College & Career Training in Alaska

Do you know someone who makes $500 per hour?  That could happen with a scholarship application.  It is worth the time it takes to pay close attention to the application instructions, the details of the application form itself, and the supporting documents required for the scholarship. 

Here are some tips to help you stand out in a stack of scholarship applications.

Start with Your Résumé

List your skills, lessons learned, activities, volunteer/paid work experiences, and the educational opportunities.  Gather documents such as transcripts and course syllabi, certificates, awards, and job descriptions.  These documents will help you with dates and the proper names of organizations, but they will also help you with the wording your skills and duties.  The Skills & Abilities page of each Occupation listed on https://acpe.alaska.gov/PLANNING/AKCIS can help you describe the work you have done, your responsibilities, and your accomplishments.

Warehousing your experiences and achievements in the AKCIS Résumé Creator now will make formatting the best possible picture of you just a few clicks of the mouse away. 

Next step: Writing

No matter what type of scholarship activity you are asked to complete – essay, photography, design - there will be writing involved.  Brainstorming will help you focus on the message you want to impress upon the scholarship committee.  Include examples of lessons you have learned (not just subjects, and not only in school) such as:

  • Leadership –Did you lead a team, club, scouts, group, or community organization?  What was the result?  What did you learn and what did you get out of the experience – positive or negative?
  • Motivation – Why did you set out to participate, what were your reasons?
  • Grit – How did/do you show strength, confidence, and determination? How do you persevere?
  • Goals – What are your short-term and long-term goals?  What do you want to accomplish – personally, financially, academically, and occupationally?

How are you going to demonstrate these ideas?  Are you going to write creatively, create a video, design a space or plan, capture a scene, are you going to inform?  What kind of story will you tell? What approach do you want to take?  Making these decisions early in the process will help with the flow of information.

Give Yourself Time to Revise

Take time to create your answer to the scholarship application writing prompt or activity.  Start early.  Give yourself time to share your proposed entry with people you trust. 

  1. Start by sharing your entry with your friends.
    1. Does it keep their interest? 
    2. Do they see the relevance?
    3. Is the concept you were trying for coming through?
  2. Next, share your entry with your family.
    1. Does it sound like you?
    2. Can they hear or see “YOU” in the entry?
  3. Finally, share your entry with your counselor or teacher.
    1. Is the formatting correct?
    2. Are there suggestions for clarity in your message?

School counselors s scoff as I start to describe this process to students like you.  However, they are happy when they hear me explain that every scholarship entry has to:

  • keep your friend’s interest, as well as the scholarship committee’s,
  • sound like you, or there will be a disconnect between the application, entry, and interview that will lead to the committee choosing someone else, and
  • be free from errors, whether they are spelling, grammar, or context, in order to be taken seriously by the scholarship committee

Watch The Fine Points

When you are preparing your scholarship application package for submission, check off each part of the requirements – transcripts (official/unofficial), recommendations (letters/phone contact), and deadlines.  Ensure you will make it through the screening process to the committee so all of the experiences, planning and prepping can paint the best possible picture of your possibilities.

Stand Out

It is scholarship season!  With approximately 3.5 million students expected to graduate from high school during the 2019-2020 school year according to the National Center for Education Statistics, how are you going to stand out to the scholarship committees?

Life can be hectic, but it’s important to stay on top of your applications.  Use the AKCIS Application Tracker to log scholarships you have applied for, which have essays and what draft you are on, which you have been awarded and how much, and notes about who to contact for follow up.  This is a great place to keep track of those renewal scholarships too – the ones you can get year after year.

About the Author

Julia Renfro

Julia Renfro

AKCIS Partnership Coordinator


A military BRAT turned military spouse, Julia likes traveling and meeting new people. Using Personal Learning & Career Plans (PLCPs), she works with students and families to plan futures that will help them enjoy life and their communities.



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