Southwestern College

We want to help you succeed in your application for scholarship and have some great, new resources to make the process a little easier. Please see the tabs at the left - or click on the links - for the following: 

10 Tips for Applicants - Great tips for ensuring your application is as strong and comprehensive as possible.

Guidelines for Letters of Recommendation - Ways to ensure the letters of recommendation you receive

Essay/Personal Statement Writing Tips - Ways to improve your essay/person statement

Frequently Asked Questions - A list of the most commonly asked questions about scholarships and the scholarship application process

10 Tips for Applicants

Identify and Meet the sponsor’s goals. Who wins scholarships?  The student who best meets the sponsor’s formal and informal requirements.  Therefore, to win a scholarship, you need to meet a sponsor’s goals.  As simple as this may seem, many students simply meet the sponsor’s minimal requirements and hope for the best.  Do not do this!  Read through all the scholarship information watching for details and clues about what the sponsor’s formal and informal requirements.  By meeting the sponsor’s goals you increase you chance of winning exponentially!

Participate in extracurricular activities. Surprisingly, most scholarship committees do not simply choose the student with the highest grade point average (GPA) or SAT score.  Instead, most scholarships are equally interested in a student’s extracurricular activities.  Is he/she involved in the community?  Does he/she have an after-school job?  Did he/she start his own business?  What hobbies does he/she have?  The scholarship coordinators are interested in giving the award to the person they consider the most well-rounded student.  Grades are important, but they are only part of the story.  Therefore, it is to your advantage to participate in extracurricular activities.  Join 4-H.  Volunteer at your local library.  Start a business.  Find a hobby.  All these activities will help make you stand out to scholarship sponsors.

Watch the deadline. We will never know how much scholarship money is lost simply because the applicant missed the deadline.  When students are applying to many scholarships at once it is easy to confuse the deadlines and send the applications on the wrong date.  To avoid this danger, students should keep a calendar either on paper or online.  On your calendar, write the name of each scholarship in red on its deadline, and in black one week before the deadline.  Try to get scholarship applications in before the black (early) deadline but make sure that you get it in before the red (final) deadline.

Proofread your application one more time. How can you increase your chance of winning in under 5 minutes? By proofreading your application.  Most scholarship committees do not even consider scholarship applications that have major blunders.  Did you get your address right?  Did you get the scholarship name right?  What about the coordinator’s name?  Once you have verified the information on the application, read through you essay once more.  Are there any major spelling errors?  What about grammar errors?  Is the header of the essay formatted correctly?  Simply spending a little more time proofing your work can vastly increase your chance of winning.

Search, Search, SEARCH! Persistence is the key to getting a scholarship.  Finding good scholarships is often a difficult job.  The harder a time you have finding a scholarship; the less competition you will have!  So, keep on looking and eventually you should get a scholarship.

Organize your surroundings and your time. Keeping organized is one of the most important habits all college students should develop.  It helps with study time.  It helps with scholarships. When your surroundings are organized, is easy to concentrate on your application.  On the other hand, when your surroundings are disordered, it is easy to get distracted or loose important papers.  Organizing your time is equally important.  When your time is well-scheduled, you can reduce “dead time” and meet your deadlines.  However, when your time is not ordered, it is easy to miss important deadlines or schedule two things for the same time.  Keep organized!

Watch for scholarship scams. Sadly, there are many scam artists who try to make money off gullible students.  College scholars lose millions of dollars every year to these scholarship scams!  That is the bad news.  Now, here is the good news – most scholarship scams are easily recognizable … if you know the signs.  The cardinal rule of scholarship scams is: “If it takes money to get money, it is probably a scam.”  After all, aren’t scholarship sponsors supposed to be giving you money?  Strictly following this rule will help you escape most scams, but some scams are not so easily caught.  Certain scholarship scams do not ask for money.  Instead, they request personal information, so they can commit identity theft or other crimes!  For more information on avoiding scholarship scams read my post on the “23 Warning Signs of Scholarship Scams“.

Write an Accomplishments Resume. Often when writing scholarships, it is difficult to remember some important piece of information.  The date that you started work at a certain job.  Or what your boss said about your work.  Looking for this information can break your concentration, lower your writing quality, and decrease your chance of winning the scholarship.  Before you start applying for scholarships, write an accomplishment resume.  On this resume include all the important information such as dates, a summary of your work, and recommendations. 

Use concrete examples in essays. If the scholarship requires that you write an essay (and most do), don’t simply use abstract information – use concrete examples.  For example, instead of writing an abstract essay about volunteering in college, write about your experiences while volunteering.  This is an excellent time to use your accomplishments resume.  Scholarship sponsors want to hear about you and your experiences, not about some abstract topic.

Double check the eligibility requirements. Does the scholarship require demonstrated need?  What about full-time enrollment?  Or a minimum GPA?  Double checking the eligibility requirements will save you time spent in writing unnecessary scholarship applications.

Guidelines for Letters of Recommendation

  • Select two (2) persons from which to request letters of recommendations.

  • At least one (1) of the letters must be from a SWC Faculty, Administrator, or Classified Professional. 

  • Ask the letter writers in advance if they agree to write the letters of recommendation for you, as they will receive a system email once you have entered their information on the application. The email to the writers will have a link for them to follow to upload the letters electronically to your scholarship application.  Paper copies will NOT be accepted.

  • Write down each writer's name and email addresses, which you will enter in the “References” section of the application to generate the emails to the two (2) writers.

  • Specify to the writers the deadline date of:  11:59pm on February 26, 2015 to upload the letters electronically.
  • Two (2) letters of recommendation are required. Your application will not be considered if it is incomplete and it will be incomplete if it is missing a letter of recommendation.

  • The email the writers receive, requests that the following topics to be addressed in their letter: 

    Why they believe you (the applicant) should be awarded a scholarship;

    Any specific challenges/obstacles that they may be aware of that you (the applicant) have encountered while in college (ie: illness, financial hardship, etc.)

    Your (the applicant’s) motivation and ability to complete your educational goals;

    How long they have they known you (the applicant) and their relationship to you (the applicant);

    Any other pertinent information they would like the scholarship committee to consider.

    If your letter writers are not very familiar with your situation, educational goals, etc., you may want to give them a copy of your personal statement to guide them.

Essay/Personal Statement Writing Tips


The essay is not an autobiography. It is not a copy of your latest English paper. It is not a sample of your “writing style”. It isnot something you pay someone else to do for you.


The essay is an opportunity for you to say important and wonderful things about you that are not covered in the application itself. It can be humorous, serious, or dramatic, but it can be only two pages long (or within the number or words or characters indicated). It is one of many factors in deciding whether or not you receive a scholarship.

Your essay should help give a more complete picture of you, including your strengths and special talents. There is no right way or wrong way to present yourself, but your essay should be organized and pleasant to read.

The essay should tell:

  • Who you were (a little background about things that contributed to your development; people who made you who you are today.)
  • Who you are (how you perceive yourself now, how you think, about things that are valuable to you, what things you have learned about yourself, what things you consider critical.)
  • And, who you want to be (your future plans, how you think you are going to achieve them, and what you think you will accomplish.)

If you are drawing a blank on how to organize the material about yourself, the following may be helpful: Do NOT use this as the gospel-truth about writing the essay, if you have a better idea, use your own idea.

FIRST PARAGRAPH: Personal background; Introduce yourself; briefly describe your academic and professional goals, citing factors that helped you define these goals.

SECOND PARAGRAPH:  Why are you qualified for these scholarships.

THIRD PARAGRAPH: Activities and awards. Although you may have listed these in the application, were there reasons why some of these were more important than others? Were some harder to get than others? How have these activities and awards influenced you?

FOURTH PARAGRAPH: College aspirations. Discuss why you want to attend college; why is an education so valuable to you?

FIFTH PARAGRAPH: Career aspirations. What do you want to do when you graduate? How did you make this choice? Do you have a major in mind to achieve this goal? Are there special areas of humanity that you would like to explore?

SIXTH PARAGRAPH: Conclusion. Summarize your educational goals. Include any special circumstances that the Scholarship Committee needs to know to make a good decision.

It IS to your advantage to submit a thoughtful, well-organized, concise and grammatically correct essay that conveys your interests, experiences, personality, and future goals.


Before you can begin writing an essay, you need to collect (and recollect real data about yourself to jot down, notes about who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and where you are headed. Aside from its value for scholarship essays, this kind of self-assessment can be personally satisfying and enlightening.  It can also help you be articulate in interviews.

To help put your thoughts into words, try the suggestion listed below. Work with as many ideas as you want in any order or length that you feel gives you the information you need.

List all your activities, including (1) school activities; (2) community services; (3) other activities (lessons, work, travel); (4) awards and honors. Include years of participation and offices held.

  1. Record major travel experiences. Note your strongest impressions and how they affected you. if you loved the Grand Canyon, for example, write down three specific reasons why, aside from the grandeur and beauty that everyone loves.
  2. Think of one or two sayings that you’ve heard again and again around your house, since childhood. How have they shaped your life?
  3. Describe an accomplishment that you had to struggle to achieve. Include what it was, how you tacked it, and how it changed you.
  4. List any shortcomings in your school record and explain why they occurred. If you could relive the last four years, what would you change and how?


Throughout the writing process—from first to final draft—consider (and reconsider) these tips for good writing:

  1. Keep your audience in mind. Remember that you are introducing yourself. The scholarship committee wants to know: (1) your intellectual and creative interests; (2) your personal strengths; (3) how well you write; (4) what’s special about you. Try for essays to provide positive, but realistic insights into all these areas.
  2. Beware of “Engfish”. Writers who try to impress readers with long-winded sentences are “Engfishing”, a common practice in school according to well-known writing teacher Kenneth Macrorie.
  3. Read the instructions carefully and give yourself plenty of time to thoughtfully prepare your essay.
  4. Follow the stated rules for format, paper, length, and content.
  5. Write about what is important to you and your goals and qualities.
  6. Personal characteristics that are important to convey include: creativity, intellectual curiosity and achievement, ability to overcome hardship, initiative, motivation, leadership, persistence, service, experience with cultural diversity, and rare talent.
  7. Describe one of your intellectual achievements and what you gained from it.
  8. Have a friend or family member give you feedback after you’ve written the essay to see if it gives adequate insight into the quality of your character and achievements.
  9. Don’t simply list your accomplishments and honors; a list tells the Scholarship committee what you’ve done, not who you are.
  10. Avoid stereotypical statements that do not give insight into who you uniquely are.
  11. Avoid giving information in a predictable manner.
  12. Don’t be so over-concerned with style of writing that you omit the heart of the statement – a clear picture of who you are.

Last updated: 8/21/2016 5:48:30 PM