Applying for scholarships is an important process for every potential college student. Therefore, the following tips should help you make the most out of the process:

• Apply only if you’re eligible. Read all of the scholarship requirements and directions carefully to make sure you’re eligible before you send in your application. Your application can’t win if you’re not eligible for the scholarship.

• Complete the application in full and follow directions. If a question doesn’t apply, note that on the application. Don’t just leave it blank. Provide everything that is required, but don’t supply things that aren’t requested — you could end up being disqualified.

• Neatness counts and make sure your essay makes an impression. Make several photocopies of all the forms you receive. Use the copies as working drafts to develop your application packet. Always type your application or submit online. If you must print, make sure you do so neatly and legibly. The key to writing a strong essay is to be personal and specific. Include concrete details to make your experience come alive: who, what, where and when.

• Watch out for deadlines and make copies before sending. To help keep yourself on track, impose a deadline on yourself that is at least two weeks before the stated deadline. Use this time to proofread your application before you send it off.

Before sending your application, make a copy of the entire packet and keep it on file in case your application goes astray. Make sure your name (and Social Security number, if applicable) appears on each page of your application to ensure that nothing is lost.

• Bob McDonnell is executive director of Arizona College Planners, L.L.C., a member of the College Planning Network, the National Association of College Funding Advisors and the National Association of College Acceptance Counselors. For questions, email

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