Advice on Building a Successful Scholarship Application Process
American Preparatory Academy has been a partner of the USU STARS! program at Utah State University since the first GEAR UP grant in 2012. GEAR UP partners are committed to increasing high school graduation rates while guiding academically-prepared students to enroll and succeed in college. With Grant One nearly complete, and three additional grants well underway, APA shared some recent successes and a bit of advice on how they built a successful scholarship process at their school.
This year, two APA seniors, Jazmin Miramontes and Joseph Anthony Torres, earned the prestigious Daniels Scholarship. The award is a comprehensive, four-year college scholarship of financial and personal support focused on helping scholars succeed in college and in life. Awarded to deserving graduating seniors in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, the Daniels Scholarship can be used at any accredited nonprofit college or university in the United States.Criteria points include strength of character, leadership potential, commitment to serving communities, academic performance or promise, well-rounded personality, and emotional maturity and stability. Both Jazmin and Joseph are still deciding which university they will attend and are looking at schools in CA, OR, WA, and Utah.
“Scholarships like the Daniels Fund are something that students can reach if they put in the effort,” said Brittany Shields, site coordinator at APA. “The biggest obstacle for students is that they think that scholarships are simply unattainable, but there are so many out there that the more you apply for, the better your chances are of getting them.” Beatriz Trejo is a dedicated college advisor at APA. When we asked her how the school goes about helping its students, she said that finding scholarships takes time and research.These three essential components show her school's commitment to helping their students fund their post-secondary education.
- Help students learn what scholarships are and why they are important. By explaining the different types of scholarships, students begin to understand the work that will need to go into applying for a scholarship like the Daniels Scholarship. From here, she helps them realize that applying for scholarships is like applying for a job. They may not get all the scholarships that they apply for, but applying is the first step to receiving funding. While time and dedication help students stand out, the research and perseverance skills will serve them well throughout their lives.
- Get to know each student by finding out their interests, intended majors, and schools they want to attend at the beginning of the year. She uses this information to narrow down and suggest scholarships that the students should consider applying for. For example, many of her first-generation students are translators for their families, and this leadership skill is helpful in a scholarship essay.
- Provide continued support by suggesting at least five scholarships to each student each month. She also discusses and reviews essays with students and helps them with mock interviews, when needed. If a whole class of students qualify for a scholarship, she helps them go through the application process together. She is now using Google classroom to do a weekly check-in with each student, answering questions, doubts, and concerns about the process, and supplying them with scholarship suggestions.
This approach to the scholarship application process has certainly paid off students and the school. APA tracks scholarships awarded to their students and the school consistently receives well over $2 million in scholarships in total per school year.
Jazmin and Joseph echoed the advice of Ms. Trejo. They want students who plan to apply for college scholarships to know that the process requires time and focus. Applying for scholarships is not something that can happen in one day. It is vital to have teachers and mentors read over essays and to accept constructive criticism. Getting a scholarship like the Daniels Fund Scholarship gives students a chance to attend a university and study what they want, without having to worry about the cost. They also want students to remember that college course work does not get easier. However, GEAR UP students know that the path to college will lead them to future success in life.