How to Win Scholarships: Five Steps to Secure Funding

Phillip Maffetone standing in a group of British Marshall scholars in the UK.

Phillip Maffettone, 2014 British Marshall Scholarship recipient among a group of Marshall Scholars in the UK.

Want to learn how to win scholarships? Winners are passionate about their work. At UB, we are committed to helping you capitalize on your strengths and find your niche by providing you with the tools and guidance you need to succeed.

1. Demonstrate academic excellence.

Scholarship winners have strong academic credentials. Winners typically have GPAs that are 3.5 and higher. In addition to good grades, scholarship winners have robust academic resumes.

  • They have demonstrated intellectual passion for their subject. They have done original work, completed a major research thesis and enrolled in honors level courses. Oftentimes, they are a part of the University Honors College or the Advanced Honors Program.
  • They learn another language. 
  • They are familiar with trends in their field and are knowledgeable about current literature. 

2. Gain experience outside the classroom.

  • Study Abroad. Students interested in opportunities with an international emphasis should have a carefully laid out plan to participate in study abroad and language acquisition.
  • Do some research. Many of our scholarship winners have engaged in multiple research projects, both at UB and through funded summer research experiences for undergraduates. Sometimes students propose research projects and are funded through the University Honors CollegeExperiential Learning Network or their school or department. Students typically present their research on campus and at national conferences.
  • Participate in an internship. Academically-related internships are opportunities to gain valuable work experience and obtain career-specific mentoring. An added benefit: internship mentors can write letters of recommendation.
  • Look beyond campus for work. The local community is filled with non-profit and community organizations that are eager to find passionate and committed volunteers. Alternative spring break trips, mission trips through churches and synagogues and student-led initiatives are places for meaningful volunteer work.

3. Seek faculty mentors.

Having strong faculty mentors is critical for success with scholarships. Distinguish yourself positively with your faculty in class, attend office hours, attend seminars with faculty in your major and participate in research. Students in the University Honors College can participate in honors contracts on topics of interest to them.

Fostering positive relationships enables faculty members to write strong letters of recommendation and share detailed information about your skills, abilities and future potential. It is important to have positive relationships with multiple faculty members as scholarships often require several letters of recommendation.

4. Grow your leadership portfolio.

Most scholarship committees are looking for individuals who have demonstrated leadership throughout their careers. Seek out leadership opportunities in organizations that are important to you. Participate in organizations, move into leadership roles when appropriate and challenge yourself to make a difference. UB's Office of Student Engagement offers workshops, leadership certificates and opportunities to connect with on- and off-campus organizations.

5. Find the right opportunity for you.

  • Educate yourself about fellowships and scholarships. Participate in the Spark Program or attend a workshop. The Office of Fellowships and Scholarships offers many workshops throughout the year to aid you in your funding search and to answer any questions you may have.
  • Find opportunities. Review the Find Funding section of our website to identify national awards you may qualify for, or the UB Scholarship Portal to look for UB-specific awards.
  • Once you have attended a workshop to learn the basics, meet with us to begin the application conversation. Review our Build a Winning Application page for tips on how to begin your application process.