6 Things I wish I Knew Before Applying for Scholarships

As I’m in my final year of high school, plan to go to university, and have to fund my own education, I have been applying for lots of scholarships. I really should have done some research first, there have been many frustrating moments in the last eight months. I wish I had started prepping for scholarships in my grade 10 year (two years ago). Here are 6 of things that I wish I had known when I started this road of hell.

1) Keep track of your activities
Many of the scholarships I applied for asked for a list of my extra curricular activities. Thank god my school program forced me to keep track throughout high school. Without it would have been a long painful process of trying to remember and going through old planners. Track what you do, when you do it (including how many hours you spend on it in total), and if you can, a supervisor’s contact for references. Always ask before putting them down as a reference so they will be prepared if called upon.

2) Apply to multiple universities
I applied to one. I got in. Now I realize that applying to many would have made universities more competitive in their scholarships. Some of my friends who have the same marks and extra curricular activities are getting huge scholarships because of the university they applied to. Some have also used scholarships to narrow down their picks. Research entrance scholarships. They go a long way.

3) Be a leader
A common essay topic for scholarships is “talk about one leadership role you’ve taken” or something along those lines. I had to talk about the importance of collaborations because I didn’t take on a big leadership role. Being a leader doesn’t mean being student council president (although that essay would write itself) it means taking action. Take action with something you’re passionate about. Then you have a good essay and you’re proud of yourself.

4) Stock up reference letters
Have teachers, coaches, and anyone of authority write you a general reference letter. Three of a variety is a good number. This is prompted by the fact that my teachers went on strike just before I started applying and couldn’t write me reference letters. I panicked. Luckily members of my community wrote some. Stock up just in case or so you have everything ready ahead of time. It can really relieve stress.

5) Research
Find tons of scholarships you qualify for months in advance. Write down the due dates and work towards putting your application together well in advance. There are a ton of scholarships and finding good ones can be overwhelming. Have a set timeline of when everything has to be done to avoid last minute rush.

6) Be prepared for rejection
I wish I didn’t have to put this in but I’ve been rejected a lot. You won’t get every scholarship you apply for. You may not get any. Don’t let that discourage you. It just means you weren’t what that scholarship committee was looking for. You can always apply for a different one.

Those are six quick things you should know and can do to prep for applying for scholarships. I would have found them useful when I was starting out. My main concern with scholarships was reference letters and the time they take to put together. They also become easier the more you do.


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