By Alia Smith

Scholarship applications can be daunting. Scroll below to find the advice we wish we’d had, to help you be prepared and feel confident!

This is the second part of our 3-part scholarship series. Check out part 1 for a list of 10 scholarships for which all girls in STEM should be applying and part 3 for a breakdown of your financial aid options. 

Applying for college scholarships can be both stressful and confusing. Scholarships all come with their own sets of requirements and deadlines, meaning each application needs to be tailor-made for each scholarship. In this day and age, scholarship application considerations can go far beyond the actual application you submit. There are things outside the actual writing of the application that can help set you apart. Here’s some advice that can help you prepare for your scholarship applications.

Be Your Own Hype-Woman

a woman looking excited yelling into a megaphone, representing the way you should hype yourself up in a scholarship application

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio

In many cultures, it may be considered rude to speak highly of yourself or your accomplishments. It can come off as bragging or being arrogant. Furthermore, women and girls often struggle to acknowledge our own successes to ourselves. This can be a problem when applying for scholarships because your scholarship applications require you to talk about your accomplishments and their significance.

Your application should highlight your skills and experiences. Whether you’re writing an essay or submitting a resume, don’t be afraid to describe the things that make you a strong applicant. It can be difficult to sing your own praises, but reviewers have no way of knowing what qualifies you for the scholarship if you don’t tell them! You deserve the recognition for your accomplishments.

Gather Your Resources

Scholarship applications have different, but often overlapping requirements that you can begin preparing ahead of time.

  • You will need your official transcript. Make sure you have access to it early so there’s one less thing to prepare at the time of submission.
  • Update your CV or resume often. Adding to your resume as you do things prevents you from having to write your entire resume when you need to submit it. It also ensures that you don’t forget to include important skills or experiences that would stand out to a reviewer.
  • Start your essay earlier than you think you need to. Writing is a creative process, even if it’s a scholarship application. Allowing yourself time for the ideas to flow will help ensure that you’re submitting the best essay you can. We recommend giving yourself at least a month to complete your essay. Click here for examples of winning scholarship application essays and what made them stand out.
  • Give yourself enough time to think about all that you have accomplished. Some things might not seem significant to you, but these might be things that a reviewer would like to see in a scholarship application. Think about what you would congratulate a friend on. Think about things that aren’t academic but reflect your character, perseverance, or ability to self-reflect. Those may be things you want to include in an essay.
  • Be aware of when to apply. Scholarships are offered year-round, with most being offered between September and May. A scholarship for Fall 2024 may have an application deadline of March 2024. Scholarships for Spring 2025 may have a deadline in Fall 2024. Deadlines are often much earlier than the semester to which the scholarship applies.

Google Yourself

It is safe to assume that potential employers will likely do a Google search of your name before hiring you. Scholarship organizations may also do the same. Search your name and see what comes up. Do the results represent you well? Your online presence should reflect the way you would like to be perceived by reviewers, potential employers, and colleagues.

Social Media

Your social media presence can help support your application and employment success. It is a place where you can highlight your values and who you are as a person. Despite its ability to support your success, it can also act as a hindrance. There are certain kinds of content that scholarship organizations would not like to see.

According to CareerBuilder1, the top reasons a candidate was not selected based on social media were related to:

  • provocative or inappropriate pictures, videos, or information
  • drinking and drug usage
  • discriminatory remarks

These are all things that should be deleted.

As you know, the things you leave posted remain forever. Do not only look at recent posts. Do you have old accounts you may have forgotten about? Did you scroll all the way to the bottom of your page? Make sure the language you use publicly is appropriate and respectful. It can be easy for a reviewer to make assumptions about who you are as a person based on the limited perception of your social media presence. Help the reviewer make the assumptions you would like them to make.

Google the Scholarship Organization

A woman looking at her computer with a surprised expression. Highlights importance of checking your social presence when filling out scholarship applications.

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio

Scholarships are often provided by organizations with specific missions. Familiarizing yourself with this mission can help you cater your application to what they’re looking for. Do you have skills they prioritize? Do you have experiences in the field in which they focus? Do you resonate with the mission and vision of the organization? Make sure to highlight those things!

You should also consider the kind of organization offering the scholarship. Your name will be attached to the organization after acceptance. Use your discernment to choose the organizations to which you would like to have your name attached.

Additionally, if you have to write a letter, try to find the person to whom you should be writing. “To whom it may concern” is a common, but impersonal way to begin a letter. You can sometimes find online the person who reviews applications and address the letter to them.

Read Your Essay in Different Ways

Try reading your essay out loud and then backward. When you read your essay out loud you are more likely to catch grammatical errors. Reading it backward–reading each word separately– takes grammar and context out of the equation, allowing you to catch spelling errors you might overlook.


Most scholarship application tips include things like making sure there are no spelling errors and writing in a professional voice. While these kinds of tips are important, these tips can help you be a more well-rounded applicant. Although submitting scholarship applications can be stressful, being prepared and leaving yourself plenty of time can help you submit the best possible application.

Check out part 3 of our scholarship series for a breakdown of the financial aid options you might have!

Author Bio

Alia Smith on her graduation day, holding her diploma from Colorado State University







Alia Smith is the programming associate for Pretty Brainy. She recently graduated from Colorado State University with a master’s in Ecosystem Science and Sustainability. For her thesis, Alia studied the use of citizen/community science to study pollinator decline in National Parks. She is passionate about science communication and connecting people with science.


Photo: Laura Garcia

Hayes, Ladan. “More than Half of Employers Have Found Content on Social Media That Caused Them Not to Hire a Candidate, According to Recent CareerBuilder Survey.” Press Room | Career Builder, August 9, 2018. Accessed April 12, 2024.

Mailhot, Brittany. “Scholarship Essay Examples That Actually Worked: Sample Essays.” Going Merry, December 20, 2023. Accessed April 12, 2024.