Many people think that scholarships are reserved for
students with perfect grades and high test scores or for
students with low income, but this is not true. In 1994,
nearly $200 billion was given away in scholarships from

private-sector funds. Private philanthropy is more active
than ever in the United States and there are now
scholarships for everyone. Over 90 percent of private
scholarships are not concerned with grades and 80 percent to
not ask for proof of income. In fact, most scholarship
questions deal with academic and personal background,
ethnicity, organizational affiliation and talents.
Your first step in financing your education should be filling out the application for government aid, called the FAFSA. You can pick up a FAFSA at any college office or
fill it out online. The government offers grants (money
that you do not have to pay back) and low interest loans
that are based on financial need. You should send in this
form as soon as you file your taxes, as applications are
processed in the order they are received and the money is
given to those who apply first.
You can never apply for too many scholarships, so the next place to go is your local library. In the reference section you will find books listing private organizations that offer scholarships, along with their addresses and contact information. Each organization has its own criteria that a student must meet to be considered for the scholarship that they offer. This criteria may include nearly anything, from the student’s course of study to grade point average to ethnicity.
There are also resources on the internet for searching for scholarships, but be wary of those who charge money for their services. They usually list the same scholarships you could find yourself and often sell students information about money that they do not qualify for.
Once you have the addresses of the organizations, you must write to them and request an application. The letter does not need to include any personal information. A
self-addressed stamped envelope is also much appreciated,
although not necessary, and it shows that you truly have an
interest in receiving the scholarship. Also, remember to
send your request well before the deadline. Below is a
template letter that you can copy and use.

Date

Scholarship Organization
Address
City, State Zip

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please send me an application and information about the
scholarship that you have. I have enclosed a self-addressed
stamped envelope for your convenience.

Sincerely,
Your Name

Most organizations require an essay, as some colleges do for admissions. This excerpt from the application material from University of California at Los Angeles is an excellent analysis of essays:

The essay is an important part of your

application for admission and for scholarships.
For these purposes, the University seeks
information that will distinguish you from other
applicants. You may wish, therefore, to write
about your experiences, achievements, and goals.
You might, for example, discuss an important life
experience and what you leaned from it. You might
also describe unusual circumstances, challenges,
or hardships you have faced. School activities
and experiences are also topics to discuss in your
essay but they do not need to be the focus.
Rather than listing activities, describe your
level of achievement in areas you have
pursued–including employment or volunteer
activities–and the personal qualities revealed by
the time and effort you have devoted to them.
Also, discuss your interest in your intended
field of study. If you have a disability, you may
also include a description of its impact on your
experiences, goals and aspirations.
The University seeks information about any
exceptional achievements such as activities,
honors, awards, employment or volunteer work that
demonstrate your motivation, achievement,
leadership and commitment.
Make sure your essay is neatly typed, is well
written, and does not contain grammatical errors
or misspelled words.

When you receive the applications for the scholarships set aside some time to fill them out. Use an ink pen and print clearly and neatly. Answer every question clearly and completely, focusing on your accomplishments and ambitions. Attach any extra items the application requires, such as a resume, SAT/ACT scores or letters of recommendation. Most of all, do not get discouraged if you do not get a scholarship, there are more than ever out there.

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