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The Scholarship Judging Process

(Continued from 1)

Do you think it’s “not fair” that your application “lost” after just 30 seconds just because of a simple typographic error? Wrong. It’s totally fair. It IS unfair of YOU to NOT take the time to make your application neat, clean, and simply perfect. Remember, lots of students DO take the time to make their applications neat and clean. It is unfair to those students who do take the time to create neat, clean applications for the judges to spend a single minute on the students who do not take the time.

When determining the acceptability of each application, many organizations use a “checklist” or “point system” – often both. Sometimes, a checklist or point system is used right from the beginning, but other times, it’s only used for the “potential” applications.

Here’s an example of a checklist used by a scholarship committee that I sat on. Each application was looked at by the administrative assistant. If the answer was “yes” for each question, she sent the application to the head of the judging committee. If there was a single “no” – she threw the application out. Yes, into the garbage. She didn’t “judge” the STUDENTS – she “judged” the quality of the APPLICATIONS, and decided which applications the judges would actually judge.

Applications were judged on:

  • Spelling
  • Neatness
  • Photo
  • Reference Letters
  • Transcript
  • Personal Statement
  • Major
  • Volunteer work
  • Activity in school
  • Location (in this case, the applicant needed to be a resident of Colorado)

In addition, your application will be considered against the scholarship’s primary requirements. For example, if the scholarship considers academic achievement important, they may quickly check your GPA at this point.

If your GPA is in the 2.0 range… it’s probably dead.
If it’s in the low 3.0 range… there is still some hope.
If it’s in the upper 3.0 range, it’s definitely alive.

Be aware that just because you do not have a terrific GPA does not mean that you have “no hope” when applying for scholarships that are primarily based on academic achievement. The “trick” is to improve your odds of winning by applying for smaller scholarships and local scholarships, ones that do not receive a lot of applications. With a low (2.0 GPA range) to a good (lower to middle 3.0 range GPA) you have almost no hope of winning a big national scholarship based on academic achievement that receives 20,000 applications. But if you apply to a local, small scholarship that receives 10 or 100 applications, you have much better chances of winning, ESPECIALLY if your GPA is in the 3.0 range.

Cere in Tacoma, Washington shares her experience:

“One thing I am concerned with, is that some students might think that if you don’t have a really high grade point average, don’t bother. I am a single parent going to school full time and can only manage to hold a 3.45 GPA. I have been lucky though and have received $3,500 so far in scholarships, so I know that not having a perfect grade point average will not always hold you back from winning."


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