay… that is often the only thing that a scholarship committee is going to see. It is very important that it’s eloquent and that your grammar and spelling are in check,” said Wolfe. These essays highlight who you are, your accomplishments, and what you will bring to Southeastern, so making them reflective of your character and caliber is important. Plus, a good GPA reflects your dedication, achievements, and involvement in high school and shows that you put forth your best effort.

3. Stay organized.

With a variety of guidelines, requirements, and deadlines, staying organized is important in reducing the stress of the scholarship application process. Allowing time to find scholarships maximizes your potential for finding them and reduces the stress of working against a deadline. Students and parents should keep a folder and a digital record of all correspondence they receive from the school and any potential (and confirmed!) sources of scholarship funds.

In addition, Wolfe recommended that students write down their passwords for Southeastern and FAFSA webpages, as both platforms have many sites student use to apply and search for aid.

Wolfe emphasized the importance of starting early on your scholarship search and application process. According to Wolfe, most of Southeastern’s scholarship deadlines are the February 15 before the upcoming academic year. “Even in terms of writing the essay, give yourself time to think about it, give yourself time to draft it, and then enough time to go back and read it,” said Wolfe. Also, some scholarships only have a set window of time that applications are accepted, (such as SEU’s endowed scholarships) so knowing when those are will help you plan ahead.

Finding scholarships may seem like just another step of the college application process. But taking the time to research and get organized will ensure you receive the most aid possible.

By Anna Harvey, Digital Journalism major at SEU

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