How to Organize Your Scholarship Search

by Bethany Goldszer | Last Updated: January 13, 2021

Table of Contents

How to Win Scholarships {Part 2}

You learning how to organize the scholarship search is part two of the How to Win Scholarship series. 

Every year American students leave $100 million in unclaimed free money for college. After surveying parents in my Facebook group, I learned that many struggle with the scholarship process because they don’t know where to start. Does this sound familiar? In the previous post, I reviewed five places that students can look for legitimate college scholarships. If you have not read it yet, find it here

In this post, you will learn how to organize your scholarship search to streamline your process for winning free money for college. I’ll review time and headache-saving tools and strategies to help your student stay on top of applying for scholarships.

Get a Google Drive Account

First, you’ll need a Google Drive account to manage your scholarship search process. You may have one already connected to your school email address. But you should create a separate account to manage your personal efforts such as the scholarship hunt. Go to drive.google.com to set up an account. Then make a scholarship folder. Next, be sure to create individual folders for each scholarship you plan to apply to. In each folder, you’ll save application materials such as application forms, essays, transcripts, bios, photos, recommendation letters, etc.

After you create your Google Drive account you’ll need a dynamic Google sheet tracker to organize scholarship opportunities that you find. You can download a copy here

How to use the tracker:

  • Add the name of the sponsor, website, and contact information;
  • Sort scholarship opportunities by the deadline date;
  • Add scholarship requirements next to the boxes and check off as you complete them; and
  • Add the date when you submit the application and keep track of any progress notes pertaining to the application.

This resource will be helpful in giving you a birdseye view of your scholarship applications and what’s needed to successfully complete each one.

Gather Documents

Next, before you start applying, it’s best to gather documents you’ll need from other people. These documents can include:

  • Getting the transcript from your high school counselor, 
  • Creating yourself a resume, writing a bio for yourself, 
  • Taking a professional headshot, or 
  • Obtaining financial or academic evidence to support your eligibility for the scholarship. 

 It’s best to put the plan in motion to obtain and store these items in your Google Drive folder before you begin writing essays. You’ll need to mainly give your recommenders (if recommendation letters are required) plenty of notice. You may need to vary your list amongst teachers, employers, volunteer coordinators, coaches, etc. The recommenders you choose should match the type of scholarships you’re applying for. 

 For example, you’d use a teacher for an academic scholarship or a volunteer supervisor for a community service and leadership focus scholarship. You want the person writing the recommendation letter to speak to the area you’re looking to get awarded. Because people are busy, give them plenty of notice — at least three weeks. And once they agree to write your recommendation letter, send them a copy of your resume, a description of the scholarship, and a recommendation template as a critical timesaver.

Set Up Your Calendar

And finally, you should set up a calendar. What’s nice about having a new Google Drive account is that it comes with a Google calendar. You’ll use the calendar to do two things as it relates to your scholarship process. First, it’s where you can add all of your scholarship deadlines. You can make the title of appointment the name of the scholarship and add in the due date. Also, you can link the Google drive folder that’s holding your scholarship into the Google calendar for easy retrieval. 

I would also suggest that you set reminders because you get busy and this will give you plenty of time to work on your scholarship before it’s due. I advise that you set the reminder for two weeks before, one week before, and 24 hours before the due date to avoid missing any deadlines.

As it relates to recommendations, a calendar can also be helpful. Once your recommender agrees to write a letter, you can send them a calendar invite so they don’t forget. Also, I suggest that you build in time to send a friendly email thank you reminder — just a heads up that the deadline is looming. While they may seem excessive, these steps are important and ensure that a person who is really busy with multiple priorities will make the time to write your recommendation letter.

Conclusions + Next Steps

Winning a scholarship requires a high level of organizational skills throughout the scholarship search process. More important than finding the opportunities is having a plan and structure for how you will proceed in applying. In the next post, I’ll share strategies to help you apply for more scholarships and win, in less time.

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Bethany Goldszer is top college admissions and financial aid expert. She's been featured in HuffPost, USA Today, Newsday, Queens Gazette, and Official Black Wall Street & voted Best of Long Island. Faced with the overwhelming stress of applying, getting admitted to and financing her University of Chicago education, she started Stand Out College Prep LLC in 2012 so that no student or parent would have to go through this process alone. Over the last 15 years, Bethany has worked with over 1,500 students, helping them and their parents get into their top choice colleges and secure more than $20M in financial aid and scholarships. And each year, she continues to help more students stand out in the college admissions process and their parents navigate financial aid and scholarships.