Large national scholarships ($5,000 or more) are everywhere. While I love that these organizations are investing in education, they’re also gaining a ton of exposure.

Once during college football season, I remember a sports commentator saying that a team behaved in a way where they weren’t taking candy from a baby, but were trying to take a steak from a caveman. I believe this sums up large national scholarships as well.

Here’s why…

[clickToTweet tweet=”Applying for a national scholarship is like taking steak from a caveman: A battle ’til the end.” quote=”Applying for a national scholarship is like taking steak from a caveman: A battle ’til the end.”]

A lot of them look at financial need and specific majors.

I was one of those students who didn’t qualify for anything according to FAFSA because my EFC (Expected Family Contribution) was too high. FAFSA believed that my family’s income was high enough to be able to cover costs out of pocket and with loans. (I’m still wondering where this extra money is because I’d love to take a vacation!)

Before we go any further, please do not misinterpret what I’m saying as: Gabrielle says we shouldn’t apply for national scholarships.

That’s NOT what I’m saying at all.

I just want you to understand the level of competition and requirements that go into each application.

 In high school, I applied for a few of the big ones including the Gates Millennium Scholarship. While I didn’t win, I do think the application process helped me with other applications. It took forever to finish, but I understood my chances prior to devoting hours of time on the essays and what seemed like a million questions.

When I began going after scholarships in 2007, there weren’t as many as there are now.

Today, numerous organizations are sponsoring scholarships; in fact, I believe that scholarships have become the new marketing campaigns for companies. Because of this new strategy, more students are applying because of various application requirements committees use that sometimes go viral or are easier to apply to, i.e. short social media applications. This is great for businesses, but difficult for students like us.

So what should you do?

You must have a strategy that accounts for increased competition by applying to local scholarships that are within your sphere of influence. This means that you’re applying for scholarships where the odds are in your favor given location, applicant pool size, and much more.

Take a look at a few of the benefits.

4 Benefits of Applying for Local Scholarships

Again, as you find and apply to scholarships, do not become consumed with only national scholarships AKA THE BIG MONEY. Read that again: Do not become consumed with only national scholarships AKA THE BIG MONEY. I’m not saying don’t apply for them; just make sure you’re also applying to a variety of scholarships (especially those where your chances of success are higher).

Benefit #1: Higher Chances

The first benefit of going after local scholarships is that the numbers are in your favor. You are competing against fewer students when compared to national averages.

Always take advantage of the scholarships available at your school and/or future/current college. You’d be surprised at how many scholarships extend deadlines due to low applicant numbers. I’ve seen it happen more than once and know students who have been encouraged to apply due to low application numbers. Make sure you or your student takes advantage of the laziness and ignorance of others.

[info-box type=”success”]Real Talk: Sometimes national scholarships have such unique applications that their numbers are comparable to local scholarships within your sphere of influence. I’ve seen it happen way too many times where deadlines were extended weeks or even months. It’s not guaranteed that this will happen all the time, but it is something to keep an eye out for![/info-box]

Benefit #2: Somebody Knows Somebody

The second benefit is that your family or family friends may know someone that sits on the committee. Let’s keep it real again – your chances are better if you know someone on the committee. That’s why it’s super important to build relationships with these folks and to have a diverse Scholarship Team. (Click here if you need some help with developing a Scholarship Team that will increase your chances of winning scholarships).

Committee members live in your community. You’ve seen them at Wal-Mart or Target, they workout at the local gym, they attend Friday night games, they go to your church, their kids go to the same school, your parents may work with their spouse, they know someone in your family, etc.

Scholarship committee members are everywhere. As we say in Texas (or at least as I say), somebody should know somebody that knows you.

Benefit #3: Insider Information

Third, local scholarships give you the opportunity to receive helpful feedback. This feedback could make a huge difference in your or your student’s next application.

They may say that the essay had terrible grammar, lacked cohesion, or didn’t provide enough information. Take their feedback and make adjustments; it’s not about getting mad, it’s about getting better.

Keep in mind that sometimes students don’t earn scholarships simply because they submitted the application too late… especially if it’s a rolling acceptance process. Insider information that confirms your application was strong but was submitted too late will save you a ton of time and prevent a lot of unnecessary changes.

Benefit #4: Confidence Boosters

The final benefit is that it boosts students’ confidence. Going after a scholarship with high-stakes can increase stress levels. I know I was extremely stressed while working on the Gates Millennium Scholarship. However, my $500 scholarship about sportsmanship seemed natural. Use each scholarship, especially the ones you or your student wins, as ammunition.

Advice for Your Upcoming Scholarship Applications

Really, the best advice I can give when it comes to large national scholarships is to make sure you’re also applying for additional scholarships within your city, community, university/school, department, etc.. Just as the saying goes that warns you against putting all of your eggs in one basket, you can’t afford to risk all of your college dreams on one scholarship.

Question: What are your thoughts about large national scholarships? Leave me a comment below.

Feature Image Artwork Credit: iStockPhoto/ratpack223

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