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The Scholarship Process for Single Parents

Put your best foot forward. Make the most of the fact that you are trying to improve your life. If you have volunteered in the past or received awards, mention them. You want to portray yourself as a person who is serious about your college career. You know what your objectives are, and you feel optimistic about your ability to succeed. In other words, you want to portray yourself as a person
that this organization wants to back up financially. Put yourself in their place. If you have money to invest, you will invest it where you know you will get a good return on your investment. If the readers of your essay feel that you are determined to succeed, and have the ability and perseverance to do so, they will feel good about investing in you.

Be creative in fulfilling the eligibility requirements listed on the application form. For example, another scholarship I applied for was a memorial scholarship. I fit all the requirements except one. I was not a member of an honor society or an organization that worked for charitable affairs. As I read through the application, it struck me that I did not belong to any organization simply because raising four children alone and being a full-time student took every spare moment of my time.

I stated this in the application form under the section asking for a list of awards and the group in which I was a member. I also stated that I felt I set an example to all my co-students because I could hold a good GPA (3.8) in addition to all my other responsibilities. When I submitted the application, as with all the applications I submitted, I didn’t know what my chances were, but I knew I had to try. I was awarded the scholarship! It was a great surprise, but I was playing the odds.

The more applications you submit, the more chances you have for winning. I would say that I won five out of every 20 applications submitted. Of course the expense of postage for mailing 20 applications plus 20 SASE is between $15.00 - $20.00, plus your time. Scholarships range from $500 to several thousand dollars. Not bad for a $20.00 investment.

- Reference Letters: Three reference letters are usually required. These letters are just as important as the essay you write. First, look for people with status in the community with whom you have a professional association. Try to receive a letter of recommendation from a professor or advisor who knewyou well during college. If you don't have this resource, professional recommendations from your employer or other sources are also acceptable. Reference letters from friends should be your last option. They don’t necessarily need to state that they are your friends in the letter, unless the organization specifically requests letters from friends. Relatives are usually not acceptable as references. Once you are in college, find time to visit your professors during office hours. Not only will you learn more about the subject matter, but each professor is a prospective reference letter writer.

Don’t be timid about approaching people to write a letter for you. I found that everyone that I asked was happy to write a letter. This was a nice surprise as I felt at the time that I would be imposing. I also asked that they send me an electronic copy of the letter so I would have a copy when I needed another reference letter from them.

Give your references a copy of the application so they will have the address and the topic that your essay covers. It is also helpful if they can write their letters along the theme of your essay. For example, another scholarship I applied for required an essay on the topic of overcoming personal adversity. I gave each person a copy of my essay and asked that they angle their reference letters to the subject. The application will also state whether the reference letter should be mailed directly to the scholarship committee, or returned to you so you can mail all the documents together.

- School Transcripts: Transcripts are almost always required. Most of the time official transcripts are required, although unofficial are sometimes accepted. Check with your college to see how long it will take to have the official transcripts mailed, and then allow an extra week. My college would take ten working days to mail out a transcript, so I would apply for it three weeks in advance. They also charged $3.00 per transcript.. Twenty transcripts at $3.00 each added up to $60.00. Add this $60.00 to the $20.00 for postage, and the returns are still phenomenal. Besides, you won’t need all 20 at once.


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