Scholarship Strategy

Building a Successful Application

Applying for scholarships can be a daunting process, whether this is your first time or your fifth. If you find yourself worried – worried that you won't be able to complete an essay topic, unsure of how to request references, or worried that you won't be able to finish on time, don't worry, you're not alone. Some helpful tips and best practices have been compiled below.

Prepare Early

Many of these scholarships are competitive enough that you should begin preparing for a successful application starting in your very first semester. Set some goals for yourself such as:

  • Plan ahead and be sure to read all of the application instructions and eligibility requirements before completing
  • Connect with your mentors and professors – this will aid in obtaining excellent references
  • Work toward professional experiences through internships and research
  • Develop leadership skills and get involved with the community
  • Sharpen your writing skills and seek feedback on scholarly writing
  • Maintain academic excellence
  • Know the application process and timeline well in advance of applying

And remember, do not wait until the last minute. Spend time with your application and any essay or short/long answer requests. Remember your audience, tell your story and be authentic.  This may be the first, and for some the only, impression you will get to make on a scholarship committee or program.

Requesting Reference Letters

An insightful reference letter is a critical piece of a successful scholarship application. Below are some tips to help students request references:

  • Reference letters are now requested (if required) from within the Jag$POT system. These are requested electronically and will require you to provide the contact information in an email format. Be sure to double check your spelling and email extension before submitting.

  • Check back to your profile often. Jag$POT will let you know if your reference has not yet responded. It's important to follow-up with them if a response has not been made on your behalf. 

  • Choose your personal references carefully and early. The individual must be familiar with you and your work, understand the significance of the scholarship in terms of competitiveness and prestige, and be supportive of your application. Don’t be afraid to actually ask the person if they feel they can supply you with an excellent letter. Since you won’t be able to review the final letter, posing this question may help you avoid choosing someone whose letter will not serve you as well as someone else's.

  • The best evaluations are those that come from mentors in your field of study or from individuals who have supervised you or provided oversight during your high school years. However, evaluations from former high school teachers and coaches are only valid for incoming Freshman. These references for current students, along with family friends, are generally of little value. Current students should focus on faculty or mentors that have provided education, research or real-life experience in your field of study.

  • Provide your references with at least a draft copy of your resume, essay, or project proposal, depending on the scholarship for which you are applying. This will give them the context they need in order to compose the most convincing letter possible.

  • You may also wish to provide them with the scholarship guidelines and qualifications for viable candidates, or a copy of the application page with your education, extracurricular activities, future plans, etc. completed.|

  • Be sure to give them a deadline and stress the importance of getting the letter in by that date. You do not want a late reference letter to jeopardize your application.