5 Tips for Winning Private Scholarships

Published by Wendy Nelson on

Winning private scholarships is a great way for your student to supplement his or her college funds.

Private Scholarships are scholarships offered by private businesses, organizations and foundations, not scholarships offered by colleges themselves.

Private scholarships can be merit-based, need-based, or a combination of both.

Private scholarships will usually require your student to submit some sort of essay along with his/her high school transcript, letters of recommendation, and possibly an activity resume.

Share the tips below with your student.

5 Tips for Winning Private Scholarships

  1. Don’t bother with the advertised “no essay” scholarships – Scholarships that are advertised online as simple “no essay” scholarships are mostly just attempts to collect your personal information so it can be sold to companies looking to buy it.  Future college students will be targeted by colleges, loan companies, and organizations looking to “help” you get into college or pay for college.
  2. Highlight a unique accomplishment, talent or experience – You need to stand out from the crowd in order to win scholarships. What have you done that’s different or that sets you apart from your peers? The number one thing that is going to help you win a scholarship is the thing that makes you unique. When the scholarship reviewers look through the pile of applications, you want them to be impressed with yours. It should be memorable and compelling.
  3. Look locally – The private scholarships that are the easiest to win will be the ones with the least competition.  The ones with the least competition will be the local ones.  Look for local service organizations like the Rotary Club, Lions Club, Knights of Columbus, local woman’s clubs, Masons, Optimists, Kiwanis, Jaycees.  Look for local organizations for business, teachers, engineers, arts, doctors, nurses, government, etc.  Check with your high school counseling office first to see if they keep a listing of all local scholarships.  Also, keep an eye on your local paper.  Local organizations usually put out press releases when they are offering a scholarship.
  4. Keep track of requirements and deadlines – Every scholarship you apply for will have slightly different requirements.  It gets really overwhelming to manage all these and make sure you are submitting the correct items for each.  The best way to do this is through some type of spreadsheet.  I have a simple free Microsoft Excel Scholarship Tracker template that works well.  Click here to download it: Scholarship Tracker Template.
  5. Follow Directions Carefully
    • Make sure you answer the essay prompt.  You can’t just recycle a generic essay if the scholarship is looking for a specific essay topic.
    • Stick to the number of words that are specified for the essay – they make check this.
    • Make sure you provide ALL required materials.
    • Make sure you submit your application by the due date.  If it is a paper application, make sure you know whether the due date is a “received” date or a postmark date.  If it doesn’t say postmark date, allow enough time to get your application mailed and in the hands of the scholarship committee by the due date.
    • And last of all, double check and proofread everything to make sure there are no mistakes, typos, things missed.

As I mentioned at the beginning, private scholarships are a good way to supplement your college funds.  Yes, there are some really large scholarships out there.  I wrote about some of these in my post, Finding and Winning Private Scholarships.  Most students will not win these.  There just aren’t that many out there and they are extremely competitive.

A small number of students will be able to pay for most of their college education with private scholarships.  However, it is more likely that a student will be able to pay for a large portion or even all of his/her college education through institutional merit scholarships than through private scholarships because colleges themselves are the largest source of scholarships.

With respect to private scholarships, for most students, the best bet is to find 10-20 local scholarships he or she is qualified for and invest time to apply for these.  It is not uncommon to get a several-hundred-dollars per hour rate of return for the time your student spends applying for private scholarships.