The cost of college can be extremely scary. Growing up, it seemed like this was all my teachers would ever talk about: the importance of college, its cost, the growing amount of student debt, and scholarships. In order to be more educated about my finances, I decided to take a financial literacy course in my junior year of high school, in which one of the its emphasis’s was (of course) college scholarships.
My teacher began by giving us her method of organizing scholarships (which involved an accordion folder) and I did my best to follow it; as much as I tried to stick with it, however, I quickly discovered that it wasn’t the best one for me. I would print off applications that had a deadline much too close for me to finish, my papers easily got out of order, and it was hard for me to look at the upcoming applications and deadlines without having to pull all of the papers out.
After several months of try-and-fail with this method, I decided to create my own organizational method. While it did take me a while, I finally perfected it, and it has helped me a lot with applying with scholarships. The following is my own unique organizational system for scholarships, so feel free to adopt and adapt my own methods to meet your own needs.
What you will need:
- A 1-inch binder
- Binder Dividers/Tabs
- Plastic page protectors
- Manilla folders, 3-hole punched
- FREE Scholarship Organizer Printables
- Applied Scholarships printable
- Monthly Scholarship Organizer with Calendar printable
- Monthly Scholarship Organizer
- Scholarship Organizer with Notes printable
- Weekly Scholarship Organizer
(Do you want these printables in a different color scheme? Let me know and I’ll create some for the most requested!)
This is the area that comes before any of the tabs, and it is very important because this is where I put my Applied Scholarships printable. This allows me to easily track what scholarships I have applied to, when I applied, the announcement date, how much the scholarship is worth, etc. Plus, opening up the binder and seeing a list of the scholarships that I have applied to and won is extremely encouraging. I keep this printable in a plastic page protector and pull it out whenever I need to add something to it.
Behind the Applied Scholarships printable is where I keep a variety of notes I have taken on how to write the best scholarship essay. Although researching how to write a scholarship essay may seem weird (after all, you’ve been writing academic essays for years), this is definitely a priority. Scholarship essays are extremely different from academic essays because you are more focused showcasing your individuality than sticking with the five-paragraph rule . Researching how to write a scholarship essay also allows you to read about what the judges are looking for in an essay, the best ways to format it, and some basic ideas just to get your train of thought going. My notes also include a set of common scholarship interview questions (with my own personalized answers to them) to review before a scholarship interview, as well as a list of websites that I like to look at for scholarships.
1st Tab: Scholarship Deadlines
It is always important to finish and submit/send out a scholarship application before the deadline. To help me keep track of them, I created a printable that not only lets me see the name, deadline, and award amount of each scholarship, but also what each application requires. This helps me to keep track of what I need to collect before sending out my application (such as a teacher recommendation, an official transcript, or an essay).
2nd Tab: Applications
The second tab is where I place all of my paper applications (if they are available to print out) and online scholarship information. I always place the paper applications in plastic page protectors so that I will not have to hole-punch them. For online scholarships that do not have paper applications, I will either copy/paste the essay prompt onto paper and print it out or I will write it out on lined paper; I will then begin my pre-writing on the same paper. It is also important to organize all of these applications by their deadline.
3rd Tab: Essays
As you are applying for scholarships, it can be helpful to look back on your past essays to see what did and didn’t work. Occasionally, you can also adapt old essays for new competitions. (Just make sure that whichever scholarship you had formerly applied to allows this; some scholarship competitions claim the rights to all essays submitted.)
To keep all of the essays organized into whether they won, lost, or were never entered is where the manila folders come in. Using the manila folders, you can organize your printed essays into these folders (labeled Won, Lost, and Other) that are placed within the “Essays” tab of your binder.
Believe me, as organized and as efficient as you may be, you may not always get to finish that essay or get to submit it in time. I once wrote an entire essay only to discover that there was no place to submit it (or information on where to email it) on the sponsors website! Instead of just trashing these essays, I keep them for future use. Plus, if there is a consistent pattern between your winning scholarship essays—such as a certain essay format or a story that you use—using this organization makes it easier to recognize that pattern and use it for future essays.
4th Tab: Portfolio
This section of the binder is where you keep track of your student activities, average number of job/volunteer hours, leadership positions, honors/awards/recognitions, etc.
Having all of this in one place makes it so much simpler, easier, and stress-free when applying, rather than trying to remember everything off the top of your head.
5th Tab: Additional Materials
This is the tab where you will keep any additional materials that a scholarship may ask for. It is good to have several copies of each on hand, even if you are not immediately applying to a scholarship that requires them, so that a deadline does not roll around and you find yourself one-item short and unable to submit it in time.
These additional materials may include:
- Official and/or Unofficial Transcripts
- Recommendation Letters
- Copies of College Acceptance Letters (for high school seniors)
- Letters of Good Standing (for college students)
I hope this organizational method helps you as much as it helped me. Best of luck to you and all of your scholarship endeavors!
P.S. Do you have any questions or comments? Please write me a letter back (in the comments) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!