Tips for Scholarship Applications

iStudent Blog
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Published: July 23, 2023 by Kesheena Doctor

As a new iSchool student, one of my worries about attending graduate school is finances. Like so many others, I am a non-traditional student and returned to school after a hiatus and had limited funding put aside for school.

To help supplement my school expenses, I applied to several scholarships, which turned out to be a time-consuming task. I’d like to share my tips for making the scholarship application process easier.

Assessing your Financial Aid Needs

As part of the initial steps with the financial aid process, students should create a budget.  Students should review the iSchool’s tuition costs, monthly living expenses and potential income while in school. Students should also fill out a FAFSA form. Once your financial aid is completed, students can then decide on whether they will need scholarships to help finance their time at the iSchool.

Scholarship Search

The iSchool has a list of department scholarships that are offered to new and returning students. The iSchool also provides a list of scholarships available for students in the MLIS field. Additionally, the SJSU Financial Aid and Scholarship Office provides a list of scholarships that iStudents may be eligible for, a list of external scholarships and a list of scholarship search websites that may assist iSchool students with their scholarship search. When reviewing external scholarships, researching the organization that is offering the scholarship will give you a better idea of their mission and values, helping you determine if the scholarship is right for you.

Organizing your Scholarships

Once you have identified scholarships you may be eligible for, make a list of the scholarships and include all criteria needed to apply. I like to arrange my scholarship list by the due date with the nearest at the top of the list. Depending on the number of scholarships, I may also divide my list by SJSU scholarships and external scholarships. Once I’ve reviewed all the scholarships, due dates and criteria, I start the application process.

My Tips for Easing the Scholarship Process

Once your scholarship list is compiled, there are a variety of small steps you can take to make the application process less tedious.

First, create a comprehensive resume and CV that lists all of your education, work and volunteer experience, as well as any other achievements you might have. I highly recommend including every achievement and experience you may have so the information is easily retrievable. Scholarships may have specific criteria, requiring you to highlight different areas of your life. Having a resume and CV with all your information that is continually updated can save you a lot of time when applying. iSchool students have resume review resource tools to utilize as well. The SJSU Writing Center offers tips on resume writing. VMock is a great tool to utilize as well to refine a resume.

Second, many scholarships have a questionnaire portion and you can also prepare for this by writing out a list of things you want to do with your career and professional development. If you have any identities that may increase your chances of obtaining a scholarship, list those as well as making notes of how these identities impact you and your education.

Lastly, I recommend creating a list of references and deciding which reference you will select for each scholarship. Try to only ask once for a reference and once your reference accepts, provide them with a copy of your resume, a synopsis of your education and career goals, and what you’d like them to highlight about yourself.

Additional Tips

For scholarships of higher importance, Have a mentor or friends review your application. For references, try to be strategic about who you ask and for what scholarship. While Applicants often do not see reference questions, you can glean what may be asked in the application (ex. The reference section of the application asks applicants to select a reference that can speak to your commitment to service). If the scholarship provides an application rubric, review it thoroughly and make notes. If the scholarship hosts an information session, attend it and be prepared with any questions you have. Finally, if you can, reach out to past scholarship recipients about their application process and what made them a strong candidate. Recently, a fellow iSchool student reached out to me about the ARL Kaleidoscope Program. I was more than happy to go over my process with the application and what I did to submit the strongest application possible.

I hope you find these tips useful and if you have any methods that helped you get a scholarship, please comment below.


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