Guest post: Isabel Ara López
When deciding who to grant a scholarship to, scholarship evaluation boards have a lot of information to take into consideration. In some cases, the decision will be based on academic excellence (high grades, language skills, good overall academic skills and record) or on economic factors (low income, family difficulties).
In many cases, you are required to attach a scholarship application cover letter, in which you should explain why you are applying for this specific scholarship and how it could help you achieve your education and career objectives. This is one of the best tools you can use to make your scholarship application a success, together with the correct submission of any other required documents. Here are some tips on how to write a compelling scholarship application cover letter.
1. Explain why you’re a good match for the scholarship
The scholarship application cover letter is an opportunity to outline your main strengths from an educational and professional perspective, your plans for future career growth, why you would be suitable for this scholarship, and how you would benefit if selected. Make sure you cover all of these points, using specific examples where possible.
2. Establish a formal tone, use a clear structure and check spellings
The cover letter should be written in a formal tone, and have a clear, concise, structured flow. Each applicant should also make sure to check for and correct any accidental spelling or grammar mistakes. To make sure you submit a successful cover letter, ask another person, with an objective eye, to read it before sending. This will minimize the risk of any spelling or grammatical errors, and can also help you eliminate any information that is unclear, redundant or irrelevant to what you are asking for.
3. Match your cover letter to the context
There are various situations of scholarship applications in which you would be requested to attach a cover letter. You may, at the same time, be applying for admission to an institution or a program. Or you may be requesting a grant or scholarship to cover tuition fees or other costs for a program you have already been admitted to.
If your letter is intended for the initial case, you should start with a formal address and greeting, followed by a short paragraph presenting your academic skills, achievements and strengths. The following paragraph should explain the reasons you would need a scholarship to fund your studies. The third paragraph should talk about how the specific program, course or project you are applying for will help you achieve your objectives, and how you can contribute during your studies. Do not forget to close with a formal, polite farewell.
If the letter is requesting funding for a program you have already been accepted to, there are a few aspects you should consider. The introduction should be similar to the structure above, emphasizing your academic skills. In the second paragraph you should emphasize your financial condition, and the reasons why you need the funding. In a third paragraph you can explain your interest in studying at that specific institution and how much you will be able to benefit from it.
In such cases, the institution may actually provide you with guidelines for the information to be included in the scholarship application cover letter, such as income data, career background etc.
To conclude the scholarship application cover letter is meant to highlight your strengths, academic skills and goals, and you should ensure you fully communicate all of these in order to ensure your success.
Get more tips on how to write a winning scholarship essay here.
You can browse our various scholarship listings here, and QS also offers its own scholarships.
Isabel Ara López is a Spanish journalist, graduate of the University of Navarra in 2002, and currently working with the team at BecasEstudio, a website dedicated to providing information about scholarships for bachelor’s, master’s and MBA programs. The portal also provides information on how to apply for scholarships, how to improve your studies,and how to prepare for job interviews after graduation.
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Scholarship Applications that Win!
Tip #1 – ATTENTION TO DEADLINES
Try and have your application arrive EARLY as possible, absolutely not after the deadline date! Send applications with a “return receipt requested” or “registered” to make sure they get there. This also conveys a positive characteristic about the sender.
Tip #2 – START YOUR APPLICATION WITH A “THANK YOU” COVER LETTER
Sample Cover Letter:
1111 Gator Street
Gainesville, FL 32608
24 September 2000
Mary Smith, President
Delta Scholarship Committee
Orlando Central Parkway
Orlando, FL 33412
Dear Ms. Smith,
This letter is an introduction of myself,
(your name), and my desire to participate
in the (whatever it is called) Scholarship
Program. I have been accepted to
(Name of your College) for the 2001 fall term.
I would like to thank you and the (whatever)
Scholarship Committee for supporting
college bound students with an opportunity
for financial assistance through your scholarship
program. Enclosed you will find my application
form, academic transcript, (MCAT, GRE) results,
letters of recommendation, and other pertinent
Again, thank you for your interest on my behalf
and for the young people of our state.
Tip #3 – ANSWER THE “MAIL”
While this seems obvious, you must construct your application to make it EASY for the committee to see that you have provided everything that was required. Provide items in the order that they are listed in the application. If possible, do not mix items on the same page. You can add extra items that were not requested to give your application that something extra. However, DO NOT add extra items if you are specifically told not to add anything extra. This means that you can not follow directions if you add items when your are forbidden to do so.
Tip #4 – ADD EXTRA ITEMS TO YOUR APPLICATION (if not forbidden).
This is where you get to be creative to find ways and things that present you in a positive light to the selection committee. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Write a short essay on MY EDUCATION/CAREER GOALS. Try to keep to one page.
- Write a paragraph or two on how this award will help you reach your education/career goals.
- If you have any documentation congratulating you on being in the top 10% of your class, include it because it puts you in a “positive light” and your hard work at your academics was recognized.
- If a male registered for the military draft as required when they reach the age of 18, before he reached his 18th birthday, he should have received a letter from the draft board congratulating him for doing his civic duty prior to his 18th birthday. Include this as one of your “extra items”. Alot of scholarship committee members have military backgrounds or see this as good citizenship for the applicant.
- One of the best extra items is a letter of acceptance for admission to “any” college. If the scholarship application is not for a specific college, you will be able to use the award at “any” college. Later you can get more college acceptance letters and when your make your selection you can notify the scholarship award committee of where to send the award. Therefore, any letter of acceptance shows that your are serious but it does not “lock” you into using the award at that college.
- These are just a few examples to get you thinking. Limit your extras to three or four at the most. Too many and you “sour” your application. Again, MAKE SURE you are not forbidden to add extra items before you do so.
Be creative to find things that make you look good and share them with the committee.
Tip #5 – PERSONALIZE LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION
This is a tip that conveys you took the time to make this application special. When you have a letter of recommendation addressed to the specific organization or person that is administering the application process it says that you took the time and effort to make this letter “Special” for them. If all you have is a letter that starts “To Whom It May Concern”, it is better than nothing. But if you can personalize the letter it says you cared to send the very best.
- SUB TIP #5a – Offer to do the work for the writer of your letter of recommendation. For example, you want to apply to twenty scholarship programs. When you ask someone to write you “1” letter of recommendation they say sure. When you say you need twenty letters they say “sorry” I don’t have the time. Once they write you one letter, ask if you can put it on the computer so the TO ADDRESSEE can be personalized for each application and your writer only has to “sign their name twenty times”. Now your writer is happy to help you because you have done the work and make it easy for them to help you. If they have nice letter head, ask for blank copies to be used in this process.
- SUB TIP #5b – This is an “ADD EXTRA ITEM/s” when the application does not require a letter of recommendation.
- SUB TIP #5c – Try and get three to five letters of recommendation in your files. This will let you pick and choose which one or ones to send in for a specific application. Never send more than three for an application unless the directions ask for more.
TIP #6 – PROOF READ ALL MATERIALS. NEATNESS IS A MUST.
When you write anything you must use correct grammar and spelling. If you have a problem in this area ask your English teacher to help you with proofreading your essay, cover letter, extra items you have included, and even letters of recommendation prepared by others. When there are hundreds or thousands of applications to review, correctness and neatness become the first screen out factor. Only when the “pile” is smaller does the content of your application start to become a factor in the selection process.
TIP # 7 – SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION IN A CLEAR PLASTIC FOLDER
Now that your application is complete, the final “presentation” tip is to place all of your items in a clear plastic folder, with a slide locking binder. The cheap clear ones are good so that your “Thank You Cover Letter” (Tip #2) is on top. For that final “touch” include a wallet size picture of you in the lower left side of your packet. The next item/s in you application packet are those required in the application (Tip #3 Answer the mail). Next, any extra items (if not forbidden) and finally any letter(s) of recommendations.
If “extras” are forbidden, you should consider NOT using a plastic folder, however, this can be a judgment call on your part. Read the application carefully again regarding extras. Some judges feel the plastic folders “give them more work” (to remove the applications from the plastic folder) while others have no problem with it, even though they may forbid extras.
Your application packet is a great looking presentation of YOU, don’t mess it up by folding it to fit a small envelope. Use an 8X10 type envelope so your application arrives looking great. Consider sending it “Return Receipt Requested” so you know it arrived!
Thanks to Bill Reynolds for supplying these tips!