Scholar Dollars: How to Win Tuition Contests

Written by  //  2013/01/31  //  Scholarships and Grants  //  1 Comment

Exploring college opportunities allows your mind to wonder off to distant lands, but a quick look at the cost can bring you right back down to earth. Now more than ever, students are taking out loans to pay for college. The American debt category that includes student loans is 22.8% higher than in July 2008, USA Today reported. For those who are able to get a job after graduating, paying down debt is a feasible, gradual process. Students that can’t find employment, on the other hand, are faced with piles of debt and rising interest rate.

Scholarships allow students to avoid debt, but heavy competition may leave college prospects to look for additional funds when the traditional state and local offers run dry. That’s where tuition contests take over. Whether it’s an essay, video or chess competition, there’s money to be had for the student willing to put talent on the line.

Find a Contest

School counselors and career centers are a good place to start when looking for scholarship money, but dozens, if not hundreds, of other students will be aiming for the same opportunities. Less publicized contests offer a better chance to get noticed and win scholarship money. A quick Google search for “scholarship contests” will show up-to-date news regarding scholarship opportunities and deadlines.

Right now, the search brings up opportunities for a $5,000 scholarship for New York City high school seniors, a recipe and essay contest for a scholarship to The International Culinary Schools at The Art Institutes, a campus of Argosy University, and even an Average Student Scholarship Contest sponsored by

Prepare to Win

Unless the intention is to win, mining through scholarship contest descriptions is a waste of time. Before you start a quest for free money, prepare with these common application necessities:

  • Resume you may not have tons of experience, but many scholarship providers want to get a sense of who you are. Include work experience, community service and extracurricular activities.
  • High school transcript a basic building block of many scholarship apps, although some providers choose to ignore high school grades.
  • Basic essay you’ll probably have to tweak it based on requirements, but most scholarship opportunities ask applicants to explain who they are and where they’re going in writing.
  • Letters of Recommendation not only do letters of recommendation demonstrate trustworthiness, they also highlight ambition and courage. Asking for praise is tougher than it sounds.
  • Photo most contests won’t require a photo submission, but a few like to put a face to an application.

Make it Count

It’s timeless advice: the way to win contests that generate stacks of paper is to stand out and jump off the page. Applicants may hear that and think that colored paper or 5,000 word essays will win the prize, but sometimes, standing out is easier than it sounds. Start by following the guidelines. If an application calls for an essay no longer than a page, save your paper and keep it to a page. Sometimes the first step to winning a scholarship is avoiding the “no” pile.

Another way to stand out from the competition is to avoid clichs. When asking for an essay on life goals, scholarship providers will read plenty of vague essays that discuss “following dreams” and “making a difference,” but an essay described in detail a plan to attend medical school, establish a family practice and eventually participate in ‘Doctors Without Borders’ will leave a lasting impression.

One Comment on "Scholar Dollars: How to Win Tuition Contests"

  1. Chantal 2015/10/24 at 10:38 pm ·

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