If you’re getting ready to take the pathway to college, you’ll need to think about winning scholarships, unless you want to be buried in debt when you graduate, or unless you’re independently wealthy.

There are many posts on blogs and scholarship sites that tell you how Student X got scholarships, but if the journey was arduous for that student, perhaps there is a better way to win scholarships than by plugging along, day after day. It’s better to learn from the experience of people who can help you win scholarships, even if you don’t have time to apply to a hundred of them – or more.

1. Start Out Small

Every scholarship winner starts by applying to one single scholarship. The first one you win will motivate you to keep applying. Don’t set unreachable goals as far as the number of applications you need to send. It depends on how lucrative each scholarship is. You don’t want to give up before you get the money you need.

Instead of trying to find hundreds of scholarships of various values at once, find five or 10 that have approaching deadlines. Apply for them first. It’s much simpler to find several scholarships that you have a good chance of winning than it is to find forty or fifty or more.

This will give you a good feel for the application process, and you’ll know how to adapt and change your approach if it doesn’t work for you. If you win one of your first scholarships, or you’re hooked on the chances, you’ll be ready to apply for more.

2. Pick and Choose the Right Scholarships for You

Corporate scholarships on the national level have a great deal of competition. Even if you’re eligible for them, your chances of winning large scholarships are small, compared to smaller, local or limited scholarships. Likewise for scholarships that have a limited scope of requirements.

The solution? Mix and match the scholarships that fit your profile the best. Select a couple national scholarships, like the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation or Coca Cola Scholars program. Then choose a few smaller scholarships, like city scholarships and other, small scholarships in your locality or in the area where you’d like to attend college.

This is a nice mix of opportunities. It gives you a chance to win a major award, even as it increases your odds of winning by the inclusion of smaller scholarships with fewer applicants.

3. Don’t Rush It

After you select your scholarships, concentrate fully on each one, as you complete each application thoroughly. Put all your effort into this. Don’t leave any apps until the last minute and expect to win those scholarships. Research carefully and consider the things each organization holds as valuable. Highlight the parts of your life that will reflect those values and get the attention of the scholarship committees.

4. Keep Pushing Through

It’s natural to feel unsure of yourself, especially when you’re first starting out. If something doesn’t seem strong enough to you, whether it’s your resume or your essay, don’t put them off and neglect them. Procrastination does not win scholarships. And true procrastination won’t even get you entered, since you’ll put it off until the deadline is past.

That is the biggest issue to avoid. If you haven’t applied, you have no chance of winning. Overcome your frustrations. Talk to other students, teachers or guidance counselors and get help. Submit your applications when you have honed them as best you can. You’ll be glad you did.

5. Use All Your Resources

Visit financial aid sites and scholarship search engines. Many will have scholarship lists, which are sorted by date. This can be very helpful, to keep you organized.

Apply to each scholarship for which you are eligible, as long as you feel they are relevant to your course of study. Even when you’re being a bit choosy, you will still be sending out quite a few applications. Select the scholarships that seem like a good fit for you and your education goals.

6. Work on Your Essays

When you begin, you may be writing a separate essay for each scholarship. After the first few, though, you can cut and paste your essays and just add to them, to make them more relevant to each scholarship. Then you’ll be able to submit more applications with less work.

7. Don’t Give Up

Some students just don’t feel like doing the work it takes to win scholarships. That’s too bad, because they’re the ones with student debt for years after they graduate. If you don’t apply for the scholarships that are the best “fit” for you, you’ll regret it later. You don’t have to be the smartest applicant. But when you tailor your resume and essay to each scholarship committee and what their organizational goals are, you’ll have a much better chance of winning your way through college.

About the Author:
Pyper Barnes is a Junior Finance Major at the University of Alabama. Pyper is the owner of WeirdScholarships. WeirdScholarships.net is a website dedicated to helping students find unique and interesting scholarship opportunities.