From time to time, we present guest posts here on The College Whispererblog, offering viewpoints, insights and opinions that may complement or even differ from our own.

Today, we are pleased to bring you a guest post written by Jocelyn Paonita, a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina ("debt free," we might add), and author of The Scholarship System: 6 Simple Steps on How to Win Scholarships and Secure Financial Aid, with some essential pointers on acing that scholarship application.

NOTE: This posting and publication does not constitute an endorsement of any product or service. It is intended for informational purposes only.

Guest posts are welcome and may be submitted for consideration, in Word format, via email to

How to Make Your Application Stand Out

It’s no secret that you have to compete in order to win scholarships.

Sometimes you will find those awesome scholarships where you are only competing against a few others. Other times, you may be competing against hundreds if not thousands of other students. The problem is that you really want, and NEED, the money!

But don’t let the competition bring you down. Let it motivate you!

So how can you blow a scholarship application out of the water?

How can you guarantee that your application will STAND OUT among the others??

Here are 5 quick tips on how to make your application catch your judges’ eyes!

1. Make sure you fit the criteria

This is very important to be successful. Before putting time into an application, you want to make sure your application won’t be thrown away. Chec k the criteria before moving on. This includes GPA requirements, what you want to major in, city you live in and much more. Believe it or not, some of your competition will apply without meeting the criteria. Don’t do that!

2. Presentation matters

You know the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” Unfortunately, this saying does not apply when it comes to judging scholarship applications. Judges look for applications that are well put together, contain all the required materials and have zero grammatical errors.

How can you ensure your application is suitable?

First, have someone else proofread it. It’s easy to overlook errors when you have been working on an essay for a couple of hours. Getting a fresh set of eyes to review it increases the chances of catching any errors. I always had my high school teacher review my essays and he caught something I missed every single time.

3. Go above and beyond

When you can, try to go the extra mile. My secret trick to doing this? I sent a professional resume with my applications. This was never required and sometimes I couldn’t submit it but typically applications let you submit one “miscellaneous” item. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT! You can either write a KILLER essay about why you should get the scholarship over anyone else or you can submit a resume. But never leave the optional part empty. Always go the extra mile.

Another way you can go above and beyond? Contact them prior to submitting your application! If you do so professionally and with good questions, you can really catch their attention and make them anticipate your submission.

4. Be unique in your essays

Many people begin an essay with the question they are answering. While this can be effective, try to start off your essays with an interesting story or quote instead. You want to grab judges’ attention and stand out from the others. Starting your essay differently will do that!

Here is an example response to “What is one of your greatest challenges you’ve overcome?”

Option 1: One of my greatest challenges was completing a sport even when I didn’t feel like I was good at it.

Option 2: Imagine you are up to bat. The whole game rests on whether or not you get out. You know you need to get on base so that your team does not lose. You swing as hard as you can but before you know it, you hear the call – “OUT!” And just like that, you lost the game. This was me during my last game in 7th grade. I no longer felt like I was good at baseball. That was when I faced my greatest challenge  - getting back up to bat.

As you can see, the beginning of option 2 sucks you in. You can try to do the same!

5. Get recommendation letters made for a rock star

Having a strong recommendation letter can be the deciding factor between two common applicants. When choosing your recommenders, make sure they are passionate about your success. That would mean they are going to write an even better recommendation letter.

Secondly, prepare them to write a great one. In order to do so, send them your resume and/or a short description of what you are involved in. This equips them with necessary information to write an insanely great letter on your behalf.

Did you find this helpful? Share this information by sending your friends to!

Jocelyn Paonita is a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina and author of The Scholarship System: 6 Simple Steps on How to Win Scholarships and Secure Financial Aid. Having left school with absolutely NO DEBT, she is on a mission help families have a similar experience by using scholarships to reduce or completely eliminate their college bills.  When she is not championing students and families through the scholarship process, she works full-time as a financial analyst. 

Twitter: @ScholarshipSyS   Facebook:

*** FREE ebook giveaway on September 16th. It also comes with an audiobook. You can find it here on Amazon

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