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Getting Ready for Scholarship Season (Part 1): CV, References, and Transcripts

If I posted a link to a fantastic scholarship opportunity on the Facebook page or Twitter with a deadline of ‘next week’ – would you be able to apply? Here’s what you need to have organised and at the ready to apply for scholarships, grants, internships, or job opportunities:
Some scholarship applications will ask for your CV. If you’ve worked previously, list your experiences, but if you don’t have work experience – don’t worry. Use your CV to highlight any awards and honours you’ve received, community service you’ve been involved in, and activities you’ve participated in. List all relevant activities and honours, but be selective. If you’ve more activities than can fit in the space provided, leave out the ones that aren’t significant.
Read the selection criteria carefully to understand what the reviewers are looking for. For example, if the scholarship seeks applicants who can demonstrate leadership experience or an outstanding extracurricular record, include your volunteer and community service activities, emphasising those where you took a leadership role. Most importantly, your activities should represent your varied talents and passions outside the classroom. The reviewers are trying to get a sense of who you are and what you believe in. Make sure your activities reflect that.
Make your CV and application stand out from the crowd! If you need help developing a professional CV, find examples online, or better yet – contact your advisor or the career services department at your school or university. If you don’t have extracurricular activities or volunteer work to list – now’s the time to get involved. (Who knows – the life you change doing volunteer work might be your own!)
Letters of recommendation or professional references
Good references are essential to creating a winning scholarship application. Prepare a document that lists at least three professional references. These should include one or two professors who know you well, preferably both in and outside of the classroom. Choose professors who have taught you in upper-level courses and know your academic goals. You might also ask a coach or academic advisor, an employer you’ve worked for, or a manager you’ve worked under. Choose people relevant to the sponsor's goals. For example, ask a science teacher to write a letter of recommendation for a science scholarship, not your art teacher. (Never ask a family member to provide a recommendation or letter of reference.) In each case, you want these people to speak highly of you – to vouch for your abilities and worthiness for the scholarship.
Make sure you speak to your recommenders, ensuring they’re willing to speak on your behalf. Give your recommender a written description of the scholarship and a copy of your personal statement or essay that you write for the application. It’s a good idea to keep them informed about what you’re doing academically, personally, and professionally – sending them an updated CV and transcript will help them with the process of writing the letter or speaking for you during an interview. You should also give them appropriately addressed envelopes with postage, if necessary.
Please, be sure to give your recommenders plenty of time to write the letter! Ask them at least four weeks in advance. Gently remind them ten days before the deadline, asking whether they’ve sent in the recommendation or need more information from you. Do not ask to see a copy of the letter, even if they offer. If the recommender provides you with a copy of the letter, the selection committee may suspect that the letter isn’t as candid as it might have been otherwise. Send the writer a thank you note after the letter has been posted. Let them know how much you appreciate what they’re doing for you; you will likely ask them to write additional letters for you. Once they've written one letter on your behalf, the second letter is much easier. If you send them a thank you, it will leave a good impression and make them more willing to spend time writing you additional letters in the future.
You should have copies of your transcripts available in case you need to send an unofficial copy along with the application. This is also useful when filling out the application in case you need detailed information about courses and grades, and to send to the people writing letters of recommendation for you. If the application requires official transcripts from all the schools you’ve attended, request this information as soon as possible. You can do this by email, fax, or phone, but mail a letter as a backup. Some schools charge a nominal fee for official transcripts. After a few weeks, call the schools to ensure the transcripts have been sent to the proper address.
Scores of internationally recognised exams (GRE for aptitude and TOEFL/IELTS for English)
This may not be necessary, but just in case, you should have the proper documentation or copies of appropriate exam scores.
Have multiple copies of a photo of yourself. A school photo or passport photo is perfect. Anything smaller than a wallet-sized headshot will do.
Watch for the next post, covering the all-important essay and possible interview!


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