Less-Competitive Scholarships

Less competitive scholarships are not the same as easy scholarships.

An easy scholarship may have no essay and a short application form. But scholarships that are easy to enter may be harder to win because they are less selective. Promotional scholarships, for example, may have minimal eligibility restrictions to maximize the exposure received by the scholarship sponsor. Often the winner is selected through a random drawing. But this also means that more students will match the scholarship, increasing the competition for the award.

For example, some Dunkin Donuts franchises offer scholarships to students in their local community. Since most people like donuts, there may be more students applying for this scholarship than students competing for the local PTA scholarship. The Common Knowledge Scholarship Foundation offers scholarships are easy to enter because they do not require essays, applications or a minimum grade point average (GPA), just answering a few quiz questions. Though only the best students will win, because the scholarship sponsor does not have enough money to recognize every qualified applicant.

On the other hand, some scholarships may be easier to win because there is less competition. For example, students don’t seem to like scholarships that require an essay or where the top prize is less than $1,000, so fewer students enter these competitions.

It is worthwhile to apply for scholarships with small award amounts because every dollar the student wins in scholarships is a dollar less borrowed. Every dollar borrowed will cost about two dollars by the time the debt is repaid. So, effectively, a scholarship may be worth twice the nominal award amount. Moreover, spending an hour applying for a $500 scholarship where the student has a 1 in 10 chance of winning is the equivalent of earning $50 an hour, a higher rate of pay than most students can earn. The small scholarships add up. They also add lines to the student’s resume that may make it easier for the student to win bigger scholarships. Winning a scholarship is a vote of confidence, where the scholarship provider thought highly enough of the student to invest their money in the student’s future.

Students seem to avoid essay competitions because they find it difficult to write an essay. But there’s a simple tip that can make writing an essay much easier. Instead of writing the answer, answer the essay question out loud, while recording the answer. Then transcribe the recording, adding structure to the response. This technique works well because people speak at about 200 words per minute, while they write or type at about 30-60 words per minute. The act of writing interferes with the flow of thought. Responding to an essay question orally will also yield a more passionate essay. It may be possible to reuse this essay on multiple scholarship applications with only slight tweaks to the essay.

Scholarships with more restrictive selection criteria may narrow the pool of qualified students. These may include scholarships with geographic restrictions or which are limited to students at a particular school. These may also include scholarships with numerous eligibility restrictions, such as the student’s age, GPA, disability and field of study and restrictions on the parent’s employer or activities. For example, the Tylenol Future Care Scholarship limits eligibility to students pursuing careers in healthcare. The Chief Manuelito Scholarship for High School Graduates is restricted to Navajo high school graduates who have a 3.0 GPA or 21 ACT score. The Society of Petroleum Engineers sponsors the Gus Archie Scholarship Program for students who plan on pursuing a degree in petroleum engineering. The (ISC)2 Foundation sponsors scholarships for women pursuing degrees in information security. Fewer students will qualify for these scholarships.

Students should apply for every scholarship for which they are eligible, regardless of whether it is easy or difficult, popular or unpopular, competitive or less competitive. There is an element of luck, not just skill, in who wins scholarships. Applying for more scholarships increases the odds of winning a scholarship. The students who win a gazillion dollars in scholarships are precisely the ones who enter as many scholarships as possible.

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