Scholarships are awesome resources if you’re checking out different ways to pay for college. It’s free money—what’s not to love?
As it turns out, most scholarship programs have application processes that aren’t exactly lovable. Students generally have to submit a lot of information about themselves: transcripts, GPAs, test scores, resumes, community service activities, and so on. There may even be a few essays and grade requirements thrown in as well. You don’t want to complain, because again, free money—but these applications sure are tedious when you’re working on college apps, high school courses, and financial aid applications all at the same time.
The following easy scholarships have application processes that are a bit more manageable. Some ask you to write short essays while others don’t require any essays at all! The awards may not be as large as some other scholarships, but when the application process is so easy, you really don’t have much to lose. I'll start off with some words of warning before getting into the good stuff: essay and no-essay scholarships that are so easy to apply for, you may end up applying to all of them!
Caveat: If a Scholarship Seems Too Good to Be True ...
It turns out there aren't too many legitimate "easy" scholarships out there. If a scholarship application seems too good to be true, then be cautious—you don't want to fall victim to a scholarship scam. Here are some things to look out for:
- If a scholarship application asks for personal information that doesn't seem relevant to the award, tread carefully. Many top scholarship programs ask for very personal information (transcripts, SAT/ACT scores, even financial information for need-based scholarships), but this info is all relevant to candidate evaluation. If you're ever uncomfortable providing personal information, dig deeper into the scholarship award—can you verify that it's legitimate? Does it have its own site, or can you only find information on it through a third party? Google "[award name] scam" to see if anything suspicious pops up.
- Avoid any scholarship that ask you to make payments to enter or win. Scholarship programs are in the business of giving money to students, not taking it. It's likely just a scam if the application asks for payment, especially if it asks you to enter credit card information.
Now that we got that out of the way, we can get to the good stuff: easy essay and non-essay scholarships and how to win them.
These essays won't take you long at all, but they're a good excuse to set up at your favorite cafe.
The scholarships in this section ask students to submit short essays with their applications. Even though you'll have to write up an essay, the rest of the application (and the essay itself) should be easy and manageable for all these awards. In fact, I expect most of these applications should take no longer than one to two hours to complete.
Bachus & Schanker LLC Scholarship
This scholarship program is a bit different than most of the other awards included in this post—it's funded by a private law firm in Colorado. Students compete for a $2,000 award by writing a short essay (800 words) about the 7th amendment and how it affects their lives.
- The award is open to high school students who have been accepted to a four-year university and university students with a minimum 3.0 GPA.
- There are two application deadlines per year: one November 30 to win a scholarship for the spring semester, and one July 30 to win a scholarship for the fall semester.
Courage to Grow Scholarship
This $500 award is given out to one lucky student every month. To compete for the award, applicants must explain in 250 words why they think they deserve the scholarship.
- The award is open to high school juniors, high school seniors, and college students. Applicants must have a minimum 2.5 GPA.
- Application deadline: end of every month!
Odenza Marketing Group Scholarship
To compete for this $500 award, applicants must like the Odenza Facebook page and write two short essays (about 500 words each). One essay must be related to travel and your career, and the other must explain why you should receive the scholarship.
- The award is open to those aged 16-25 who are either current high school students or people who have at least one year of college remaining. Applicants must also have a minimum 2.5 GPA.
- The application deadline is September 30, 2017.
James "Rhio" O'Connor Scholarship Memorial Fund
This $1,000 award is given out to a new student every month. Students compete for the scholarship by writing a short essay (700-1,500 words) addressing a prompt related to cancer treatment.
- The award is open to all college students.
- Application deadline: new one every month!
Some of these applications won't take you longer than a few minutes.
When it comes to easy applications, you can't get much easier than the following scholarship programs. You'll still have to submit some information about yourself (and, in some instances, complete some brief activities or tasks), but you won't have to write any essays to qualify.
AFSA High School Scholarship
Here's one of those scholarships for which you have to complete a few unique activities to qualify. For the 2017 scholarship, students applied by reading about automatic fire sprinkler systems and then taking a 10-question quiz based on the information they read. Ten $2,000 awards are available each year.
- This scholarship is open to high school seniors for the 2017-18 school year.
- The application will open around September 2017 and close in April 2018.
Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway
Students can qualify to win $2,500, $20,000, or $100,000 in tuition money by writing a "story" about themselves in 350 characters or less—that's really short. Stories that get the most votes win prizes, so recruit your friends to vote for you!
- This award is open to all students aged 18-24.
- Awards are given out on a rolling basis.
Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition
This scholarship program gives out relatively small awards of $50, but the application process is particularly fun and easy. Students qualify by writing and submitting up to three original haikus.
- This scholarship is open to all students in grades 7-12.
- The deadline will be around March 2018.
"No Essay" College Scholarship
This $2,000 award is given out monthly. To apply, students just submit an application with basic identifying information, GPA, and SAT/ACT scores. Winners are determined by random selection, and you can submit a new application every month.
- This scholarship is open to high school students, adults heading back to school, current college students, and anyone else looking to attend college or graduate school within the next year.
- Application deadline: end of every month!
Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest
Do you have a creative side and an eye for fashion? Students compete for 10 $1,000-$10,000 awards by designing and wearing prom outfits made out of duct tape. Applicants can enter as individuals or as part of a couple. Check out the website for fun pictures of past winners!
- This competition is open to high school students in the US and Canada (excluding certain states and territories—refer to the official rules for details).
- The application period opens around April 2018 and closes in late May 2018.
US Bank Scholarship
Three $5,000 awards, one $10,000 award, and one $20,000 award are available through this scholarship program. To qualify, students submit a simple application and complete five brief online learning modules on financial literacy. If you're heading off to college, it's not a bad idea to get some basic info on personal finance anyway, making this scholarship app a win-win!
- This award is open to current undergraduates.
- The deadline is October 27, 2017.
CaptainU $2,000 Student-Athlete Scholarship
As the name suggests, this quarterly award is meant for student athletes who plan to attend a four-year college or university. Applicants must submit some basic info about their sport and GPA to qualify.
- This scholarship is open to high school and junior college student athletes.
- Application deadline: new one every quarter (i.e., every three months).
3 Tips for Winning Easy Scholarships
Easy scholarships to apply for aren't necessarily the same as easy scholarships to win. Because these scholarship applications are so simple to complete, you'll probably have a lot of competition. Here are some strategies to help you submit your best applications possible:
- If you have to write an essay, you’re likely to be more successful if your views align with those of the entity that’s awarding the scholarship. To prepare, do some research about the company or charity's mission statement.
- Make sure your application is polished. You won’t have the opportunity to make more than a first impression (remember, these apps are short and sweet!), so double-check for any grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors.
- Last but not least, make sure your application is complete and on time!
These scholarships are awesome options if you want to churn out as many applications as possible. As you might have noticed, though, the award amounts can be a bit underwhelming (although keep in mind that several smaller awards can be just as helpful as one big award).
You'll have to spend more time on your applications if you're gunning for a top scholarship, but the payoff can be more than worth it. To learn more about some of the best scholarships out there, check out our guides to the top scholarships for high school juniors and seniors.
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Hayley Capp, winner of the 2013 QS Leadership Scholarship, shares her top tips on how to write a winning scholarship application essay.
There is no one way to write a winning scholarship application. If you gathered together all the scholarship entries that have ever won a prize, you would find it difficult to identify what made them the same. Each would offer a distinctive style employed by the author; a unique insight into his or her past, present and future aspirations.
This uniqueness is the key, and the first point to remember when you pick up your pen to write. Make your scholarship application essay exclusive to you, personalize it, delve deep into your passion and drive to study your subject, and create a response that could only ever relate to you. It is this individuality that stands out, and that’s exactly what catches a judge’s eye and defines a winner.
I won the 2013 QS Leadership Scholarship, so will base my guidance on my own thought process when shaping my application essay. However, the basic principles that I highlight with this example can be extracted and applied to other scholarship essay writing processes.
1. Read and re-read the essay statement you are being asked to respond to, and identify the key themes.
From my own example, the essay statement was: ‘Where I have demonstrated responsible leadership, or innovation, and how it made a difference either in my community or in my work’. I identified the key themes as ‘leadership’ and ‘community impact’.
2. Understand the meaning of the key themes.
After identifying the key themes, it is important to understand what each of these ideas really means, beyond the initial level. For instance, I acknowledged that the meaning of ‘leadership’ involved identifying the effects my leadership had – the actions taken and results achieved under my leadership – and not simply describing the position I held and my responsibilities. The more depth you bring to your understanding of the meaning of each theme, the more examples you will be able to identify to demonstrate your abilities.
3. Fill your scholarship essay with keywords/synonyms of keywords used in the scholarship statement.
Using the keywords from the scholarship statement throughout your essay will demonstrate your commitment to addressing the question being asked. For instance, I made a special effort to ensure references to ‘leadership’; ‘innovation’ and ‘impacting communities’ ran throughout my essay.
4. Make an engaging start to your essay.
If you are struggling to start your scholarship application essay, why not include a quote or statement that relates to your intended course, and which you can later link to the main body of your text. Showing wider knowledge and aptitude for your subject will help convince the judges that it is a worthwhile investment to support you in your chosen course.
5. Understand the criteria used by the scholarship committee to evaluate application essays.
Based on my own experience, I have outlined what I believe to be the key criteria used by scholarship committee judges for evaluating scholarship application essays on the themes of leadership and community impact. My advice would be to address all of these areas in your essay, whether the question explicitly asks for it or not.
What to include in scholarship essays about leadership:
- The extent of the leadership experience and degree of accomplishment. What were the results? Did you manage to grow a society from 10 to 100 members through your tenure?
- Why you got involved in the leadership experience. What was your initial inspiration and how did the experience make you feel? This is a very important aspect as it allows you to show your sincerity and demonstrates your passion.
- What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them? Inspirational stories of perseverance despite adversity make readers (especially judges) want to help you succeed. It also shows that you have great leadership qualities: the ability to adapt to new situations and the determination to not give up.
- What did you learn?How did these lessons shape you as a leader? Every experience brings new lessons and personal growth opportunities and the best leaders are humble and realize this. Speaking about these lessons indicates that you have truly reflected on your experiences and that you understand what leadership is. (In other words, you know that leadership isn’t just about getting a title like “President” or “Executive Director”.)
- What does this mean for the future? A scholarship isn’t just an award; it’s an investment in your future. So if you plan to continue being involved in your particular leadership activity in the future, tell the judges.
What to include in scholarship essays about community impact:
- How much time did you dedicate to the activity? The scholarship committee is likely to be looking for applicants who made a fairly long commitment to a community activity.
- Why was it important to you? Joy from helping others? Excitement of trying something new? Opportunity to form relationships with others? Having a genuine reason helps build a convincing essay.
- Why was it important to the community? Ask the question: What would be different for your community if you didn’t do what you do? It is most important to show that you recognize the real needs in your communities, and act to address these.
- What did you gain yourself through giving to the community? It is important to show that you understand how through giving, you end up receiving more in the end. Sharing what community service has taught you and how it helped you develop demonstrates that you have truly gained from your participation and suggests you will continue doing so in the future.
My final point of advice when writing your scholarship application essay or cover letter is to really show that you know who you are. What are the relevant past and present experiences that demonstrate your abilities and where are you headed? Use carefully selected language to emphasize your passion, ambition and enthusiasm and remember to adopt a positive mindset, in which you believe in all the great things you have done and plan to continue achieving in the future. If you don’t believe in yourself, why would the judges?
You can browse our various scholarship listings here, and QS also offers its own scholarships. Also, you can download our free guide for more advice on how to find scholarships to study abroad.
Hayley Capp is the winner of the 2013 QS Leadership Scholarship. Covering up to US$10,000 of course fees for a graduate program, the scholarship is awarded to the applicant best able to demonstrate his/her ability to use entrepreneurial and leadership skills to make a positive impact on a community.
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