5 Tips That Helped Me Earn Millions in Scholarships

Pictured: Gabriella Carter winning $10,000 from the Simon Youth Foundation for her extraordinary community service and academic achievement.

Applying for scholarships can be hard.

Like, really hard.

Sometimes, it’s easier to succumb to procrastination rather than hunker down to write the fateful essay(s) that could potentially earn you thousands—even millions—of dollars.

I felt this way too, especially after applying to over 25 scholarships and failing to earn a single one.

But, if I had given up then, I wouldn’t be here sharing the tips and tricks I used to ultimately rake in over $2 million dollars in scholarships to attend Princeton University.

Yes, you read that right.


It sounds unattainable, but by employing the following tips, I turned my lackluster attempts into highly successful applications that have allowed me to attend the #1 University in America (according to US News) debt-free.

#1: Write as cohesively as possible.

Have you ever read something that took so many different twists and turns that you were left wondering what the purpose was?

It can be quite a frustrating feeling to be more confused after reading than before you started.

The same can be said for your scholarship applications.

If your application is all over the place, donors will be less inclined to choose you for the scholarship.

While it can be a strength to be dynamic and well-rounded, try a little too hard (or too little) and these two can go off the rails and into to being flat-out haphazard.

Be sure to have common theme/themes that are seamlessly communicated throughout your application. This extends to your listed extracurricular activities, your recommendation letters and even your responses to interview questions (if the scholarship has an interview).

Donors a will invest in applicants that exude confidence and clarity of thought. This is because they want to ensure that they will get a return on their investment by offering you this money to further your education and dreams.

Communicate clearly how awarding you with this scholarship will ultimately help you further your goals and aspirations.

#2: Make every word matter.

Word counts can be debilitating to any writer.

You’re likely wondering, “How am I supposed to answer the prompt, show my personality, captivate the reader, and express why I’m deserving of the scholarship all within the measly space provided?”

It seems like these foundations want you to squeeze all of your experiences and dreams into a little can. So, how can you condense these important thoughts to fit the word count?

Simply say what needs to be said.

Don’t go on and on about irrelevant or obvious things because you feel pressured to meet the maximum word limit. If the prompt tells you to explain why you want to be an astronaut, don’t waste words by saying “I really want to be an astronaut because…” That’s a given. They know that you’re writing about that because it’s written in the question to which you’re responding!

Avoid word vomit. You can use those saved words to strengthen your conclusion or spice up your essay in a different way.

#3: Respect the word count.

The easiest way to harm your chances of winning a scholarship is to disrespect the word count.

If they say that the limit is 500 words, adhere to that.

Imagine if you were expecting to help someone with their 500 word paper and they end up expecting you to read 800.

You’d be annoyed.

Make sure that you’re putting your best foot forward by following instructions and saying what needs to be said within the word count in the guidelines.

#4: Address the appropriate people.

Always double check that you’re addressing the correct audience.

If you have to mail the scholarship, confirm the physical address as well as the name of the donor. There is nothing worse than incorrectly spelling the name of the person/foundation offering this wonderful opportunity.

This can also be said for college and scholarship essays: If you’re applying to X, make sure that you don’t mention Y’s name. If you do, it makes it seem like you don’t care enough about the individual donor because you were careless enough to address it someone else.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s fine to reuse and repurpose essays for different opportunities. In fact, I used the same scholarship essay to win $60,000 in scholarships from different organizations:

But, the bottom line is that you always make sure you haven't name dropped the wrong institution or donor.

After all, if you don’t care enough to correctly personalize your application, why should they care enough to award you with this funding opportunity?

#5: Appeal to donor values.

Scholarship donors always select winners who reflect their mission and values.

Think about it: If you were the head of an organization that supports dog owners, who would you be more likely to donate your scholarship to? A hardworking student who wrote about how much they love their dogs, or a hardworking student who wrote about their favorite movie?

Chances are, you’d help the first student not because they’re better but because they share the same interests.

Demonstrating that you are not only qualified but also personify the very values that coincide with the organization’s purpose is key to differentiating yourself from the rest of the applicant pool.

An awesome way to do this is by genuinely doing your research.

Scour the donor’s website.

What activities are they involved in? What other brands and organizations do they align themselves with? Why do they exist in the first place? What is their mission/purpose?

Keeping these questions in mind as you learn more about the people offering this scholarship will make it easier to know what they stand for. Once you figure this out, it will be a lot easier to orchestrate your application in a way that articulates how you epitomize what they’re looking for.

Skip the Mistakes & Learn from Me

I learned these things after a painful process of trial and error so that you don’t have to.

Applications can be tough, but keeping these insights in mind will make it just a little bit easier.

Wishing you all the best on your journey. You got this!

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