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The Scholarship Process for Single Parents

Keep track of potential scholarship donors. Create a word processing document or spreadsheet on your computer, or buy a spiral notebook that you will use only for listing organizations that offer scholarships, and the pertinent information regarding their scholarships. When you come across an organization that matches your eligibility criteria, note each of the following criteria in your organizer:

  1. Name of the organization
  2. Address
  3. Contact person’s name, telephone number, and email for questions
  4. Important dates such as the date due (the date it must be postmarked by)
  5. Method of submission: postal mail or electronic submission
  6. Eligibility requirements – make sure you get them all, as there may be quite a few
  7. Any other information that will help you in sending off your application package.

I also made a practice of checking the bulletin board at my university’s financial aid office every two weeks. You don’t have to be a student to do this. There may several months without a listing that you are eligible for. One year I only found two that I was eligible for, however, I was awarded both scholarships.

Applying for scholarships is playing an odds game. Odds are that the more applications you submit, the better your chances of being awarded several scholarships. Apply for every type of scholarship that you are even minimally eligible for.

- Request a Scholarship Application: Create a form letter to request scholarship applications from each organization on the list you created. This letter can be copied into the body of an email or sent via postal mail. This is a short letter, conveying a little information about yourself and then requesting the application.

In the first paragraph of my letter, I gave my name, my major, and the university I was attending. I also gave my age, and included the fact that I was a single parent of four children. The second paragraph consisted of a couple of lines requesting that the organization send me an application form so I could apply for their scholarship. If you are required to send this letter by postal mail, include a SASE (self-addressed, self-stamped) envelope.

When you receive the scholarship application, look at the due date and allow yourself enough time to complete the application process. In addition to the application form, a personal essay, reference letters, and official transcripts are usually required.

- Personal Essay: The scholarship essay is usually of a personal nature. It may be about your career goals or a type of biography. Some will ask specific questions about your life, others will ask a general question regarding an ideal served by their organization. For example, an application I filled out for MANA (Mexican American National Association) requested an essay on the Hispanic woman and education. When writing your essays, make them short, informative, and upbeat. Avoid the “poor me” tone.

Although my situation was dire, I avoided this tone with simple statements such as, “I am a single parent of four children.” I did not elaborate on this statement; I let it speak for itself. If the scholarship is based on financial need, state your struggles in a factual manner. The readers of your essays will appreciate brief, factual statements that allow them to bring their own emotions to your story.


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