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Advance Preparation
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Some scholarships have prerequisites that require advanced preparation. This can range from getting good grades in school and on college entrance examinations, to building an impressive resume, to completing a project or report.

  • Well-rounded background. Colleges do not necessarily want a well-rounded student so much as they want a diverse student population. If every student at a school were well-rounded, it would be uniformly dull. It is far better to excel at a single activity than to be average at several. If every applicant plays a musical instrument, volunteers at the local hospital, and participates in a school sport, there's nothing to distinguish one applicant from another.

    You should certainly pursue hobbies and extracurricular activities, but only if you are passionate about them. Selection committees can easily distinguish students who pursued a hobby in depth because they were deeply interested in the topic from those who superficially participated in order to acquire a credential. The depth of your interest in a field or endeavor will distinguish you from other candidates. Quality is more important than quantity.

    On the other hand, participating in a variety of activities can help you develop new interests. Explore several possibilities, but focus on those that you find the most interesting.

  • Practice for the admissions tests. Buy a book of standardized test prep, and take practice tests in a realistic setting. Score them using the book's answer key, and use the scores to evaluate your weaknesses. Take the practice ACT and/or SAT tests in the fall of your junior year in high school, and actual tests in the spring of your junior year and fall of your senior year.

  • Ask for reviewer's comments. Some scholarship programs will allow students to apply twice (e.g., once as a high school senior and once as a college freshman, or once as a college senior and once as a first year graduate student). If you didn't win the award the first time, write a letter asking for a copy of the reviewer's comments on your application. Some scholarship sponsors are willing to provide you with a copy of the comments. These comments are often quite specific. If you address the problems in your next application, it can help you win. Seeing the comments can also help you improve your future applications to other award programs.

    A good example of this is the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. Students who were honorable mentions as college seniors have won the NSF fellowship after fixing the problems noted in their previous application.


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