How to make the best of scholarship season

Alexis Tatum

Spring means warm weather, flowers and yearly scholarship applications. Numerous students miss out on opportunities they never knew were available. The Daily Texan has compiled some of the best ways to ensure success this season.

Master the reference letter.

Reference letters are extremely important because they offer a voice, other than your own, promoting you as a worthwhile candidate. There’s a few things to remember when obtaining one for an application. First, try to avoid getting family and close personal friends to write on your behalf. It doesn’t help to hear that your cousin or your best friend thinks you’re great. Instead, ask your professors, teaching assistants, employers and other professionals in your life to give you a solid letter of recommendation. Additionally, it’s important to get to know your reference contact and make sure they recognize you early on — no one wants to write a reference letter for someone they barely know or have spoken to. Finally, make sure to ask for your letter early and give the person a lot of time to write a polished, informative letter on your behalf.

Be honest in your personal essay.

The personal essay can be daunting, but it can often boost an applicant’s chances if it’s done well. Don’t be generic, and tell your reader that you want to somehow change the world with your scholarship. Most students make the mistake of writing unclear ideas about how they will go on to ‘change the world’ or ‘make a difference’ if they earn a scholarship. Instead, explain your career aspirations. Be honest about why you chose them. Transparency, rather than regurgitation of improbable or false expectations, will make you stand out much more as an applicant.

Apply for everything you qualify for — and even some things you don’t.

Applying for multiple scholarships raises your chances of earning, so seek out several scholarships and apply to all you can. The process of searching can be tedious, but it is worthwhile to earn the financial assistance you need. If you believe that you’re a good candidate for a scholarship you don’t meet every requirement for, apply to that too.

Remember, the worst thing that can happen is being told no. Start EARLY.

One common mistake applicants make is not starting scholarship applications immediately. Don’t waste time! Starting your applications early will ensure that you have plenty of time be articulate, gather all your materials and double-check all of your work. Getting an early start is also helpful to the person writing a reference letter on your behalf. By requesting your reference letter early, you’ll be more likely to get it.

Use your UT resources and counselors!

UT offers departmental, merit based and need-based scholarships every year. You can often find these scholarships through the MyUT web portal and the university’s main website. These scholarships are especially important to apply for because they are specialized for Longhorns. There’s a multitude of services right on campus to help you get started. Contact the academic advisor for your major to start your search!