Scholarship Application Tips

10 Ways to Improve Scholarship Success

  1. Start your search as early as possible. Don’t wait until spring of your high school senior year to start searching.
  2. Stay up to date on deadlines. Several of our scholarships open in October with a January deadline and others open in January with a March deadline. Create a plan to organize all of your application deadlines.
  3. Make sure you follow directions carefully and refer to “How to apply,” on the Frequently Asked Questions page as it is very important you complete the entire application. If you have questions, look at the FAQ page first.
  4. Look for scholarships on bulletin boards near your guidance office or financial aid office. We send fliers to your school approximately two weeks before a scholarship opens.
  5. Carefully read eligibility criteria. The Orange County Community Foundation manages many different scholarships and eligibility criteria vary. Apply to a scholarship only if you meet all criteria.
  6. Be sure you address the intent of the scholarship. Try to understand the donor’s motivation for offering the award. For example, if “volunteering” is listed in eligibility criteria, emphasize your experience in volunteering and include the number of hours you volunteered and if you held a leadership role.
  7. Essays are very important. Create an outline to organize your thoughts and make sure you thoroughly and thoughtfully answer the question asked. Give examples and be specific. Proofread a printed copy of your essay for spelling and grammar errors and ask someone else to read it.
  8. The optional essay is not required but it is HIGHLY recommended. Provide concise answers to questions. Keep in mind that the reader should have a clear sense of who you are and feel that you fully answered the question.
  9. Remember that impressions matter. Slang words, offensive terms, etc. may leave a negative impression on the reader. We strongly advise you that you use an appropriate email address, such as
  10. If you are invited to an in-person interview remember to show up on time and dress professionally (business attire preferred).

Common Reasons an Application is Declined

  • The application is incomplete
  • Applicant finished the general application but did not complete all steps to apply to specific opportunities
  • Minimum effort was put into essays
  • Applicant did not answer all questions pertaining to a specific opportunity
  • Applicant did not meet minimum criteria
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Elaine Chen Director, Donor & Community Engagement

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