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The Basics

5 steps to landing that scholarship

Well, studying helps, but here are additional ways high school students can improve their prospects for financial aid.

By MarketWatch

High school students: Are you applying for one of the thousands of scholarships available to help fund your college education? Then follow these tips, provided by Mark Kantrowitz, the director of advanced projects at FastWeb.com, for maximizing your chances of getting one of those checks in the mail:

(1) Apply to everything you can. "You can't win if you don't apply," says Kantrowitz. "If your odds of winning an individual scholarship are pretty small, the more you apply to for which you qualify, the greater chance you have of winning.

"It usually doesn't take a lot of effort to apply to multiple scholarships; you can reuse essays. You'll find there's an awful lot of overlap in scholarship programs in terms of the questions they ask. The first time you write an essay, it takes a lot of effort, but the next time you can just polish, tweak and slant it to that application."

So don't let fear or procrastination get the better of you -- send that application in.

(2) Apply only for scholarships you're qualified for. Don't send out applications for ones where you don't meet the basic criteria.

"Most of these awards receive far more qualified applicants than they have awards available," says Kantrowitz, so save yourself some time by reviewing the minimum requirements and making sure you are eligible.

(3) In essays, always include concrete examples. "If you write something very abstract, like 'I'm a leader,' they're not going to take your word for it. They want to see a way in which you demonstrated your leadership ability."

(4) Dress for success. "You wouldn't believe how many students go to an interview in T-shirts and jeans," says Kantrowitz. Wear a suit or other business attire instead.

(5) Make sure you get good letters of recommendation. If you ask a teacher or an adult you know to write a letter of recommendation, "many will write it even if they don't think you're the best person." So when you make the request, ask if they can write you a good letter.

"They will probably give you an honest answer," says Kantrowitz. And make sure the person writing the letter can write well and is able to discuss what is relevant to the scholarship for which you are applying.

This article was reported and written by Marshall Loeb for MarketWatch.

Published June 20, 2007

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