Best Tips for Winning a STEM Scholarship

The cost of higher education in the US has been steadily inching upward over the years. According to a 2021 report by College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for a four-year college degree came to $27,330 for in-state students. The costs were significantly higher at $44,150 for out-of-state students and $55,800 for private colleges. These costs can be inhibitive for many American families, and scholarships are the only way for their children to get a higher education. 


The National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA) reports that over the last ten years, the number of scholarships awarded has increased by over 45%. Yet an estimated $100 million in scholarship money goes unawarded each year, mostly due to a lack of applicants. That’s why we’ve created IOScholarships – a tool that helps you discover scholarships that are open and relevant to you.


It’s not only a question of discovery, though. Even among the scholarships that are awarded, the demographics of students receiving need-based scholarships are somewhat skewed. Statistics for 2020 reveal that while white students have a 14.2% chance of getting a scholarship, only 11.2% of minority students can hope to get one. These disparities are also reflected in the STEM jobs marketplace, where Hispanic workers account for 18% of the US workforce but occupy only 14% of STEM jobs. Similarly, African Americans who make up 12% of the workforce represent only 9% of STEM workers. 


For many ambitious minority students, getting a STEM scholarship can be the first step towards helping remove these disparities. In this article, we’ll discuss the best tips and strategies to help you get a STEM scholarship. 

Actionable tips to help you get a STEM scholarship

1. Start early: Gathering all the essential letters and documents necessary for a scholarship application can be time-consuming. Therefore, it’s advisable to start well in advance of the deadline, preferably with a couple of months to spare. Most scholarships require SAT scores for undergraduate students and GRE/GMAT scores for graduate students. Standardized testing agencies will take at least a few weeks to mail you your scores. 


Similarly, you’ll need to be flexible with the people, such as professors and mentors, you approach to write you a letter of recommendation. Ideally, budget a couple of weeks at least for this process. By starting early with these tasks, you can ensure you’re ready to post your application comfortably before the last date. 


2. Identify STEM scholarships that fit your requirements: Scholarships to help students into STEM disciplines are multiplying, and an online search will throw up hundreds of results. However, not every scholarship is for you, both in terms of eligibility and interest. Some are open to all STEM students, others are for students already in college, and some are exclusively targeted at underrepresented groups like women and minorities. One thing that can help with the filtering process is being clear about the field or industry you want to go into. You can make a long list of prospective scholarships that meet your requirement before shortlisting your priority targets. Make sure to apply to as many scholarships as necessary, including a few outside your industry focus, to improve your chances of success. IOScholarships simplifies the process for you. It matches you with thousands of scholarships based on your talents and skills. This improves your chances of winning the scholarship.


3. Be organized: Managing multiple applications at the same time can be cumbersome as they are likely to have different requirements, deadlines, and formats. This is where the IOScholarships organizer comes in. Our free organizer tool will allow you to stay focused on the application process. We offer a single view and an easy interface that allows you to manage your selected scholarships and stay on top of deadlines.


4. Ace the essay: Many STEM scholarships do not require an essay, as is customary for most general scholarships. However, some do. Consider this an opportunity to showcase the best of your writing skills, your reasoning and logical skills, your thought process, and finally, the level of interest in your chosen field of study. Here are a few things you should keep in mind:


  • While universities and scholarship programs prize intelligence and academic achievement, they also prefer candidates who are aligned with their worldview. Therefore, make sure to write a personalized essay for each university that matches its mission and values. 

  • Stick to the assigned topic. For instance, you may be asked to write an essay about what influenced your interest in a particular major subject, or what you’ve done so far to learn more about it. Make your essay precisely about those questions. 

  • Expand on your resume. Without deviating from the topic, use your essay to help the reader discover more about you in terms of subject matter knowledge, awareness of new developments in the field, and opportunities for practical application. 

  • Edit and proofread your essay before submission. Preferably use a writing assistant or editing software to make sure your piece is in perfect order. Language proficiency might not seem important to a chemistry or math student, but it certainly is when it comes to writing your scholarship essay.  


For more information on writing a unique essay, read the following article 


5. Recheck your applications: Before submitting your application, ensure you’ve followed all instructions to the last detail. Every scholarship has different documentation and formatting requirements and it can be hard to make your application stand out. It’s ideal, therefore, to customize each application separately and not recycle documents like cover letters and lists of achievements. Although it may take longer, it’s ideal to treat each scholarship as a separate process and customize applications accordingly. 


6. Don’t be discouraged: If you didn’t get a scholarship, try and work out what you could have done differently with your application and use that knowledge to improve your chances with future opportunities. Some scholarships even offer feedback on your application to help you better your chances next year. Keep your spirits up and remember that there are always going to be new scholarship opportunities you can aim for. 

Get help applying for STEM scholarships

Navigating the sheer number of STEM scholarships out there can be challenging for students. Scholarships that look appealing because of their funding amount may not be right for your choice of major subject or university. Others get overlooked because they are new and not many people have heard about them. 


At IOScholarships, we take the hassle out of the process of identifying and applying for the right scholarships. We are a community dedicated to securing debt-free education for students from diverse backgrounds. 

Join us today to get access to thousands of curated scholarships and financial education resources. And trust us to find the STEM scholarships that are perfect for you.

Best Tips For Winning STEM Scholarships for Latinos and Black Students