Why Your Scholarship Process Should Be Like the 'Amazing Race'

How is applying for scholarships like competing in the reality television game show 'The Amazing Race'? The two have much more in common than you might think. Learn how applying strategies from the Emmy Award-winning TV program to scholarship applications can improve your odds of bringing home big scholarship dollars.

scholarship application tips

The Big Picture

Rising college costs are causing more and more students to actively pursue scholarships that can help cover higher ed expenses. With competition for financial awards fierce, it's more important than ever to be strategic in your approach to the scholarship process. Fortunately, bringing some lessons from the reality television program 'The Amazing Race' can help you raise your game in the scholarship sweepstakes.

The first thing to remember is that this is a process that's worth the effort. Just like successfully finishing challenges in 'The Amazing Race' can yield big-time benefits, completing scholarship applications can effectively bring you closer to achieving your higher ed goals. Large financial awards can be a determining factor in whether you can afford to attend the school of your choice. Even smaller scholarships, especially multiple financial awards, can make a difference in whether you'll have to take out private loans, get a campus job or find other means by which to pay for college.

Another philosophically important point to remember: This is a competition. There are other players out there who want to take the top spot and leave everyone else behind. Contestants on 'The Amazing Race' employ cutthroat tactics to gain an advantage over other competitors. While your competition in the scholarship game won't be able to adversely affect your performance, a lackadaisical approach to the process can potentially undermine your chance of success. Not taking the process seriously or failing to put forth adequate effort can result in sloppy, undeveloped and error-filled applications that will be easy for evaluators to reject.

Seeking Your Advantage

With such high stakes in the scholarship process, it's important to employ every advantage available to you. One factor you can make work for you is time. Getting started early on applications can put you ahead of others competing for financial awards. Procrastination plagues many students, and the result is often rushed, uncorrected work that fails to represent scholarship candidates in the best light. Getting started right away can allow you to put together accurate, reasoned and perhaps even inspired applications that move you past candidates who have thrown something together at the last moment. Contestants on 'The Amazing Race' would never handicap themselves by waiting around before beginning a leg of the competition. While scholarships aren't necessarily a race, getting started early can help set you up to do well.

Of course, being proactive doesn't guarantee success. You may encounter challenges - or roadblocks - while completing scholarships that seem to deter your chance of success. You'll likely have to come up with different approaches for addressing certain situations and deftly apply lessons from any mistakes. You may also devise methods that allow you to make quicker progress toward your goal of massive scholarship dollars. For example, many awards require similar essay responses or statements of purpose. You may be able to craft a carefully honed reply that you can supply on multiple submissions. If length expectations or other factors make that impossible, you'll at least have a sound foundation response you can add to, cut or otherwise alter to fit specific scholarship criteria. With such tricks you may be able to fast-forward ahead of the competition.

No matter how prepared, diligent and intelligent you are in completing scholarship applications, there are likely to be complexities that exceed your expertise. In these instances, it's important to get help. Visit the website of an organization sponsoring a financial award to get the full lowdown on application requirements and expectations. If your questions aren't answered on the site, there's a good chance you can email, chat with or call a representative who can provide the information you need. Contestants in 'The Amazing Race,' after all, go to area locals for insight that will allow them to complete a task. Fortunately for you, the person at the other end of your information request is much more likely to speak your language.

Learn why the scholarship process doesn't end after your first year of college.

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