Okay, so you’ve signed up to receive scholarships through an online scholarship database. Now, what? A little organization can help you find that perfect scholarship in your inbox and not miss important deadlines. The following tips can help you stay on track whether you’re searching for scholarships online, offline or doing a combination of both.
Set up a scholarship email address.
Create a new email address that’s dedicated to your scholarship search. A dedicated email can save you time and headache. It keeps your regular email box clutter free, so you won’t have to hunt down new scholarships within other emails. You don’t have to keep the email address forever, but it’s nice to have while you’re in college or searching for scholarships.
Set a weekly schedule to review new scholarships.
Some scholarship databases let you customize how frequently you want to receive information — weekly or daily. You may set your weekly schedule based on your delivery option or based on a day when you’re less busy. During this time, review new matches that come in that week and move relevant scholarships into a folder, categorized by deadline. If you’re too busy to review them each week, try a bi-weekly schedule or a time when you won’t get interrupted. This may mean getting up a bit earlier or staying up a bit late. You don’t have to set aside huge amounts of time. You can accomplish a lot within 30 minutes, just as long as you’re consistent. You know your schedule best.
Make a list of the scholarships you want to apply for.
A things-to-do list is tried and true, but may leave you stressed. If you prefer working visually or at your own pace, try alternate methods, such as a spreadsheet or Kanban board. Kanban boards are great visual reminders. The board has a queue, containing a number of columns that track your progress. There’s a backlog, which can hold all the scholarships you don’t want to work on right now. As you progress through the queue, you’ll move your task to the another column, labeled “In Progress” or “Done.” The Done column indicates you’ve submitted the scholarship application and are ready to pull a new scholarship from the backlog.
Use a binder or folders to stay organized.
This may apply to a digital or physical folder. Use a binder to organize any transcripts, essays, recommendation letters, and resumes you’ll use in your scholarship application. Laminate paperwork to keep them intact. If you often lose paperwork, a digital folder may work best. You can scan any loose papers into your computer and add them to the folder as well. To keep track of scholarships from college websites, set bookmarks and rename those folders by due date. When you create digital or physical folders, move scholarships with closer deadlines to the top or front of the pile. Move applications with later deadlines to the bottom or back, so they’re organized chronologically.
Organize scholarships by due date, at least two weeks before the actual due date.
Give yourself some leeway when it comes to deadlines. If you’re a procrastinator, this gives you a chance to start working on your application before it’s actually due. Don’t tell yourself you have two weeks to go. Hold yourself accountable to make the 2-week advanced deadline you’ve set for yourself. If you can’t trust yourself to do this, have someone keep you accountable or reward yourself for reaching your goal.
Use a reminder app, email, calendar or planner.
With so many applications having a different deadline, it’s easy to forget when each is due. Try a digital reminder like a reminder app or notification if you prefer the digital method. Again, you’d want to set the reminder two weeks earlier than when your application is due. Whatever option you choose, be sure it’s an option you already use regularly, so you won’t forget.
Clean up when you are done.
Create an archive folder, which holds any applications you’ve already applied for. This frees up your mind to focus on new applications that require your attention. At the same time, you may keep your archive in case you need it in the future. This is handy if you can’t recall whether you already applied for a scholarship or want to borrow some ideas from an old application.
Prioritize the scholarships that apply to you the most.
Set your own rules on what’s priority. It can be a scholarship you’re most likely to win because you meet all the requirements. Perhaps you prioritize by whether the scholarship is less competitive because it’s local or applies to a specific group. Or prioritize by who’s awarding the scholarship — for example, a scholarship from one of your top college choices. Or choose to prioritize by the award amount.
Focus on one scholarship at a time.
Did you know that multitasking is actually a myth? Working on multiple applications at the same time works against you and reduces productivity. Instead of working on multiple scholarships, focus on one scholarship at a time. You’ll accomplish so much more, do it better, and feel more relaxed. In this case, less is more.
Save generic information for scholarships.
Most applications request generic documents that apply to multiple applications. File digital or physical copies of recommendation letters, portfolios, transcripts, scholarship resumes, generic essays with paragraphs you can pull from, and other applications you can refer to. Then when it’s time to apply for the scholarship, you’ll have these pieces handy.
Use a checklist.
Track any items you need to include in your scholarship packet. This may include things like the application’s deadline, attachment requirements, and submission date. Check off these items as they’re completed.
You can use digital sticky notes to stay organized and remind yourself of an upcoming deadline. If you’re using a file folder, you can attach sticky notes to that folder. Include any reminder notes for a specific scholarship, such as any missing paperwork, and then check it off the list as it’s added. If you’re using a Kanban board, you can add post-its directly onto the board with reminders. Whether you use a digital or physical method, notes are a great way to remind yourself of what to include before sending off your scholarship application.