Welcome to the Center for Scholarships & Scholar Enrichment’s weekly blog published during the quarter! Our blog features scholarship related advice, how-tos, and tips for the whole scholarship process, from searching to applying to getting that cash so you can graduate from college as debt-free as possible. And ultimately that is our goal here at the CSSE: for you to graduate debt-free!
Apart from our blog, you can also check out archived issues of our quarterly publication, Strategies, published from 2010-2020, back when we were called the Scholarship Resource Center. Each issue is filled with articles that will help you in the scholarship process. You will find articles teaching you how to avoid scholarship scams, how to ask for letters of recommendation, and how to create the habits that will keep you on track for scholarships.
Both the blog and issues of Strategies are two of the many resources that CSSE offers you. For more, we recommend you make an appointment or drop-in to speak with one of our advisors.
2023-05-31 Avoiding Scholarship Scams
Wednesday, May 31, 2023
Avoiding Scholarship Scams
The world of scholarships has long been a target for scammers. When the SRC opened in the late 1990s, we heard reports of “pay to enter” schemes, “scholarships” that “guaranteed” success in exchange for students or families registering with an application service, and so on. In the years since, we have seen new variations on old scams, along with wholly new innovations in scammery. This doesn’t mean you should be discouraged from applying for scholarships — just that it’s important to do your homework.
Here are a few types of scams and unethical programs we have seen, along with red flags and how to avoid them:
Scams that target your money:
- Any scholarship that requires a fee to enter – even a nominal fee – is most likely a scam. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as art shows that require an entry fee. But other than that, you should not pay money to get scholarships.
Scams that target your personal information:
- Scholarships should not ask for sensitive personal information such as your Social Security number or bank account information on their application forms. If they do, it is a danger sign. (Some foundations might need your SSN in order to pay you once they have awarded the scholarship, but that comes later, and you will know that they are legitimate by that point.)
- We are seeing more online essay contests that ask for very personal information, sometimes in ways that seem deceptive. For example, a recent announcement we received asked entrants to write an essay about their first pet. Sounds innocuous – even fun – right? But when you combine the personal information from the application form (name, address, DOB) with the name of your first pet, think about what a potential scammer or identity thief now has: enough information to recover a protected password and get into your accounts. We have also received several recent program announcements that ask for applicants’ full Social Security Numbers up front on the application form. Be alert and think carefully about what information you are being asked for. Don’t fall for what amounts to an elaborate phishing scam.
Scams that target your time or skills:
- Some so-called “scholarships” are really sweepstakes: it doesn’t cost you much time or effort to enter, but it might not be worth it anyway, and you will get a lot of spam if you do.
- Others are attempts to get you to market a company or its product (“share or like for a chance to win!”). That is not a scholarship: that is the company taking advantage of your time and social media presence to market itself.
- Next, be careful of online essay contests that are just not real scholarships. My favorite cautionary example here is from a marketing site that aggregates reviews for “sump pumps.” (If you don’t know what that is, it’s a pump that goes in the basement to prevent flooding if you live in a low-lying or flood prone area.) The site asked us to promote their “scholarship”—in actuality, a thrilling opportunity for students to write the site’s content for free. (I would be stunned if this “scholarship” were ever awarded.) The list of essay prompts had nothing to do with students’ interests or experiences: “Key uses of sump pumps,” “Importance of sump pump during flooding,” and so on. That is not a scholarship — it is a company taking advantage of students’ writing skills and their dedication to searching for funds. Not worth your time, energy, or skills.
With all this in mind, how can you avoid being scammed – especially if you are searching for scholarships online?
One tip is simply to find out all you can about the foundation, agency, or company sponsoring the scholarship. Can you find any information about them other than the page advertising the scholarship? Do they have complaints on the Better Business Bureau? If the funder is a charitable foundation, what is their reputation? If the scholarship is funded by a small business or online company, what does the company do? Is the scholarship related to their work?
Second, when it comes to scholarship applications, maintain the same close guard on your private personal information that you would in any other context. If an application form requests Social Security numbers, banking details, or any of the information that you use to protect your accounts (your place of birth, your mother’s maiden name, the name of your first pet, and so on), be very careful.
Finally, if you have questions about any scholarship you’re considering or are anxious about it, you can bring your concerns to the CSSE and one of our counselors will be happy to help you!
2003-05-24 Yes You Can Still Win Scholarships for Next School Year!
Wednesday, May 24, 2023
Yes You Can Still Win Scholarships for Next School Year!
We may have entered the home stretch of the 2022-23 academic year, but plenty of time remains to secure scholarships for yourself for the 2023-24 academic year. Sure, it would have been ideal to start applying back in early fall when the scholarship season generally begins, but the scholarship season does not end until about halfway through the summer.
So, what can you do to make the most of the time remaining and win as many scholarships as possible? First, if you have never visited us at our main office (233 Covel Commons), do not wait another second! Drop in as soon as you can during business hours (Tuesdays-Thursdays 11-6, no appointment necessary), and our staff experts will get you started.
You may feel a little overwhelmed after your first visit and realize the vast number of scholarships out there, but brush that off. You do not need to find and apply for every single scholarship out there this very day or week. Instead, just set a goal to find two scholarships due this month where you meet all the eligibility criteria. Be aware that you may have to look at twenty or thirty scholarships before you’ve found those two, so set aside about one hour for your search. Whether you actually find those two scholarships in ten minutes or sixty, two is a very good result for an hour of searching. Even one will do – the main thing is to begin applying as soon as possible!
The easiest and quickest way to find those first two is to sign up for one of the scholarship search engines that you can find under the “Scholarship Search” tab of our website (www.scholarshipcenter.ucla.edu). Search engine scholarships are typically essay contests with very broad eligibility criteria, so you should be able to find your two very quickly with those. For a search engine that helpfully organizes scholarship results by due date, try www.unigo.com/scholarships/match.
International students, however, are not usually as well served by search engines as US citizens, and if that’s the case for you, come to the SRC main office and pick up our resource guide for international students to find those first two scholarships. Even if you aren’t an international student, you should look into the various resource guides we have for different student populations. The eligibility criteria won’t be as broad as for the search engines, but then again not as many students will apply, either.
So, don’t be intimidated. Get excited about winning scholarships, because there is still plenty of time before the end of the season, and our expert staff can help you do it!
2023-05-17 Keeping Your Eyes on the Scholarship Prize During Summer Break
Wednesday, May 17, 2023
Keeping Your Eyes On The Scholarship Prize During Summer Break
Soon it will be the second week of June, and you’ll just have wrapped up your last final exam. You’ll be feeling great! Summer will finally be here! And while you will probably have all sorts of fun and intellectually stimulating activities planned—vacation with family, travel abroad, summer research—you will probably not give much thought to finding new scholarships. We hate to be the killjoy, but remember that fall quarter will also be here before you know it, and summer is an excellent time to get a jump on those early September/October deadlines!
Here are some concrete steps you can take starting in the middle of June:
1) Build some time into your weekly schedule to find scholarships. If you haven’t done so already, now is a great time to create a profile on one of our favorite scholarship databases, https://www.unigo.com/scholarships. Before summer break, we suggest setting aside a minimum of one hour per week to search scholarship databases, try creative word combinations on Google, sift through potential scholarship applications, and work on personal statements and other scholarship materials. Then in the summer you can devote more time–at least two hours a week?!–to dedicated searches for scholarships.
2) Look for summer deadlines. Though the majority of scholarship applications are due between January and April, there are plenty of deadlines outside of those months, with some falling in the summer. Keep your eyes peeled for summer essay contests in particular!
3) If you’re going to be in Los Angeles for all, or part, of the summer, come to the Scholarship Resource Center in 233 Covel Commons for help with your application materials. Our in-person summer hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 12:00 p.m.— 5:00 p.m. And our virtual hours are Monday and Friday 12:00pm—5:00pm. We would be happy to help you with all aspects of the scholarship application process.
If you still have questions, please feel free to call us at (310) 206-2875 or visit us at the CSSE. During spring quarter, we’re open Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m.— 6:00 p.m.
2023-05-10 Seven Ways to Become a Scholarship Ninja
Wednesday, May 10, 2023
7 Ways to Become a Scholarship Ninja
Despite the rising cost of tuition, here at the Center for Scholarships & Scholar Enrichment (CSSE) we take a positive approach to scholarship applications. Our job is to assure you that there are financial resources that students can access through private organizations, UCLA departments, and, quite often, sheer individual will power!
When students, parents, and other members of the UCLA community first discover the CSSE, it’s an exciting moment. Our office offers a variety of written materials, workshops, and resources for finding and applying to scholarships. But we also frequently find ourselves engaging in conversations about productive approaches and attitudes.
Inevitably, winning scholarships involves some work. The search and application process requires students to carve out extra time, develop organizational skills, and engage in self-reflection. As with any success, the ability to win scholarships comes from a self-driven and student-centered attitude.
The most successful students that we work with actively adjust their expectations, and they approach the scholarship process as a way to develop long-term strategies, routines, and habits. These attitudes transform individuals into “scholarship ninjas”– or perhaps, more generally, ninjas in life.
Here are seven ways to help you become one such ninja:
- PLAY THE LONG GAME
Even if you’re overwhelmed at first, think about the scholarship search as a long-term commitment. Every hour that you set aside to search, write, or seek letters of recommendation will contribute to your knowledge and confidence over time.
- LEARN ABOUT RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO YOU AT UCLA
Just getting familiar with the kinds of services and counseling appointments that are available on campus will help you navigate them in the future. Spend a day sorting through the websites of various student centers (Career Center, Counseling & Psychological Services, Undergraduate Research Center, and your specific major’s department) on campus and find out who offers services and/or scholarships.
- BUILD AND UPDATE A PORTFOLIO OF YOUR SCHOLARSHIP MATERIALS
Even when you’re not actively applying for scholarships, habitually update your resume, curriculum vitae, and a personal narrative of your accomplishments as you progress through school. When the perfect scholarship opportunity reveals itself, you’ll already be prepared to articulate yourself as a qualified candidate.
- KEEP AN ORGANIZED LIST OF DEADLINES
Staying organized allows you to benefit from your previous work. Keep a record of the scholarships you’ve considered, crossed off your list, and applied to. Set up a strategy to record deadlines for the year ahead on your calendar.
- THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX
Once you’ve learned how to manage your time and find scholarships, regularly broaden your search techniques. For example, incorporate your hobbies, community engagement, service work, and course of study as part of your search.
- APPLY FREQUENTLY
We suggest that you apply to as many scholarships as you can without compromising your studies and your well-being. The more often you apply, the stronger your applications will become.
- TAKE TIME FOR SELF-REFLECTION
As part of your routine, take time to actively reflect on the relationship between your activities and aspirations. Regularly write down thoughts about your activities and future goals as they evolve. Ask yourself how your work habits have changed and identify the strategies that work best for you.
2023-05-03 UCLA Scholarships for International Students
Wednesday, May 3, 2023
UCLA Scholarships for International Students
Every year, a growing number of international students reach out to the Scholarship Resource Center for their scholarship needs and concerns. Whereas the skyrocketing costs of tuition and fees have caused alarm for the average Bruin, the financial aid situation is especially challenging for our international student population. For one, international students are not eligible for state-based financial aid in California, nor for most Federal aid. If you’re an international student, you will need to be creative, diligent, and persevering in your journey to fund your education. Despite the odds, winning scholarships is possible for international students; just be sure to look for both extramural scholarships (beyond UCLA) as well as UCLA-affiliated ones that are open to international students.
First, as an international student, you can—and should— apply for private scholarships. There is a great deal of information on our website (www.scholarshipcenter.ucla.edu) about how to do this. While you may not be eligible for “need-based” scholarships, there are many scholarships that are “essay-based” or are based on other criteria (interests, religion, parent involvement in organizations, ethnic affiliation, personal characteristics, etc.). These are the scholarships to which you want to pay special attention. Deadlines for these scholarship typically fall between September and April-May.
Next, look within the four walls of UCLA for those programs and centers that welcome international applicants. Many academic departments, for instance, have their own scholarships and prizes that do not have a residency stipulation. To give you a starting point, we have listed below some UCLA-based scholarships that are open to international students; each of these centers and organizations have their own eligibility guidelines, so just be sure that you are eligible. And if you are, by all means, apply!
UCLA Center for Accessible Education (CAE)
CAE lists 5 scholarships on their website, among them the Will Rogers Memorial Scholarship. All enrolled UCLA students with disabilities are eligible to apply. The scholarship is open for applications year-round and is mainly intended to cover disability-related expenses. Applications are available at the CAE main office in Murphy Hall A255 or through the link above. For more information, contact CAE directly at (310)825-1501 or visit their main website at www.osd.ucla.edu.
University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP)
If you’re thinking about studying abroad, the UCEAP serves as the official system-wide program for the UCs. UCEAP partners with 115 universities worldwide and offers programs in 42 countries. UCEAP students enroll in courses abroad while earning UC units and maintaining UCLA student status. Many programs offer internships, research, and volunteer opportunities. International students (and other students who cannot or do not receive financial aid) are required to submit a statement describing the level of their financial need. For more information about UCEAP scholarships, contact the UCLA International Education Office directly (310) 825-4995 or visit their website at www.ieo.ucla.edu.
UCLA IEO Travel Study Scholarships
These scholarships are designed for students who want to engage deeply with their travel-study programs and develop projects that will highlight their experience abroad to others. Up to 25 scholarships are available to cover the applicant’s full travel study program fee.
Chancellor’s Fund for Study Abroad in Germany
The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s German Chancellor Fellowship Program is for university graduates from the United States, the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China, Brazil and India with an interest in international issues and demonstrated leadership potential. The program is targeted at accomplished young professionals who are likely to become decision-makers, thought leaders, and influential voices in their respective fields. Fellows will be recruited from a broad range of areas such as politics and public policy, law, media, business, the non-governmental sector, and the arts. The fellowship provides scholarships annually for students studying in Germany—two awards will be provided to students studying through UCEAP and one award for a student attending the UCLA Travel Study program. The scholarships are designed for UCLA students from any academic background. For more information visit the main website at https://www.humboldt-foundation.de/en/
UCLA IEO – UCEAP Scholarships
The Global Community Scholarship, enables students who demonstrate strong interest in using their experiences from abroad to contribute positively to the UCLA community. This opportunity is designed for students who want to engage deeply with their program and develop projects that will highlight their experience abroad to others. Ten $2,000 scholarships will be awarded to UCLA students who commit to promote study abroad upon their return to campus. Additionally, five $5,000 scholarships will be awarded to the top applicants who commit to document and publish their experiences while abroad as well as promote study abroad upon their return to campus.
The UCLA Undergraduate Research Center offers two scholarships for which international students are eligible to apply. For both scholarships, you can complete the application via my.ucla under “Survey.” For more information, contact the UCLA Undergraduate Research Center at (310) 825-2935, or visit them at http://www.ugeducation.ucla.edu/urhass.
The Undergraduate Research Fellows Program (URFP)
The URFP is a two-quarter program that supports UCLA students who are conducting a life science, physical science, or engineering research project with a UCLA faculty during Winter 2024 and Spring 2024. The URFP is designed to support students who are early-on in their undergraduate research experiences. Students will enroll in RES PRC 103 – Student Research Forum in Winter 2024, an academic and professional development seminar for undergraduate researchers. All students also qualify for financial support through an academic scholarship up to $3,000. Applications are accepted in Fall 2023.
https://hass.ugresearch.ucla.edu/scholarships/urfp/ (Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences)
This URFP scholarship supports students doing a multi-quarter research or creative project in humanities, arts, or social science under the mentorship of a UCLA faculty member during winter and spring quarters. URFP recipient receive a $3,000 scholarship, enroll in a Student Research Program (SRP) 99 course or an upper-division departmental research contract course for both winter and spring quarters, enroll in Research Practice 103: Student Research Forum from 12-1:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays in winter quarter, present their research at Undergraduate Research Week or submit a summary of their research at the end of spring quarter, and enroll in a minimum of 12 units in winter and spring quarters.
If you have questions about other UCLA scholarships beyond the ones featured here, or if you have questions about the private scholarship search and application process, please stop by to talk to us at the UCLA Center for Scholarships & Scholar Enrichment. We look forward to meeting you!
2023-04-26 Study Abroad Opportunities
Wednesday, April 26, 2023
Study Abroad Opportunities
Study or work abroad experience can help expand your horizons, teach you about other cultures, and mark you as an outstanding candidate for graduate school or on job applications. Many opportunities exist to work or study abroad. Some programs offer a great deal of guidance and support; others allow participants more independence. As you research study and work abroad programs, you should consider what type of experience best suits you.
If you want to study abroad during 2023-2024, you have little time left to apply before most of these deadlines close. If you plan to attend a program in another country during the 2023-2024 academic year, now is the perfect time to start looking for study abroad scholarships and work opportunities. Come visit the CSSE if you need more information.
Opportunities for Undergraduates
*University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP)
The UCEAP is the official, system-wide study abroad program for the University of California. UCEAP partners with 115 universities worldwide and offers programs in 42 countries. These UC-approved programs combine immersive learning with engaging activities. UCEAP students enroll in courses abroad while earning UC units and maintaining UCLA student status. Many programs offer internships, research, and volunteer opportunities. Choose from summer, quarter, semester, and year-long options. Financial aid and scholarships are available for qualified students.
The Career Center maintains and updates a list of internships, jobs, scholarships, and teaching abroad opportunities through its partnership with Handshake. You will be asked to use your UCLA log-in information to access the database. There you will find opportunities for short-term work, teaching English abroad, and internships.
*Summer Language Programs
Applicants interested in studying a language abroad should locate summer language study opportunities through the website of universities in the country in which they want to study. Many European universities offer these classes at a low cost compared to American programs, and can often arrange for dorm or family housing. The CSSE can provide Study Abroad information for summer language study in France, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Japan, and Latin America, among other places.
Useful Websites for Undergraduates and Graduates
*International Education Office Study Abroad
The UCLA International Education Office should be your first stop in your search for study abroad opportunities. Below you’ll find two other database websites that can help with your search.
The StudyAbroad.com database can help sort through programs depending on whether your goal is to study, intern, volunteer, and teach abroad. You can also sort through opportunities by country.
*Institute of International Education IIEPassport
The Institute of International Education’s IIEPassport is another online database that offers a directory of study abroad opportunities. The database provides information about postsecondary study abroad programs open to U.S. citizens who are undergraduate, graduate, or postgraduate students; adult or continuing education students; or professionals in various fields including business, education, health and law. The majority of programs are intended for undergraduates, but there are some international programs that may be of interest to other types of students.
Listserv for Graduate Study/Research Abroad
*Division of Graduate Education Fellowships and Financial Services
The Division of Graduate Education Fellowships and Financial Services Office announces extramural funding opportunities available for graduate study, travel abroad, dissertation and postdoctoral research through its Gradfellowships-L Google groups. The listserv groups are open to UCLA prospective applicants, current graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars. Sign up for any listserv you feel meets your needs and goals.
2023-04-19 How do I get Recommendation Letters for Scholarships?
Wednesday, April 19, 2023
How do I get Recommendation Letters for Scholarships?
We frequently receive questions about how to get letters of recommendation for scholarships. This week, Strategies provides tips on the etiquette of asking for and obtaining letters of recommendation.
Ask Your Instructors Early
When you seek letters of recommendation, you should contact your instructors at least one month before applications are due. Visit your instructors during office hours early in the quarter, especially during the first week of class. One month’s notice allows recommenders enough time to consider carefully what they will write on your recommendation letter. Otherwise, instructors may resent receiving a request for a recommendation letter shortly before the due date; remember, they need time to clear their schedules.
Request that Your Recommenders Write Strong Letters that Detail Your Qualifications.
When recommenders know you well, they can write stronger letters to a scholarship committee beyond the generic “so and so is a hard-working student.” When you apply for scholarships, you compete with other students whose scholarship applications often include extremely positive letters. A lukewarm or vague letter can hurt your chances of winning a scholarship. Because committees rarely interview applicants during the scholarship process, they customarily select winners based on an applicant’s personal statement, comments in recommendation letters, and other application materials.
Approach Your Recommenders with Honesty about their Assessment of Your Performance.
If a recommender seems to “hem and haw” about writing a recommendation for you, this reaction could indicate that they might not write you a good letter. Ask them for an honest assessment of your abilities. Giver your potential recommender the space to say “no” without guilt if they so choose. Those who agree to send a letter for you will appreciate your candor and probably write an excellent letter. Do not become discouraged if an instructor declines your request: at least they won’t hurt your application. Instead, look for a recommender who will write you a strong letter.
Follow Up with Your Recommenders.
Make sure you follow up with those who write recommendations for you to ensure they sent the letters to the scholarship committee in a timely manner. Always check with the scholarship committees to ensure they received the letters by the deadline date. If the scholarship committee does not receive the letter of recommendation that they require with your application, you will not win the scholarship.
“Should I Get My Recommendation Letters Only from Instructors?”
No. Unless the application specifically states that a professor or faculty member must write your letter of recommendation, you can ask many people to write letters of recommendation on your behalf—counselors, high school teachers, clergy, employers—anyone who can comment knowledgeably on your character.
“Then, Can My TA Write A Letter?”
If your only one-one contact with an instructor is a teaching assistant, feel free to ask them for a recommendation.
Giver Your Recommenders All Requisite Scholarship Materials.
Provide each person from whom you request a recommendation letter the scholarship organization’s information along with a link to the submission page. Ensure that you provide documentation to help your recommender write you a glowing and detailed profile, such as well-written papers, your resume, and a draft of your personal statement. One UCLA scholarship winner asked each recommender to address a different activity in which he was involved to give the committee a better impression of his diverse talents and experience. Similarly, you can provide different materials to each recommender, so that each writer emphasizes a particular quality or strength you want to highlight. A composite dossier of your letters that outlines your different strengths gives the scholarship committee a good impression of your diverse talents.
Always Send A Thank-You Note.
You should send a thank you note at least two weeks prior to the scholarship due date. Leave a small card in your recommender’s mailbox or send them an e-mail within a week after they agree to write the letter. A thank-you note courteously reminds your recommender to complete and send your letter of recommendation if they haven’t done so. A second thank-you note is appropriate so you can check to see if all of your application materials reached the scholarship committee. Your recommender will appreciate that you acknowledge the work they did on your behalf.
Our staff provides counseling for all scholarship-related services, including recommendation letter strategies: make an appointment today.
2023-04-12 Write This, Not That
Wednesday, April 12, 2023
Write This, Not That
Do you know how to pick an essay topic that both speaks to your strengths and does so in an original, inventive, and interesting way? You’d be surprised at what topics work, and what topics don’t. Elizabeth Heaton, who worked for a number of years at the University of Pennsylvania and read thousands of essays in her time as an admissions officer there, published an article in USA Today on some of the most overused topics that she and her colleagues encountered. We take a look at some of those topics here, and give some pointers on how to make sure that your essays are unique and successful.
The “Big Game” Essay
These essays usually describe a sporting event in which the writer has participated, and make one of two arguments: “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team'”, or “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” At first, writing about the “big game” sounds like a great idea! You can emphasize a number of admirable qualities in this type of sports-related essay that scholarship committees like to see: maturity and leadership, for example, and the ability, literally, to be a “team player.” The fact is, however, that a lot of people will write this essay, and that readers have seen this topic before.
If you’re going to write an essay about an athletic or team-based experience, make sure your argument goes further than the two listed above, or looks at athletics or team-based activities from a new perspective. What did the game mean to you that it probably did not mean to other players? Did playing on this team teach you any values that you put into practice elsewhere in your life? Giving your reader a sense of what your answers are to even one of these questions will help them see who you are as an individual, and will make your essay more memorable.
The “List of Accomplishments” Essay, aka, the “Prose Resume”
We all want to emphasize our accomplishments in our scholarship applications, and sometimes we want to make sure that the reading committee knows that we are well rounded and have excelled in more than one area. The trouble is, though, that if we try to put too much information into just one essay, the writing can start to sound like a list. Fortunately, many applications ask for a more formal list of accomplishments or a resumé, so there’s no real need to provide duplicate information about all of your activities in your essay.
Your personal statement should be more of a story than a list. Pick one activity or experience that has meant the most to you (yes, just one, especially for shorter essays!) and tell the story of how it has changed you and what you have learned. What prompted you to get involved? What were your expectations? What was the activity like? What did you learn, and most importantly, how are you going to apply what you have learned elsewhere in your life? Be sure to use specific details about actions you took or decisions you made, and don’t be afraid to get a little creative.
The “One Night I Volunteered” Essay
This essay usually focuses on a very short-term (one- or two-day) community service engagement, and, as Heaton notes, “[comes to] the following conclusion: I never realized how much I had until I met people who didn’t have anything.” This topic also seems like it will work for a number of reasons: you can emphasize your thoughtfulness, the importance you place on kindness, and even your drive to seek social change. These are wonderful qualities to emphasize, but there are a number of ways to illustrate them more convincingly.
As with the “Big Game” essay, reader will have heard the arguments made in the “One Night I Volunteered” essay before. Narrowing the focus or argument of the “Volunteer” essay, then, is one way to personalize your writing: was there something unique about your volunteer event? Was there something special about the way you helped fundraise for it or the way you led fellow volunteers? Maybe you could write about how social media added value to your community work. Alternately, you could shift your topic to focus on a community activity that you have participated in repeatedly and over the course of a longer time period. As you can see, the main problem with essays that talk about short term activities is that they don’t always address the long-term commitment to service that scholarship committees are looking for.
To make your essays unique, you will have to be creative and thoughtful about the message you want your readers to come away with. Then you will leave your readers impressed also!
2023-04-05 Strengthening Personal Statements
Wednesday, April 5, 2023
Strengthening Personal Statements
Start early and pace yourself. Allow yourself sufficient time to develop and modify your work effectively. You should not write a personal statement in a couple of hours; usually, you need to work on your essay for at least a week or more.
Do not overwhelm yourself with the need for a “finished product” when you begin to write. Take time to free write, and do not interrupt your creative process. Capture your thoughts—jot down ideas, make lists, and create categories. Your personal statement will evolve over time, and you usually must produce multiple drafts before you write a statement with which you feel satisfied. Just as a sculptor develops a smooth artistic work from stone, your personal statement should transform from inchoate thoughts and ideas to a polished essay. You can always use the SRC’s scholarship writing support serve if you need assistance.
Your personal statement needs a beginning, middle, and an end. The beginning orients the reader to the conclusions they should draw from your discussion. Use the middle of your personal statement to present your material arranged either chronologically, by stages of development, or by categories of experience. The conclusion emphasizes how your experiences and personal views support your goals.
Scholarship committees read many personal statements–you want yours to stand out from others in the application pool. To accomplish this goal, your voice and experiences need to capture the reader’s attention.
You can use several techniques to generate engaging subject matter; for example, identify an experience, event, person, vision, crisis, book, or personal triumph that impacted your life. If you focus on personal experiences, then you might discover that not only does your personal statement become easier to write, but also becomes more engaging to the selection committee.
Do not restate your resume: this repetition can bore the reader, particularly if the scholarship committee requires you to submit a resume. When you write a good personal statement, you gain a special opportunity to familiarize scholarship committees with unique aspects of your life and demonstrate why you are a strong candidate.
To strengthen your personal statement:
*Emphasize unique characteristics about you and/or your family;
*Discuss how the particular scholarship will benefit you—if the scholarship is need-based, indicate your level of financial need;
*Do not re-hash information you covered in other parts of the application;
*Describe significant people or experiences that influenced your values and educational or career goals;
*Aim for succinct writing—grammatical and spelling errors impede your chances of winning a scholarship;
*Demonstrate that you have the ability, necessary background, and motivation to be a strong candidate;
*Carefully adhere to length and spacing restrictions;
*Avoid digressions—keep your focus; and,
*Ask others to review your personal statement.
2023-03-15 "What are they Really Asking?" The Secret Logic of Scholarship Essay Prompts
Wednesday, March 15, 2023
“What Are They REALLY Asking?”: The Secret Logic of Scholarship Essay Prompts
“Tell us how your background has shaped your future goals.”
Does this question look familiar? This is about as basic as an essay question can get, but it is also a question that you will see in one form or another on many scholarship applications. This prompt seems straightforward enough; in reality, though, many essay questions are posed with implicit expectations—expectations that may be different for each scholarship. How do you figure out what information scholarship committees are looking for? What is your prompt REALLY asking? There are a few things to keep in mind as you tackle this prompt in one of its many forms.
First: know your audience. No matter where you found the scholarship listing, it is a good idea to look up the organization offering the scholarship. Pay special attention to the group’s mission statement. Are they primarily a professional organization, aiming to unite members of a certain field (engineering, nursing, chemistry, visual arts)? Are they committed to a specific cause or community project? Do they aim to work with specific populations (like under-served students, or women in the sciences)? If the organization is based around one profession or academic discipline, they probably want to hear about your work and studies in that field. When they ask about your “background,” they may actually be asking about your college coursework and job experience—not necessarily about your family’s background, or about your outside interests and hobbies.
Second, spend a little time breaking down the prompt so that you are sure to answer each part completely. The above question, for example, actually asks two things: “what is your background?” and “what are your future goals?” Many writers make the mistake of neglecting crucial key terms in the essay question itself and fail to provide scholarship committees with information that they are interested in. If you have trouble breaking apart a prompt, look for key words, and think about how you can address each one: terms like “background,” “influences,” and “shaped” usually signal that you need to address past experiences, whereas phrases that ask about “goals” and “aspirations” ask about specific future plans.
Finally, most scholarships are offered by organizations or individuals who are trying to provide resources to a specific community—committee readers, thus, are community-minded! They want to know what type of group member you are, and how you can contribute to communities around you (to people in your family, your neighborhood, your city, etc.). Very often, when approaching questions about future goals, writers stop too short, and only address their own interests or benefits that they expect to receive and talk about pursuing a specific major because they find it interesting, or are interested in the financial wealth they will gain because of following a certain career path. Instead, be sure to emphasize qualities that show how you can give back or help those in your world in some way. Maybe you are an independent thinker, but like to apply your knowledge to specific projects that will help disadvantaged teens; maybe you are incredibly creative, and are interested in helping an animal shelter develop advertisements to encourage pet adoptions. Many times, the real question being asked is not only “what are your talents?”, but also “how do you intend to use them to help others?”
Keeping these tips in mind will help you develop more targeted, effective essays. And, remember, if you get stuck on an essay, you can sign up for a writing appointment at the Scholarship Resource Center here!
2023-03-08 Prewriting Ideas and Activities for the Scholarship Essay
Wednesday, March 8, 2023
Prewriting Ideas and Activities for the Scholarship Essay
Students often ask, “What are my chances of winning a scholarship?” The answer is: your shot at winning is exponentially better if you apply. While this may sound simple enough, for many students, one of the biggest roadblocks to applying for scholarships is writing the scholarship essay. Many of us get petrified just thinking about starting the essay (What do I write? How do I begin?) and end up giving up on applying for scholarships altogether.
This article offers tips about how to get your ideas on the page and how to make the essay prewriting stage as stress-free as possible, and perhaps make writing fun and engaging (or at least meaningful). If you take the time to complete the following prewriting exercise, not only will you have a preliminary blueprint to tackle future essay prompts that come your way, but you will have gained some insight about yourself and your character traits.
- Time yourself at two to five minutes, and come up with as many adjectives as possible that describe you. At this stage in the prewriting exercise, jot down any adjectives that come to mind, whether they are positive or negative. The key is to keep the writing flowing without censoring yourself. Keep in mind that your adjectives can be both self-evident facts (such as, “female” or “male”; “Asian American” or “Latino/a); and opinion-based, open-ended, and subjective descriptions (such as “hardworking,” intellectually-driven,” “innovative,” “compassionate,” “community-oriented,” and so forth).
- Read through your self-characterization list. At this point, cross out any negative descriptors, understanding that, much like in a job interview, your goal is to highlight your strengths and not your weaknesses. Look for overlapping descriptors and combine them (e.g., if you wrote “persistent” and “persevering,” you can combine the two as they are essentially identical). From your list, choose up to six adjectives or character traits.
- For each of your chosen self-descriptions, list as many examples as possible in support of that self-characterization. Be specific in your examples. Rather than writing, “I have overcome hardships, which have built my character,” think of a specific point in your life when you encountered and overcame challenges and how that experience (or those experiences) impacted your life, perspective, or character.
- Review what you have written above, and from the six self-characterizations, narrow your choice down to three. Base your choice on how much you were able to say in support of your self-characterization. For instance, if under the description “generous,” you realize (by doing exercise #3 above) that you have scanty or shaky examples, it’s probably a good idea to forego this choice and opt for something else.
- For each of your three chosen self-characterizations, write a paragraph elaborating on this quality. Again, aim to be specific and personal. Rather than writing, “higher education is the key to success,” which is too general and sounds too “preachy” and impersonal, try to think anecdotally about the time or situation in your life (or in lives you have observed) that can illustrate this point (e.g., “My faith in the life-changing power of higher education inspired me to maintain a 3.5 GPA while working two jobs”).
Having completed this prewriting exercise, you are now in a better position to tackle any future scholarship essay prompts. While different scholarships have their own sets of essay guidelines and prompts, scholarship essay prompts are more alike than not: they generally want to see how your past experiences have shaped who you are today (thus the three self-characterizations you wrote about in this exercise!) and how who you are today (again, your positive traits) can help you in future endeavors. For more prewriting exercises, writing tips, and strategies, come by the Scholarship Resource Center. We will help you “write” away!
2023-03-01 The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Scholarship Applicants
Wednesday, March 1, 2023
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Scholarship Applicants
Habit 1: Be Proactive.
No matter who you are and no matter what your background, there are scholarships out there waiting for you to win them. The trick is taking the initiative to find those scholarships. The most effective students we encounter at the Scholarship Resource Center are frequently on the search for new scholarship listings.
Habit 2: Stick to a Schedule.
The most successful scholarship applicants treat the process like a class or a research project: they set particular days and times each week to work on scholarships, whether searching for new ones or polishing an existing application. Even if that means only 1-2 hours per week, sticking to a scholarship schedule keeps you on top of deadlines and ensures a higher quality for your application than a last-minute binge strategy would.
Habit 3: Get Organized.
Keep a list of the scholarships that most interest you, whether as an Excel document or on a piece of paper. Be sure to record the key information about each one—the deadline and the requirements (essay, letter of recommendation, transcript, etc.). Keep your scholarship materials, especially your essays, together with that list, so that you will have them when needed. (Hint: make an appointment with us at the SRC, and we will provide you with a ready-made excel to keep track of your scholarship search!)
Habit 4: Know Your Teachers. When the time comes to request a letter of recommendation for a scholarship, the most effective applicants do not need to squirm about whether or not they should ask their TA or professor to write one, because they have already established relationships with TAs and professors by occasionally attending office hours to ask questions or advice (no need to stalk). They also give their recommenders plenty of time in advance of the deadline since they know how busy those TAs and professors are.
Habit 5: Read Applications Carefully. Most scholarship applications yield important insights into the kind of student the scholarship organizations want to award, if you read them carefully. Some will even describe the basis on which they will evaluate your essay(s). It is also a great idea to go beyond the application and do some research on the people and/or organization offering the scholarship. What are their backgrounds and interests? What is their mission? They are probably looking to award a student who complements those.
Habit 6: Seek Help.
Highly effective scholarship applicants are not islands unto themselves. They ask other people to read and critique their scholarship essays. At UCLA, they especially take advantage of the writing support on scholarship essays offered by the Scholarship Resource Center, and make appointments with staff members to help brainstorm for their essays and review drafts.
Habit 7: Keep Tinkering.
You can always improve your application and your profile. While it is a good idea to recycle scholarship essays to cut down on your workload, keep looking for improvements you can make to those old essays. If your community service record seems too minimal to apply for many scholarships, consider joining a student group that appeals to you and that is oriented toward community service.
2023-02-22 The Hidden Benefits of Applying for Scholarships
Wednesday, February 22, 2023
The Hidden Benefits of Applying for Scholarships
Applying for scholarships isn’t just about getting money to pay for your tuition, fees, and textbooks–or even about saving yourself thousands of dollars in student loan debt. In fact, there are many other good reasons to get into the scholarship game. For example:
Resume building–You can’t list a government grant as a personal achievement when you graduate, but you absolutely can and should list any scholarships you’ve won. Because winning scholarships is competitive and an indication that other organizations believe in you enough to send checks your way, potential employers are likely to be impressed.
Learning how to “market” yourself– Become your own PR consultant! Figuring out what to put on your resume, writing a personal statement, completing essay responses, participating in interviews, and completing scholarship applications provide invaluable practice in convincing others of your capabilities. This type of experience not only gives you a distinct advantage on the job market, but also benefits you in all kinds of everyday situations.
Honing your communication skills–Being able to communicate clearly, concisely, and effectively with others will help you in college, in your professional life, in your community activities, and in your personal relationships. Applying for scholarships is one of the best ways to keep your communication skills in top-notch shape.
Making connections–You’ve probably already heard that “networking”–connecting with the people you know and the people they know to help you accomplish a task–is one of the best ways to get a job, sell something, or start a business. It’s also one of the best ways to find out about scholarship opportunities. In addition to giving you a chance to explore the social resources you already have, applying for scholarships helps you to establish new relationships with people in the wider community. A scholarship committee, a donor, or even a fellow candidate could become a real help to you somewhere down the line. That’s one reason why it’s important to treat everyone you encounter with professionalism and respect. Don’t forget to send follow-up letters and thank-you notes whenever you make a new contact!
Developing your own projects and goals–Submitting scholarship materials can help you turn dreams into realities. Not only can you find plenty of organizations interested in hearing about your plans for new technologies, start-up companies, ground-breaking research, or non-profit organizations, but responding to scholarship questions will help you articulate your goals. There’s nothing like having to explain your work on paper or put together a presentation which helps you to clarify things and discover new ways to move forward.
Learning more about yourself--Submitting scholarship applications will help you reflect on your ideals, personality, background, and ambitions in a way that should give you a better sense of who you are and what you want to do with your life. The process also may help you to recognize opportunities for personal development. It might even help you discover talents and abilities you didn’t know you had.
Developing Self-Confidence–One of the most intimidating aspects of the scholarship process is making yourself and your accomplishments available to the scrutiny of others. Fortunately, the more you’re tested in this way, the better you get at it. Engaging in scholarship competitions can help give you the confidence you’ll need to put yourself forward in the future, when the stakes may be even higher. If you’re consistent (doing a little bit every week) and persistent (keeping at it even if you don’t win every time), it’s likely that you’ll start to see financial rewards or efforts. The abilities, plans, and connections you discover along the way may not be quite as tangible as the winnings, but they could be even more valuable in the long run. So don’t hesitate! Start or revamp your own scholarship search today–and remember that we’re ready to help you here at the SRC!
2023-02-15 Developing a Scholarship Portfolio
Wednesday, February 15, 2023
Developing a Scholarship Portfolio
How to Win Big-Time College Cash with Sound Investment Strategies
Financial advisers will tell you that you should make sure to diversify the assets in your investment portfolio. This insures that you get a good return on your investment over time and protects you from risk. For example, if you invest all your money in high-tech stocks, you may do well in certain years when that market is booming, but very poorly when it is not, bringing down your overall rate of return. Obviously, the more money you have to invest, the better, but these advisers will also tell you that even making small investments consistently over time can reap big rewards.
You might be surprised to learn that the same logic applies to making scholarship applications, but a successful scholarship search involves an investment—of time, attention, and hard work—in order to reap financial rewards. Just as when you’re building your financial portfolio, you must also consider numbers, consistency, and diversity in building a scholarship portfolio.
First, let’s talk about numbers. There are vast numbers of scholarships available—so many, in fact, that you could make your search into a part-time job! Most of us will not be able to devote that kind of time to finding and applying for funds, but you still should apply for as many scholarships as possible within the time you have available. You probably will find that it does not take that much more time to apply for 10 scholarships than for three, because your largest investment of application time probably will be in writing a solid personal statement or statement of purpose. Once you’ve got a statement you’re happy with, you will be able to “recycle” that statement by changing a few sentences or a paragraph here and there to fit the emphasis of each individual scholarship. The SRC is here to help you with this process: check our website for our “Writing Personal Statements” workshop times and feel free to make writing appointments with us if you’re feeling stumped.
Next, we should consider the value of consistency. Although you probably won’t be able to give 10 or 15 hours a week to your scholarship search, you almost certainly can find two or three hours to invest in the process, and those small chunks of time can result in big dividends. Once you’ve signed up for several free online scholarship databases like Unigo.com, Cappex.com, and Scholarships.com, make sure to dedicate at least 30 minutes each week to find out about any new opportunities that show up under your profile. You also should visit the SRC for short periods every once in a while to look through our extensive library of scholarship books.
Of course, you still need to set aside time to actually write and assemble your applications. A consistent investment of time helps here, too. If you draw up a schedule for yourself, noting down the due dates for your scholarships and then working backward to break the application tasks up over time, you’ll find that it’s much easier to finish without the stress of last-minute deadlines.
The value of consistency also becomes clear when looking at scholarship amounts. Many scholarship applicants choose not to apply for awards in smaller amounts of, say, $100 to $500. This is a big mistake! For one thing, consistently applying for less lucrative scholarships or contests can result in big money over time. And, since money tends to attract money, you may well find that winning smaller amounts helps you win larger awards. That’s because scholarship committees tend to see applicants who have won other awards as a “good risk” for their own investment. You should also realize that part of the value of a scholarship lies in the prestige you gain by having won it. That’s an intangible reward that could result in very tangible results—for example, when you’re applying for jobs!
Finally, let’s talk about diversifying your scholarship portfolio. This means applying for as many different types of awards as you can. Think outside the box here! Rather than simply confining yourself to “merit” or “financial-need” scholarships, take the time to brainstorm about your interests, activities, ambitions, and affiliations. You’d be surprised how many “specialty” scholarships are available for attributes ranging from being left-handed to having an interest in bowling. And don’t forget to apply to essay contests! Applying for as many different kinds of awards as possible will increase your chances of winning dramatically.
Using the principles of a sound investment strategy to help you find and apply for scholarships can really pay off. Playing the numbers to your advantage, making a consistent effort to find and take advantage of good opportunities, and maintaining a wide range of investments are all just as essential to a successful scholarship search as they are to a successful financial portfolio.
In fact, you can think of us as your very own “investment advisers.” If you’d like more help developing your scholarship portfolio, please attend one of the SRC’s “Secrets to Winning College Cash” workshops or make an appointment with us.
2023-02-08 Exploding Scholarship Myths
Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Exploding Scholarship Myths
Myth #1: You can’t get a scholarship if you don’t qualify for financial aid.
The private scholarship process is distinct from the financial aid application process. While there are some scholarships that list financial need as a requirement, there are others that will evaluate your application independently of any financial consideration. Search for merit-based scholarships, awards based on your community involvement or extracurricular interests, or even your (or a family member’s) affiliation with a particular company or organization.
Myth #2: Scholarships are only for minorities
False. There are scholarships for just about every population and special interest you can imagine. Never give yourself an excuse not to apply because you think there won’t be something for you. There are scholarships out there based on your interests, career goals, and volunteer work.
Myth #3: You need a 4.0 GPA
There are scholarships based on many criteria other than your grades, and some don’t list a minimum GPA requirement at all. Most students disregard essay scholarships, but these are unlikely to require a minimum GPA, and they are actually easier to apply to.
Myth #4: I should only apply for a scholarship that’ll get me a full ride
The majority of undergraduate scholarships we see listed range from approximately $500 to $5,000. It’s unlikely that you’ll find a “full-ride” scholarship. However, a couple of smaller scholarships can quickly add up to a significant amount of money. Even a small scholarship can help pay for books and reduce your loan debt. And always remember that any scholarship is an honor that you can list on your resume!
Myth #5: No one really wins, anyway
We work with scholarship winners every day! Many of them will be sharing their stories on our SRC Instagram. One thing is for sure: If you don’t apply, you won’t win.
2023-02-01 Eight Weeks to Scholarships?
Wednesday, February 1, 2023
8 Weeks to Scholarships?
Many SRC visitors seek statistics on their chances of winning a scholarship: for those who do not apply, the odds are 0%. However, a number of students who learn the scholarship process well often win awards in excess of their budgeted need. After someone wins their first scholarship, they become inspired to send off more applications. You can win scholarships and grants for the 2023-2024 school year, but you must start NOW. To help you, here’s a 8-week plan you can follow to meet upcoming scholarship deadlines.
Scholarship applications generally require:
- a personal statement
- resume, Curriculum Vitae (CV) or annotated CV
- academic transcripts
- one or more letters of recommendation, and
- Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and Financial Aid Budget.
Week 1, visit the SRC to learn about scholarship resources, both internal UCLA scholarships and external non-UCLA scholarships. You can make an appointment here or just drop-in at our office in Covel Commons 233.
Week 2, create a spreadsheet listing all the scholarships for which you plan to apply. Be sure to keep track of deadlines.
Week 3, draft your personal statement during. Be sure to include unique experiences from your life. Call the SRC at (310)206-2875 for writing assistance and proofreading.
Week 4, update your resume and Curriculum Vitae with specific dates, job details, awards, honors and activities. Make an appointment with an SRC counselor to review format, content, and grammar.
Week 5, contact at least 3 professors or advisors to request letters of recommendation. In your email, send them your personal statement, resume, and any other materials they may find useful for writing your letter. And make sure to specify when their letters are due.
Week 6, obtain and organize any other documents you may need, such as transcripts and financial aid documentation. If an application requires official transcripts, make sure to order those ahead of time through UCLA here. Remember that official transcripts must be sent directly to the scholarship purveyor.
Week 7, begin by applying to the scholarship with the closest deadline. Fill out the application, upload your documents, and hit send. At this p0int, congratulate yourself on applying to your first scholarship!
Week 8, update your documents to match the specific requirements of the next scholarship to which you’re applying. It gets easier from here on. At this point, you’ve already done most of the difficult work. Now, you are using the work you’ve already done to apply to the next scholarship and the next and the next…
If you find that you need an extra week or two to develop and refine your personal statement, resume, or Curriculum Vitae, then take the extra time. The point is to have a schedule with a set goal about when you will finish so that you have time to apply for scholarships. But always keep scholarships deadlines in mind! Our hope is that if you make yourself a plan with goals and deadlines, you will be more likely to follow through and apply. Best of luck to you!
2023-01-25 Creating Your Personalized Scholarship Search
Wednesday, January 25, 2023
Creating Your Personalized Scholarship Search
Most students who come into the Scholarship Resource Center start with a simple question: “Do you have a list of scholarships I can apply for?” In response, I usually swivel around in my chair and say, “this whole office is a list.”
Though many balk at the task of sorting through potential opportunities, we know that it is absolutely essential for students to develop individualized search strategies based on their own self-knowledge.
Here’s how to make a spreadsheet that will facilitate effective personal searches:
Set aside a chunk of time to answer questions about the following aspects of your background, short and long-term goals, and personal interests.
The answers to these questions will become search terms for your spreadsheet. Use each term to navigate institutional or university websites, find privately endowed community funds, and identify interesting essay contests.
Spend one hour experimenting online with each search term.
Goals while in your Degree Program
What is your major? What goals will you accomplish that are related to your course of study? Volunteering? Study abroad? What research topics most interest you?
It is up to you to navigate university bureaucracies and find opportunities to apply for funds to support your degree objectives. Your can start with your department, but there are hundreds of other centers, labs, institutes, student services, and academic communities that support your goals.
What communities do you care about? What communities care about you? What communities do you belong to?
Rather than focus on the nuances of your sense of identity, imagine communities who care about your experiences. This exercise will expand how you think about the role that your identity plays in a world of shared experiences, and allow you to connect with the missions of many organizations.
Based on your current course of study, what are five different career outcomes that you would enjoy?
What essential turning points, key experiences, or critical skills will you need in order to reach these goals? Do professional organizations fund students to achieve career-based goals in these fields?
Interests & Hobbies
Really go for it in this column. Rather than peruse the countless essay contests that exist on the Internet, make a list of the hobbies and interests that you’d most like to write an essay about. Then your search queries will look like this: “Essay contests about coffee…”
List the cities, regions, counties, and states with which you have meaningful or residential connections. When you start searching for organizations, the best place to start is where you’ve lived, where you went to high school, where you are currently based. Ideally, you’ll start asking questions like: “What organizations in LA care about something I care about?”
Project Based Goals
If someone gave you $15,000 for a community project, what would you put together? What are the components of a community mission that you care about? (Check out straussfoundation.org…)
Many organizations award funds to students based on project proposals. But these foundations usually have very specific mission statements. The best way for you to connect with an organization like this is to think about the kind of project you’d like to carry out in the first place.
By creating your own personalized list of search terms, you will have narrowed your scholarship search considerably and avoided the daunting task of searching through endless lists of scholarships that may not even interest you. The point is to find and apply for scholarships that are for you. And trust us–there is a scholarship out there with your name on it!
2023-01-18 What is Scholarship Eligibility?
Wednesday, January 18, 2023
What is Scholarship Eligibility?
“What do I have to do to get a scholarship?”
The SRC staff hears this question every day. Our answer is simple: “Meet the criteria, be yourself–and apply on time!”
Many students think that qualifying for scholarships involves two criteria: scholastic achievement or financial need. However, scholarship committees actually use a range of factors to determine award eligibility. Therefore, we at the SRC would like you scholarship seekers to expand your understanding about scholarship eligibility.
Private foundations, organizations, and individual donors use a number of criteria to consider students for scholarships, including, but not restricted to: hobbies, religion, career objectives, athletic ability, disabilities, gender, parental activities, race, heritage, marital status, military participation, work experience, and city, county, or state of legal residence. There are even organizations out there that offer scholarships to students who write the best argumentative or creative essay.
Please remember that no single resource contains all available scholarships. Apart from searching for scholarships on UCLA’s Academic Works site, you should also look at our SRC website and database, do Google searches, look through scholarship databases (here’s one!), and yes, find scholarship books.
Just know that whenever you use scholarship books as part of your search, you should always ensure that the books are current. Study how each resource organizes the contents. First, locate the index which usually appears at the back, but sometimes the front, of the book. Search for specialized indices with such tittles as Index by Applicant Characteristics or Quick Find Index. These indices often list scholarships that require more specialized criteria than just your area of study. Remember that books usually cross-reference scholarship listings in the index by scholarship number rather than the page.
And don’t be afraid to approach community organizations, especially those to which you belong, to discover whether these groups offer scholarships. If these organizations do not offer scholarships, inquire whether they might create such awards. After all, why shouldn’t YOU become the first annual recipient? Although the organization’s members might say, “Sorry, we do not offer a scholarship,” they might instead tell you, “we do not currently offer a scholarship, but are interested in offering one.”
Here’s the bottom line: learn to identify and thoroughly search resources, and you may find unique scholarship listings. Don’t automatically assume that you are ineligible for scholarships just because your family does not qualify for federal financial aid.
As Mark Kantrowitz, author of the Financial Aid Information Page, says: “some loans and scholarships are available regardless of need…There are several factors in addition to income that are used to determine your eligibility and there is no simple cut-off based on income.”
Although there are no guarantees in the scholarship world, you can be certain that if you don’t apply, you will not receive scholarships. So, get busy! Remember: Most private foundations’ and organizations’ deadlines fall between January and April of the current academic year.
2023-01-11 Who Actually Wins Scholarships Anyway?
Wednesday, January 11, 2023
“Who Actually Wins Scholarships Anyway?”
At the UCLA Scholarship Resource Center we commonly field this question, and it’s easy to see why. In most cases it takes a real commitment of time and effort in order to win scholarships, and students (understandably) want to know whether that will actually pay off.
Because there are so many types of scholarships, there is no single profile of a scholarship winner. And because of that diversity, it’s also difficult to provide absolute statistics or predictions. But one thing is clear: you don’t win scholarships by not applying!
The students who put in a regular effort and work with us routinely on multiple scholarship applications, and use our scholarship books, folders, handouts, and online resources to find those opportunities, have an outstanding record of success. From my personal experience, I can confidently assert that I have never worked with a student on at least five different scholarship applications who did not win at least one of them. I consider that to be the most important statistic: of the students who really invest their time and effort in the scholarship process (and work with us on it), the success rate is exceedingly high.
The key to the scholarship process, besides putting together the best possible presentation of yourself in the scholarship essay and other application materials, is to apply for as many scholarships as possible where you meet the eligibility criteria. Aiming at 15-20 applications in a year is a great goal, though even five to ten gives you an excellent chance. While one scholarship committee might pass on your application despite its excellence, for any number of reasons, if you have five, ten, 15, or 20 different scholarship committees reviewing your application, you have an exponentially better chance of winning.
Twenty applications sounds like a lot, but scholarship essays are often very similar (not to mention your letters of recommendation, transcripts, resumes, etc.), so your twentieth scholarship application happens much more easily and quickly than your first or second. Furthermore, applying for scholarships also allows you to develop materials and habits that will prove invaluable to you later in your applications to internships, graduate schools, and jobs.
In sum, the percentage of students who actually benefit from making a serious commitment to the scholarship process is: 100%.
2022-11-30 Get to Know the Scholarship Resource Center Workshops
Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Get to Know the Scholarship Resource Center Workshops
Whether you are a freshman, transfer student, or continuing student, there’s no time like the present to begin thinking about and planning your scholarship application process. But what does that mean? Where do you start? Where do you look for scholarships, and what are the supporting documents needed to apply? How can you put together an application that is compelling and polished? These are some questions you may have as you embark on the scholarship process.
We here at the Scholarship Resource Center can help you with all aspects of the process, from where to search, how to apply, and what to write in your scholarship personal statement. Every quarter, we offer a series of workshops focusing on salient scholarship topics: Secrets to Winning College Cash; How to Write Personal Statements for Scholarships; and, How to Get Letters of Recommendations. Each workshop usually runs about half an hour (personal statement workshops tend to run an hour) and are held on Zoom or in-person. If you want to follow-up with us, our center is located in Covel Commons 233 should you have further questions or are in need of further guidance.
Below is a brief overview and description of the workshops we offer.
- Secrets to Winning College Cash I— Offers an introduction to online scholarship databases and provides helpful tips and guidelines to maximize your scholarship search and applications.
- Secrets to Winning College Cash II–Covers the strategic process for conducting routine online searches and keeping track of deadlines and important information. By attending this workshop, you will receive an excel template with a list of curated UCLA and external scholarships.
- How to Write Personal Statements for Scholarships—Designed to help students write a compelling and well-written scholarship essay by reviewing the purpose and goal of this critical document. The workshop covers the dos and don’ts of essay writing, writing to the target audience, and some hands-on brainstorming activities.
- How to Get Letters of Recommendation for Scholarships—Offers key guidelines and tips for obtaining a strong letter of recommendation, including who to ask and how to ask; how to build a professional working relationship with your prospective letter writer; and what you can/should do to help your recommender write the best scholarship letter on your behalf.
2023-06-07 Frequently Asked Questions--Spring Edition!
Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Frequently Asked Questions—Spring Edition!
It’s that this time of year when we hear lots of questions— both from prospective students and from continuing UCLA students. So, here are some of the most common scholarship-related questions, with our answers.
Q: I didn’t get any scholarships from UCLA when I was accepted, can I still get scholarships at UCLA?
A: Many families and students are surprised when they don’t receive any merit-based scholarships with admission. But the truth is that a very small percentage of incoming UCLA students are awarded scholarships upon admission. Over 90% of incoming students come in without any merit-based awards!
But that doesn’t mean that students are not eligible for scholarships during their studies here. In fact, the campus has a lot of opportunities for students to apply for awards based on research, interests, career objectives, and community activities. The key is that anyone who wants to be considered for these scholarships has to identify them and apply for them.
Q: Can I get a scholarship if I don’t qualify for need?
Only one aspect of scholarship “eligibility” pertains to financial need. If you find a scholarship that requires need and you don’t qualify, that scholarship just isn’t for you! Move on and find another one.
Q: How much does my GPA matter for winning scholarships?
A: This really depends on the award-granting institution that created the scholarship in the first place. Many organizations have created scholarships that do not emphasize GPA, but instead care about community activities, career goals, student background, and non-academic achievements. Like “need,” GPA is an eligibility requirement that is different for every organization.
Q: Do you have a list of scholarships I can apply for?
A: We hear this question every day, and it is by far the hardest one to answer. Not only are there too many scholarships to put into a single list, but all of the students that we work with are incredibly different. So it’s impossible to generate a list of scholarships that we can give to anyone who asks this question.
The process of creating a list of scholarships that fit with your personality, interests, career goals, courses of study, and sense of community is likely the most time consuming part of the scholarship process. If you’re asking this question, then you’re at the beginning of a very long process!
Q: How long does it take to win a scholarship?
A: While the application process takes time on your part, it takes even longer for scholarship committees to process candidates, rank the top choices, select winners, establish contact, and disburse funds. We suggest that you start applying for scholarships 6 – 12 months before you expect any scholarship money to be disbursed.
Q: Do people actually win scholarships that they find online?
A: Yes. But you have to actually apply for them! This year students that we have worked with have already won $500,000 in scholarships.
Q: Every time I look for scholarships they’re never for me. Are scholarships only for minorities?
A: There are a lot of scholarships for under-represented students. But there are also a lot of scholarships that aren’t. The truth is that all of our students walk into the office and start by saying, “I can’t seem to find scholarships that are for me.”
What we have found is that most students don’t know how to develop search strategies that are specific to how they define themselves. If you feel that you’re only finding scholarships that are for other people, then you probably need to change the way that you are searching. Can you brainstorm 25 different ways to describe yourself? Use those search terms to look for scholarships!
Q: I heard that you can get a scholarship for anything, is that true?
A: Well, this is basically true.
Think about it this way: if you were to grow up one day and become a multi-millionaire, would you create a scholarship? If so, how would you identify the perfect scholarship candidate? You would probably narrow down the perfect candidate based on your own personal experiences, human connections, influential mentors, and passions. The people who give money to college students are individuals who have very personal reasons for wanting to support the education of a complete stranger. There is no way to predict or categorize the number of things that people care about. And for you, that’s actually a great thing. Your job is to figure out what you care about, and find someone else who cares about that too.
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