Here are some “do’s and don’ts”: the basics of the application process.
- Do what is asked of you exactly.
- Follow up to make sure required materials are not just requested but received.
- If there is an item you can’t supply, be sure to include a separate explanatory statement.
- If your application is not absolutely complete you won’t make it past the first gatekeeper, and the selection committee will never see it.
- Meet the deadline; there are no workarounds if you do not.
- Getting something, anything, on the computer can be the hardest part.
- Stream thoughts from your brain onto the page without judging or filtering.
- On your first draft or two, don’t think about how many pages, words or characters you are allowed. Just write anything you think could or should be part of your answer/discussion, no matter how long.
Be absolutely honest
- Don’t overstate accomplishments, claim credit for what should be shared, etc.
- Don’t propose a study and career plan only to conform to this scholarship. Scholarship readers are good at spotting this!
It’s okay to toot your own horn
(In fact, it’s mandatory!)
- What may feel like “bragging” is a part of building your case. Where it fits, mention awards, accomplishments, involvement, or even valued compliments—these facts are evidence that you are the right kind of person with the right kind of goals to meet the scholarship’s criteria.
- You are the central character of the application, so you need to highlight your individual contributions to organizations or your communities. Use “I did something” rather than “we did.” This may seem awkward, but reviewers will not understand what you have done if you don’t explicitly tell them.
- Boastful writing tends to rely on excessive adverbs and adjectives, while non-boastful writing will use strong verbs and specifics. An example of boastful/non-boastful writing is: “I am the absolute best candidate ever because of my amazing and unparalleled success in NAU’s speed car-washing club,“ versus “As a member of NAU’s speed car-washing club, I devised a more efficient method for washing windshields. As a result, our team has reduced our overall time by 20 percent.”
- Write to the organization’s criteria for selection. Think strategically as you choose your words, anecdotes, and examples.
- Whatever the criteria for selection, your application as a whole should demonstrate that you have ALL of these attributes.
- Use every essay/answer to demonstrate one or more facets of how you meet the criteria.
- Make your answers work for you on all possible levels.
Don’t quit halfway!
If you have read everything you can get your hands on about this scholarship, and you truly believe you are the kind of person the organization wants to fund, then:
- Don’t get busy and decide the pressures of the moment are more important than your future, and
- Don’t second-guess the selection committee and decide for them that you’ll never get it.
- Seeking feedback from one or more knowledgeable people in your discipline before submitting your application is not only allowed, but encouraged by most funding organizations. Prepare your application early to have plenty of time to rewrite in response to feedback.
- Also ask friends, parents, or others you respect to weigh in on the application.
- Don’t hesitate to contact the writing center to help you with punctuation, grammar, style, organization, or content gaps if needed.
- The scholarship coordinator is available for additional advice on national or international scholarships/fellowships. If you plan to apply for a scholarship requiring NAU nomination, be sure to notify and work with the scholarship coordinator or other designated NAU representative from the beginning.
Play it safe
- Back up your files frequently.
- Work in Word, save a copy of your polished answer or essay as a Plain Text (.txt) file, then cut and paste into your online application. The .txt version gets rid of a lot of extraneous code that might show up poorly in scholarship application systems. By working in Word or something similar, you avoid the risk of not saving often enough on the application form itself and losing your work.
- Keep a copy of all your major drafts, especially your final application and essays.
- Don’t push the deadline. Allow time for the website application system to be overcrowded or crash as the deadline approaches, mail or FedEx to run late due to a hurricane, or the scholarship coordinator to catch last-minute typos. Plan to have everything done a week in advance.