How to calmly navigate the scholarship application process

July 31, 2012

You've finally wrapped up your college applications, you have some room to breathe, the hints of anxiety about acceptance letters are already tingling and then someone tells you it's time to start the scholarship applications. While not as stressful as the college application process, applying for scholarships is still a lot of work - it requires hunting down, careful consideration, numerous essay drafts and - most of all - a large chunk of your time.

So how do you come hot off the press of all that college application only to land in the pressure cooker of scholarship opportunities and not lose your mind? Consider these suggestions to guide you through.

1. Take a break. If you've wrapped up your college applications by January, take the rest of the month to breath. Give yourself a weekend off from anything vaguely academic (except the usual homework, of course). Go to a movie, get out of state or hang out for a full day with friends. Relax.

2. Get an early start. One of the things that'll help you relax most is having a small backlog already. Asking your guidance counselor about scholarships and searching for them online are easy tasks, so get a head start in November and December compiling a lists of scholarships to apply to. That way you won't feel overwhelmed come early February when you'll begin writing your essays.

3. Get help. Whether you have a parent or older sibling proofread your writing, be sure that you're not going it alone. Consider getting a group of friends together to go over essays and discuss tactics. Remember that most high school seniors are in the same boat as you.

4. Be honest. Essay prompts will often ask you to speak about yourself, and the stress of that can be enormous. As a tip, keep it simple and keep it honest. While a little pride won't hurt (likely will help, actually), don't puff yourself up and certainly don't tell a lie. While the application readers may not check up on each or any detail you include, they're pretty good at discerning a person's character based on what they write, and getting caught up in a lie is just going to give you undue stress. Honesty is truly the best policy.

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