Applying to College Scholarships? Avoid These Mistakes

How to avoid scholarship mistakes

Applying to College Scholarships? Avoid These Mistakes

Published September 30, 2019 | Last Updated August 5th, 2023 at 02:08 pm

How to avoid scholarship mistakes

This might surprise you, but college scholarship judges are everyday people who want to bless a student with the scholarship money from the company or organization they are representing.

 Some scholarships result in hundreds, and quite possibly thousands, of applications to wade through, however.

So student need to keep in mind that these judges can go nuts when they see these mistakes made by students over and over again.

Are you making them?

I have interviewed many scholarship judges and am one myself for my Savor Summer College Scholarship, and trust me when I say here are three tragic mistakes that really do drive scholarship judges crazy.

If you are reading this article, you more than likely want to help you or your student submit the best possible scholarship applications, so take this advice to heart and get one step closer to winning more money for college.

3 Scholarship Application Mistakes to Avoid

1. Required Scholarship Materials are Missing

Required means mandatory, not optional! Students need to use a check-off list to make sure all required materials (letters of recommendation, transcripts, essay, etc…) are uploaded or mailed-in per the application instructions.

This also means that if ONE letter of recommendation is requested, sending THREE is not going to impress the judges.

The easiest way to make sure all materials are included for each scholarship application is to print-out the guidelines and physically cross-out each item as it is uploaded or placed in the envelope for mailing.

Students who don’t follow directions drive scholarship judges crazy! This also goes for simple directions such as essay word count, eligibility requirements, and G.P.A. levels. Students simply waste their time and that of the judges when they do the work and apply for scholarships in which they do not meet the specific guidelines.

2. Simple Grammar Mistakes Can Be Deadly

Students in this day and age really don’t have an excuse for submitting a scholarship essay full of grammatical errors. With free writing tools such as spell check and Grammarly, it only takes a few minutes to find out if an essay needs fixing. In addition, having someone else proofread each essay before submitting is just plain SMART.

The proper use of paragraphs is also important. Reading one long paragraph of 500-1000 words or more is hard on the eyes because the words tend to run together.

As a scholarship judge, reading an essay response that is one giant paragraph causes my eyes to mindlessly drift down the page and frankly, drives me up a wall.

Also frustrating is reading an essay full of abbreviated text or SMS language, such as YKWIM? (You Know What I Mean?)

Scholarship judges don’t have the time to guess or decipher the meaning of what the student is trying to convey, so using this type of wording is not advisable at all.

Scholarship essays are not text messages, so students need to treat them like valuable school assignments.

3. Not Answering the Essay Question

This one may surprise you, but it is quite common for students to submit one scholarship essay for multiple scholarship applications and while this strategy works in some cases, it will backfire in others. 

If the essay prompt or question is the same or very similar for several scholarships, students can go ahead and use previously written essays, but those that blindly include the same essay no matter what the question is will not win over any scholarship judges.

What students CAN do is adjust each essay response to properly fit each scholarship application that they submit.

The same essay prompt might be used for one scholarship with a requirement of 500 words, while the same answer is needed for another application requiring 700 words.

For the longer essay, more details can be shared and examples of real-life situations expanded upon.

Another fatal flaw in using the same essay over and over is if the student included the name of the scholarship in the body of the essay and forgets to change it for multiple submissions.

Yes, this really happens and I have to shake my head in amazement when such an essay crosses my desk.

How to Improve Your Scholarship Chances

The goal of the scholarship essay is to give the judges a deeper inside look into the personality and strengths of each applicant.

They need to learn why that student would best represent their company or organization if chosen as the scholarship winner.

Having a great essay does not ensure that the judges will pick that student, however, as following ALL application directions is also extremely important.

Driving a scholarship judge crazy will not win anyone any money, so students, pay close attention to all scholarship guidelines and endear yourself to the judges. THAT is how more college scholarship money is won.


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

How Students Can Earn Employee Scholarships for College

How to Find Scholarships

Teen Jobs May Come with a Bonus: Scholarships




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