7 Ways to Submit Your Best Scholarship Application


Have you heard the news? The application for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship Program is now available!

We’ll be selecting up to 40 high-achieving high school seniors to receive these awards, which are worth up to $40,000 per year to attend one of the country’s best four-year institutions.

Additionally, within a few weeks, we’ll be opening our Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship Program, which will provide up to 85 awards to the nation’s top community college students who seek to complete their bachelor’s degrees at four-year colleges and universities.

Every year we have so many worthy candidates with exciting futures; we can hardly wait to begin reviewing the applications and learning your stories. Unfortunately, we have to choose some candidates over others, which is a very challenging process for our team at the Foundation.

So how can you make yours stand out? Well, we’ve developed a list of tips that will be helpful when applying for one of the Foundation’s scholarships, as well as any other competitive scholarships to which you may be applying.

(Hint: Several of these tips were actually suggested by an individual in charge of our application!)

1. Take a shot.

Legendary hockey player Wayne Gretzky once said “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” You may think you don’t have a chance for to win the Foundation’s College Scholarship or competitive awards available from other organizations, but you won’t know if you don’t try. You’ll need a minimum GPA of 3.5 and there are also minimum SAT and ACT scores to be eligible for the Foundation’s scholarships, but many other things are taken into consideration. If you qualify to apply for our awards or any other, you should do so.

2. Start early and learn everything you can about the process.

Read through the whole application before you begin so you can identify the sections that will require the most time and effort, and manage your time the next few months accordingly.

Learn as much as you can before you start applying. Read through all of the information on our site, such as the FAQs. We’re pleased this year to offer two Twitter chats (October 1 & 13) to answer your questions live.

Importantly, realize that our forms for the recommenders and parents will not even be sent to those people until the applicant has completed and submitted their application. Be sure to leave enough time for them to provide you with a strong and thoughtful recommendation.

3. Read the directions. Then read them again. Then follow them carefully.

Do exactly as the application says. Fill in all of the blanks, gather all of the right materials and nothing else. Make sure your essays actually respond to the question or prompt—some students write strong essays, but they’re not directly related to the application item and end up looking weak in comparison to others that were.

Some scholarship selection processes actually involve splitting up the applications into several parts and having different people or groups evaluating them; so if you don’t follow directions in one section, it may sink your entire application.

4. Tell your story.

We want to know who you are, and it’s very difficult to “get to know” an applicant from grades and test scores and lists of activities and awards. Use the short answers and essays, and any other spaces you can, to really give us a chance to see who you are, what you think, what you believe. That will stand out even more than a 4.0.

For some tips on writing your scholarship and/or admission essays, check out two previous blog posts we wrote on the topic here and here.

5. Edit and proofread your application.

The person receiving your application at the Foundation shouldn’t be the second set of eyes on your application. Have a parent, sibling, or friend review it, as well as a teacher or counselor.

6. Arrange for superior recommendations.

First, we should repeat that our forms for the recommenders and parents will not even be sent to those people until the applicant has completed and submitted their application. You’ll want to provide your recommenders with at least a few weeks and some written materials about your accomplishments to provide a truly great recommendation.

Be sure you talk to each recommender and carefully explain the opportunity. Make sure they are willing to give you a very good recommendation, and be willing to accept a “no” if they feel they can’t do it. This is one key chance to stand out, so you won’t want anyone providing a recommendation who doesn’t know you well and isn’t enthusiastic about your future.

Click here for some more tips from the College Board on how to secure the best possible recommendations.


Computers crash, people get sick, things happen. Don’t lose your chance to apply because you waited.

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