Top Ten Application Do’s and Don’ts

With money on the table, it’s much better to learn from others’ successes and mistakes before you risk your own fortunes. From interviews with students and scholarship judges and firsthand experience reviewing scholarship applications, we’ve developed our Top Ten list of scholarship application do’s and don’ts. Let’s shed the negative energy first and start with the don’ts.


  1. DON’T prioritize quantity over quality. It’s not the quantity of your accomplishments that is important. It’s the quality of your contributions.
  2. DON’T stretch the truth. Tall tales are prohibited.
  3. DON’T squeeze to the point of illegibility. Scholarship applications afford minimal space. It’s impossible to fit in everything that you want to say. Don’t try by sacrificing legibility.
  4. DON’T write when you have nothing to say. If you don’t have something meaningful to present, leave it blank.
  5. DON’T create white-out globs. If it’s that sloppy, start over.
  6. DON’T procrastinate. Don’t think you can finish your applications the night before they’re due.
  7. DON’T settle for less than perfect. You can have imperfections. Just don’t let the selection committee know.
  8. DON’T miss deadlines. No matter the reason, if you miss the deadline, you won’t win the scholarship.
  9. DON’T turn in incomplete applications. Make sure your application is finished before sending it.
  10. DON’T underestimate what you can convey. Scholarship applications may appear to be short and simple. Don’t undervalue them. In a small space, you can create a powerful story of why you should win.


  1. DO understand the scholarship’s mission. Know why they’re giving out the dough.
  2. DO remember who your audience is. You need to address animal rights activists and retired dentists differently.
  3. DO show how you fi t with the scholarship’s mission. You’re not going to win unless you have what the selection committee wants.
  4. DO be proud of your accomplishments. Don’t be afraid to brag.
  5. DO focus on leadership and contributions. Make your contributions known.
  6. DO make your application stand out.
  7. DO practice to make sure everything fits. Make practice copies of the original form before you begin filling it out. Then use your spare copies for trial and error.
  8. DO get editors. They’ll help you create the best, error-free applications you can.
  9. DO include a resume. Whether they ask for it or not, make sure you include a tailored scholarship resume. See the next chapter for how to create a great resume.
  10. DO make copies of your finished applications for reference. Save them for next year when you do this all over again.