Scholarship Apps: The Online Advantage

by Chris Diehl,
Scholarship Apps: The Online Advantage

Audrey Martinko, a freshman at Ohio State University, won several scholarships and applied for most of them online. "It was a lot more convenient," she says. "The problem with paper is that you have to mail it. Things get lost. Sending it online was more secure."

Simpler. Quicker. More secure. It's no wonder each day, more sponsors make their applications available online.

Online Advantages

There are a myriad of advantages for online applications:

  • Apply anywhere: Whether you're at home, school or work, apply anywhere you have an Internet connection.
  • One click: In general, once you click your mouse to send your application, that's it - there's no further paperwork.
  • Catch errors: Many online applications alert you if spaces are left blank, preventing you from sending an application that is missing required information.
  • Immediate confirmation: Usually a page thanks you for your submission right away. If you submit your application via email, save a "sent" copy.
  • Quick processing: Sponsors have the ability to score and select applications automatically, which means less time to find out if you're a winner.
  • Save money: There's no charge for postage. Plus, you avoid paying overnight shipping costs if you need to submit an application in a hurry.
  • Save time: Online applications enable you to complete more applications in less time. "Our application takes about 10 minutes to fill out," says Kristi Sherrill, executive director of the Education is Freedom Scholarship.

Sponsors Benefit Too

By accepting online applications, sponsors don't have to mail out applications, or manually process them when they come back, saving time and money.

"Paper costs a lot of money to process," says Greg Lee, the associate program manager at the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. "An average mailing can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The money we save can be used to fund more scholarships, larger scholarships."

And sponsors find the increased convenience attracts more applicants. "We've found that the likelihood of a student sending in an online application is greater than when we offered only paper," Sherrill says.

Get Around the Disadvantages

The drawbacks to online applications for the student and sponsor are few, but they are significant:

  • Computer or site malfunction resulting in loss of data
  • Limited access to the Internet

Avoid the risk of lost data by applying early. The increased application activity just before the deadline can slow or shut down a provider's Web site.

Check if the provider's site enables you to save your information online. Texas A&M University offers an online application form that saves your information and allows you to make updates up to the deadline. "Our students love our online application process, because if they forget to include something, they can always come back and make changes," says Jody Ford, assistant director of financial aid at Texas A&M University.

If the provider does not offer this feature, print off the application and use it as a guide. Save your answers to a word processing document, when you're ready, copy and paste your answers to the online form.

If you have limited Web access, check for a public Internet connection at your local public library, community college or neighborhood Internet café. Also, ask the scholarship sponsor if they have a paper copy available or if you can submit your information via regular mail.

Tips for Success

Consider these other tips when completing your online application:

  • Use proper, professional email etiquette: An electronic format doesn't give you license to be informal. Present yourself professionally. Don't send your essay from an email address that contains offensive or questionable references.
  • Include the right attachments: Verify the required electronic form (plain text, MS Word, PDF, etc.).
  • Mail additional items: Some providers may ask for hard copies of documents like transcripts, letters of recommendation or signature pages. Verify the postmark deadline for any such materials and mail the items before that date.
  • Follow the directions: The answers to most questions are located in the scholarship rules. If there is any ambiguity, the earlier you can ask the sponsor to clarify their rules, the better.
  • Spell and grammar check: This holds true for any kind of scholarship application - spelling and grammatical errors lead to easy disqualifications.
  • Contact information: The application should have a place for you to enter it. Provide a mailing address, phone number and/or email address where you can be contacted a month or two after the deadline.

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