Questions come up often about the best tips for submitting scholarship applications.
The best general tip regarding application content is to follow the application directions to the letter. And if you have questions about an application, ASK, and ask early.
Usually we’re talking about the content of an application, such as what to include in a personal essay or letter of recommendation. However, how an application LOOKS matters greatly as well, and the functional side of submitting an application is just as important.
Content aside, does your application look good? Are scanned documents straight and easy to read? Did you handwrite or type your application? Is your essay balanced on the page or is there a big blank area towards the bottom of the page?
Keep in mind that the people judging your application may be looking at dozens, if not hundreds, of applications. Everything matters, and you don’t want something minor to make your application stand out in a negative way. Your application needs to be absolutely PERFECT in every way possible.
Here are suggestions on the functional side of preparing and submitting scholarship applications. Take them for what they are, just suggestions, and remember, that above all else, follow the application directions to the letter.
- Follow the application directions to the letter. If you have questions, ask well ahead of time!
- Start preparing your application early, and plan ahead as to when you will submit it. Never wait until the last day; always submit early just in case something wacky comes up, like an email or computer problem. Completing your application will take longer than you first think it will take, so plan ahead for the time you’ll need.
- Complete your application on a computer rather than on a phone or tablet. Some applications may seem do-able on mobile devices, but you want to see your application with as much detail and functionality as possible. Additionally, you should see your application the same way the judges will see it.
- Type your applications, rather than handwriting them, even if the directions say that handwritten applications are ok. Which would you prefer to read if you had to review a pile of applications? Think like a judge.
- Be as neat as humanly possible.
- If you’re not familiar with .pdf files, find someone to help you with those last-minute questions as you put your application package together. Absolutely do not leave this part until the last minute.
- Short answers to open-ended questions are insufficient. Use all the space you’re given! If an application form has a question such as “How do you plan to finance the rest of your training aside from the possibility of winning this scholarship?” do NOT just answer with one word, like “Loans”. That looks lazy and you’re wasting space. Use all the space given to share a thoughtful answer and work in more information you might not have had room for in your essay.
- If you go by nickname (such as Sue vs. Susan) use only your formal name on your application. All occurrences of your name should match exactly. Either include or don’t include your middle name, but do it the same way every time. Leave no room for confusion on your application, since the judges may be dealing with similar names.
- Combine all application pages and documentation pages into one .pdf file, even if the directions say multiple documents are ok. Why take the risk of someone else leaving out one of your attachments? Protect yourself, and make this as easy as possible for the people who will be reviewing your application.
- Name your .pdf file in a way that identifies you and the document, such as AmberGrayFlyNow2019 or something like that. Do not leave it with whatever weird systematic name the software gives it. Remember, you want to do everything possible to make this as easy as possible for the judges. Are you catching the theme here? 🙂
- When providing documentation such as a driver’s license, a medical, and a PPL, scan them in color and combine items into as few pages as possible. It’s easier on the judges, and takes less paper if your application is printed. Do not include huge, enlarged, full-color pictures that take a ton of ink to print.
- Make sure all scanned documents are perfectly straight. When pages are even slightly crooked, not only does it look bad, but if someone else updates the document electronically (as required in some submission processes), it may emphasize your crooked page.
- Black lines around scanned pages look unprofessional. This is sometimes caused by the scanner cover being open slightly, or there might be a gap around the edges of the scanner lid. Cover the edges of the scanner lid if need be, but make sure your scanned documents look perfect.
- Be sure your log book pages are complete before making copies. Many log books have a place for the current year in the upper left corner of each left-side page; fill it out on every page. Each flight should be logged in pen, and you have to sign your pages in pen, but it’s ok to total the pages in pencil. And total your most recent page, even if it isn’t filled up yet; you can erase the totals and update them later. But for now, you’re trying to… you know… make it easy on the judges.
- All the logbooks I’ve seen have two sides per ‘page’; the left half and the right half. In logbook terms, those two halves together equal one ‘page’. The left and right halves of one logbook page should be together on one .pdf page, left side above the right side. This way they’re organized and are big enough to read. So… if you are asked for copies of the last two pages of your logbook (hint, hint), you should provide two pages of documentation, with one complete logbook page per .pdf page.
Letters of Recommendation
- Letters of recommendation should address the organization offering the scholarship. “To whom it may concern” looks lazy.
- Letters of recommendation should always mention the specific scholarship you’re applying for, so it’s obvious you’re not recycling letters.
- If you find a typo in your letter of recommendation, contact the author and ask for it to be corrected.
- Short letters with lots of blank space don’t look good for you. If the author doesn’t have much to say about you, then perhaps you should be asking someone else to write the letter for you.
- Letters of recommendation should be signed and dated. Period. Yes, that means the author may have to print it, sign it, and scan it before emailing it to you, but an unsigned letter doesn’t look very credible.
Last but not least…
- Review all documents repeatedly and try to look at your application as if you were one of the judges. Be absolutely sure that what you submit is what you want the reviewers to see.
- When you think you’re done and are ready to submit your application, print everything and just look at each page. Does anything jump out at you? Are the pages easy to read? Is your documentation clear and easy to review? Did you include all the required items? Are the pages and documents in the correct order per the directions?
- Remember… what you submit in your application package is your responsibility, even if someone else assists you with parts of it. It’s yours, and it’s a reflection of you. Show how important this is to you by submitting a really polished application!
The bottom line… you want your application to be PERFECT. Why would you submit anything less?