Western Oregon University Scholarship and Financial Aid Officer Travis Heide encourages students to apply for as many scholarships as they can throughout their college career.
While there are more scholarships geared towards incoming freshmen students at WOU, Heide said there are plenty of scholarship opportunities for transfer and returning students.
Heide recommends students to spend winter break researching, organizing and applying for college scholarships.
Here are a few tips to help students in their college scholarship search:
- Where to look. Start with your high school counselor who can advise you on local scholarships. Look online including com and the OSAC Scholarship application. Inquire what scholarships are available at the colleges where you are applying. At Western Oregon University, you must be admitted to apply for WOU scholarships. WOU has scholarship opportunities for current and transfer students.
- Be organized. Create a spreadsheet to track scholarships and the deadlines. Dedicate a folder in your email to file scholarship materials. Gather all the necessary documents you may need to apply including your high school activities, volunteer work, job history, grade point average, transcripts, financial aid forms, essay, letters of recommendation and test scores.
- Start early. Consider applying for scholarships as a job. Dedicate time each week to work on applications. The time you invest in applying for scholarships will be worth it in the end. If you spent five hours on a $500 scholarship that equals to your time being worth $100 an hour. Have the attitude every dollar earned will help you.
- Letters of recommendation. Be considerate when asking a favorite teacher, coach or mentor to write a letter of recommendation by giving them at least two weeks in advance of the deadline.
- Apply for several scholarships. There are thousands and thousands of scholarships available to students of all backgrounds and abilities. The students who are successful at winning scholarships often apply for more than a dozen.
- Read and reread the directions. Too often, students fail to qualify for a scholarship because they didn’t follow the requirements. Common mistakes include exceeding the word count on essays, failing to include materials, sending the wrong format such as a PDF instead of a Word document, and not completing the application. Don’t apply for scholarships that don’t match your qualifications. For example, if you aren’t a dancer, don’t apply for a dance scholarship.
- Writing the essay. Carve out time each day to write your essay. Starting your essay the day it is due is too late. Dedicate time to writing a rough draft and then revising it a few times. Make sure your essay answers the prompt. If you are asked to write about a failure that lead to a success, don’t write about your summer vacation. When you ask someone to edit your essay, make sure they look for only spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. Don’t let them rewrite your essay because it should reflect who you are.
- Make the deadline a few days earlier. If the deadline is Feb. 5, make it a point to have it done by Feb. 2. The extra time allows you a chance to review everything before submitting it. The closer you are to trying to complete a scholarship by the deadline, the more likely you are to make mistakes including forgetting to sign the application.
- WOU’s here to help. Learn more about WOU scholarships, including how to fill out the application online, how to avoid scams and more.