10 Most Common Scholarship Application Mistakes

By Lorena Roberts on March 27, 2017

We have all been where you are right now. Some of us have needed a few hundred dollars. Others of us have needed a few thousand. Regardless, applying for scholarships is tough, time-consuming, and tiresome.

Most people don’t put in the work it takes to actually receive a scholarship. Others try their hardest and happen to not win any money. To give you your best shot at receiving some scholarship money, here are 10 common scholarship application pitfalls to check yourself for.

1. Not following directions

If you had thousands of dollars to give away, would you pick the kid who can’t follow the directions? Absolutely not. If it says to send the application in a specific order, with components that you might have to lift a finger to get, by golly you better do what it says, or don’t even waste your time applying. 

Better yet, don’t waste the scholarship committee’s time by submitting something that isn’t even correct. Your chances are slim to none if the easiest part of the application isn’t completed correctly, regardless of how great your essay is.


2. Reusing essays (when the prompts don’t match)

People will advise you to “reuse your essays!” Sure. I’m all for it. But don’t reuse an essay if the prompts don’t match.

The scholarship committee will be able to tell that you pulled it from another application. That’s not a good look for you. If you’re going to be lazy about it, copy and paste parts of previous essays into your current one. Reusing the entire thing when the prompts don’t align is just plain silly. Don’t do that to yourself.

3. Not applying for enough scholarships

Let’s be real: the chances of you getting a scholarship aren’t in your favor — you’ve got to work for it. If you only apply for one or two scholarships, I doubt you’re going to be happy with the results.

4. Relying on good grades alone

Sure, a strong GPA makes you a good candidate for a scholarship, but grades aren’t everything. You shouldn’t bank on your grades enabling you to snag a scholarship without putting in the work to prove you’re a good applicant.

5. Forgetting to proofread

Seriously? Don’t waste some poor person’s time with having to read your application when you haven’t proofread your work. Homophones, spelling, run-on sentences, etc. are all things you should be checking for before you hit the “submit” button. Don’t be that person.

6. Sending in an incomplete application

How do you expect to receive a scholarship without turning in a complete application? They ask for the things they want because that’s how they feel they will be able to make an informed decision about you. They might think you’re a strong applicant, except that you didn’t send the last three components that were on the list. I wonder why, they’ll ponder. And then they’ll throw you in the “no” pile because you (go back to #1) can’t follow directions. 

7. Not being authentic

If you aren’t going to get a scholarship based on who you are, you definitely aren’t going to get one based on you trying to be somebody you’re not. Sure, this is a time to sell yourself to the committee, but it’s not the time to make up a bunch of stuff you didn’t actually do.

8. Turning it in late

Some scholarships will close your ability to submit an application at the deadline. Others will simply state when the deadline is. Don’t be the person who turns something in late. You will not get the scholarship. Don’t do it. Start early (see #9) and get it done on time. If there are extenuating circumstances, well, that’s what the “contact us” button is for.

9. Waiting until the last minute

You won’t do your best work. You won’t feel confident in your application. You’ll rush through answering the essay. You won’t have all the components of the application.

In short, you’ll violate many of the stipulations on this list. Get started early and ensure you will have ample amounts of time to complete your application.

10. Never spend money applying for a scholarship

Applying to a school costs money. Applying for a scholarship should not. Just remember the phrase, “don’t spend money to get money.” It doesn’t make much sense for a scholarship to be awarded when everyone who’s applied also paid $50 in “application fees,” now does it?

Lorena graduated from The University of Tennessee in Knoxville last December with a BA in Honors Psychology. After some serious soul-searching, she's decided to pursue a Master's in teaching in order to teach middle school math! In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her Whippet mix, Gio, at the dog park and binge watching Netflix with endless cups of Hot Cocoa.

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