With the appalling figures in student debt, higher education might seem an untenable prospect in the land of dreams or anywhere else for many. Knowledge is power, however, and, despite the cliche, those who prepare well for college and its mounting fees could be spending close to nothing while piercing through financial obstacles and living their dreams later on.
The answer lies in the scholarships and other grants that colleges and universities offer. But winning a scholarship is not easy. Apart from the competition, there is a crucial element that students need to ace. That is the scholarship cover letter.
In this article, we will walk you through the elements of the cover letter for scholarship that you should pay very close attention to in order to win that grant.
In 2020, 44.7 million borrowers across all demographics in the U.S. collectively need to pay back $1.6 trillion. Student loan debts are becoming more difficult to pay back, though, as employment is difficult to find in many sectors because of automation.
But for students who do not wish to accrue debt before they even graduate and find a job, there is another way to pay for their college tuition and related costs: scholarships.
There are two main types of scholarships: merit-based and financial need-based. The former means that students need to meet the school or organization’s academic standards to earn a scholarship. Meanwhile, the latter means that they can receive financial aid because they are underprivileged.
Consider, for example, Rice University, where eligible students need not pay a single cent if their families earn less than $130,000 annually. Indeed, there are ten other universities that could cover potential students’ full fees if they meet the requirements.
And one of those is a scholarship cover letter.
A scholarship application cover letter is similar to the cover letter that job applicants include in the submission of their application to a position. It is a letter that the student addresses to the scholarship committee to convince them that they are deserving of a grant (Staff Author, 2019).
In it, the student outlines his/her strengths and other qualities. It is also a document where students can provide detailed information regarding their curricular and extracurricular achievements.
A scholarship cover letter is a crucial and strategic document that allows students to appeal for financial aid to assist them in paying their college fees. It is where they can expound on details in their application forms, such as gaps in schooling and the reasons why they joined certain activities, to give the scholarship committees a more complete narrative (Kalu, 2020).
This is also a great chance for students to tell scholarship-giving bodies why they are aiming for a particular scholarship or grant. What’s more, to persuade the scholarship-giving body, students can outline their future research or work plans and explain how it aligns with the endeavors of the organization.
There are three main things that a student must keep in mind when writing a scholarship application cover letter (López, 2017). First, as has been mentioned, is to state why they are deserving of the grant. Second is to use a formal tone. Lastly, it is important to ensure that the cover letter matches the context.
1. Why do you deserve a grant?
To go into the specifics, students have to display their strengths and qualities in their cover letter to attract the attention of the committee. They can talk about their achievements in their previous education level and how it has shaped their character or helped in their academic life. Additionally, they can let the organization or school know what their plans for a career or further studies in the future are. In this way, they can demonstrate their determination to succeed.
Moreover, students can talk about the benefit of the scholarship to them. It could be that they could continue studying without worrying about finances or that they could accomplish more with the aid of the grant.
2. Being formal
When writing a scholarship cover letter, the student should keep a formal tone. This means they should not use colloquialism unless absolutely necessary, such as when illustrating examples. They should write as if they were applying for their first job after college to show respect and courtesy to the recruiter.
It is also critical to make certain that the letter is free of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes (NSPE, n.d.). This shows the school or organization that the scholarship applicant has an excellent grasp of language and grammar, which are subjects that they would still likely encounter in college.
What’s more, the student should avoid being long-winded. They should be concise in their cover letters while ensuring that every word is relevant.
3. Stick to the context
Schools and organizations will have their own requirements on what they want to see in a cover letter. In that case, the student should take note of those. Aside from that, there can be cases where the student is asking for funding for a program to which they have already been accepted. Thus, the format of the letter can change from the usual letter of appeal.
First, the student should talk about their academic and extracurricular achievements. Then, they have to explain why they require financial assistance. Lastly, they need to clarify why they chose to study in the institution where they were accepted for study.
4. Write about education and achievements
Scholarship committees want to know that they will be giving aid or grant to students who are truly deserving. That is why when students write a scholarship letter, they have to talk about their education and what they have achieved in their previous education levels. It would be helpful if the scholarship applicant highlights achievements that are related to the major they would be studying in college or university.
5. Touch on future plans
Schools and institutions like to know that applicants are driven. Thus, it is vital to talk about plans after graduation. It can also be regarding plans during college years such as activities or organizations the student is planning to join. This way, the scholarship-giving organization can be confident that they are awarding the grant to a motivated individual.
Writing a scholarship application letter may seem like an easy task but it can be daunting. After all, it is a document that could make or break a student’s need for financial aid. Aside from thinking about telling the scholarship committee why a student is deserving of a grant, being formal in the letter, and writing within context, there are other things that can help a student write a great cover letter.
Start with a hook
It is important to engage the reader at the very start. Otherwise, they may not be immersed in reading a student’s essay or application letter. This can be done by starting with a quote, a fact, or an observation. Students can even start with a life-changing experience crafted in a way that makes the reader curious as to what comes next. A good example of a starting statement is “It was 2010; I had just crossed the border into Mexico and my life was about to change (Mailhot, 2018).”
Committees ask applicants to provide scholarship cover letters because it is one way to know them outside of their resumes or application forms. Therefore, students do not have to be afraid to get personal in their cover letter. And as has been mentioned above, this is a great time for students to add more details to the information in their application forms. They can also take the time to relate to the scholarship committee their goals or motivations why they want to become an engineer, for example (NSPE, n.d.).
Divide the cover letter into different areas
For those who are familiar with a resume, they would know that it is divided into several areas such as education and work experiences. Similarly, they need to take that approach in writing a scholarship cover letter (University of Michigan-Flint, n.d.).
Customize your cover letter
If a student is applying to different scholarships, it can be tempting to use just one letter. However, each scholarship-giving body awards grants for various purposes. Thus, it is important to write a different letter for each one to match the context (College Raptor Staff, 2020).
Using formal language
A scholarship cover letter is a formal document a student submits to a school or an organization. Thus, the tone and the content of the letter must be formal. This means that the writer has to use proper language—no slang or colloquialism unless necessary, such as in stating examples or illustrating scenarios. It is also essential to ensure that there are no grammatical errors.
Edit and revise as necessary
It can be difficult for a person to look at their cover letter objectively. In that case, it can be a good idea to ask for outside assistance. Since they have fresh eyes, friends, family, or even teachers can be more objective. Thus, they can provide reliable insight.
Students can weigh the feedback and decide whether to accept their advice or suggestions. When they do, they can fix mistakes, revise statements, or change the overall structure of the scholarship cover letter. While doing that, students can also look for common mistakes such as inconsistent tenses, out-of-place terms, too much or too few punctuations, repetitions, and the use of passive voice (Center for Fellowship & Scholarship Advising, 2020).
Additionally, students can read their scholarship cover letter out loud themselves and edit and revise according to the natural rhythm (Center for Fellowship & Scholarship Advising, 2020).
Students do not have to be put off by the challenge that is the scholarship cover letter. Below are some examples that students can use as guides.
Finding a scholarship to apply to does not have to be difficult. Each college or university will have a financial aid page on their websites that can inform students of how they can receive financial assistance. In some cases, educational institutions can also point students towards organizations that may assist them in paying for their tuition and other fees.
Additionally, there are organizations that support students who come from certain backgrounds. For example, students who have a parent who is a military officer can take advantage of the grants provided by the military or defense department.
Moreover, if the student is aiming for a certain profession, he or she can look at organizations that support students who are going to become, say, physicists, mathematicians, archaeologists, engineers, and the like.
Most importantly, students should stay motivated. Writing cover letter after cover letter can be grueling but it is essential to remain inspired during the process.