By Alayna Johnson, SCS Student Advising Leader 2018-2019:
What’s one thing all college students (and parents of college students) can agree on? School is expensive! Scholarships are arguably the best way to mitigate the price of tuition because you don’t have to pay them back and they boost your resumé. Let’s take a look on where to find competitive scholarship opportunities and how to put together an application.
When you apply to Illinois, you’re automatically considered for a number of merit-based scholarships. If you were awarded one of these, carefully read the renewal criteria to make sure you don’t lose it: many have a minimum GPA that you must maintain in order to keep the money.
If you didn’t receive a scholarship upon admission or you’re still in need of funds, there are other opportunities through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS), the School of Chemical Sciences (SCS), and the Illinois campus as a whole. LAS and SCS administer scholarships in a similar manner: a single application is sent out each year and every applicant is considered for all awards. This is great because it allows you to be considered for many scholarships with only one application. Be on the lookup for these applications, which are made available every year in the spring/summer.
For students with outstanding GPAs or other accomplishments, the National and International Scholarships Program at Illinois is a great place for you to get connected with prestigious scholarship opportunities. Even if you don’t fit the criteria for a scholarship, their website is packed full of tips for seeking and applying to other awards. I’ve worked with the program and can attest to their kindness and professionalism. If you are interested in any of their opportunities, set up a time to meet with them and explore your options.
Another great idea is to look into funding opportunities through organizations that you’re already a part of. Many fraternities/sororities and professional development groups award scholarships to outstanding members. For example, I am a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and was awarded a scholarship through the national SWE chapter to help pay tuition.
Now that we’ve identified some scholarship opportunities, let’s discuss how to make your application stand out.
- Gather information about the scholarship or program you’re applying for. Many opportunities will post their exact selection criteria and give profiles of past winners. This can help you tailor your applications.
- Put together a résumé, including academic and nonacademic activities, honors, awards, activities, and leadership positions.
- Become familiar with how to obtain official transcripts. Not all scholarships will require these (especially if the scholarship is awarded internally to Illinois students), but many do.
- Be prepared to craft a personal statement talking about yourself and your intellectual development. Include information about your personal goals, any obstacles you’ve faced, and how you overcame them.
- Form relationships with professors and contact these individuals for letters of recommendation early in the scholarship process.