You know it’s important to apply for scholarships, but getting started can be daunting and downright confusing. Fortunately you can make the application process easier--and even increase your chances of winning a scholarship--with these tips.

1) Organize

Before you even begin searching for scholarships, it’s important to create a strategy for yourself.

With so much content out on the web it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Prepare yourself with a thought-out and well-planned strategy for filtering through and applying for scholarships.

Make a system that works for you.

Mark all scholarship deadlines on a calendar, or create individual files for each application. You can even go further and track each scholarship’s application milestone on a spreadsheet. Whatever works for you to stay organized, do it!

These organizational tips can greatly reduce your anxiety and keep you on top of the application process.

Read: A Short Scholarship Survival Guide

2) Prepare

Now that you’re organized, it’s time to get armed. Prepare all the materials you’ll need to fly through your scholarship applications. Most scholarships will require supplemental application materials. These can include, but aren’t limited to:

  • High school/college transcript

  • SAT/ACT test scores

  • Financial aid forms, such as the FAFSA or CSS Profile

  • Parent’s financial information, including tax returns

  • Essays

  • Letters of recommendation

Having these documents prepared and readily available ahead of time will not only save you time but also ensure you don’t miss deadlines by failing to submit important information. In addition, prepare for an interview or an audition for certain talent-based scholarships.

3) Seek Unique Opportunities

You don’t need to be a star athlete or top of your class to be eligible for many scholarships. Many organizations offer scholarships that reward unique skill sets or life experiences.

For example, C-SPAN runs a national video documentary competition for students called StudentCam, which gives away $50,000 in scholarships to students and teachers.

Wear a duct tape dress to prom, get a scholarship?

Unusual and funny scholarships include, Duck Brand Duct Tape which runs a “Stuck at Prom” scholarship contest that challenges students to create prom outfits out of duct tape. Tall Clubs International has a scholarship for women taller than 5’10 and men taller than 6’2.

Legitimate online scholarship search engines are a great way to search for these types of scholarships. Just remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it might be, so watch out for scams. You should never have to pay to apply for a scholarship.

Read: How to Find and Apply to Scholarships

4) Review Carefully

Review your scholarship criteria carefully before you even start your application.

There’s nothing worse than putting in the blood, sweat, and tears to craft a masterful application only to find out that you don’t meet the basic criteria to apply in the first place.

Give yourself a competitive advantage by reading the directions carefully and avoid sending something that hasn’t been requested. Many students simply fail to follow directions and their application is discarded almost immediately. Don’t be one of them.

Once you’re sure you’re qualified to apply, and you’re just about ready to submit, it’s imperative you review your application before submitting. Failing to review can increase your chances of forgetting to submit required information or including an embarrassing error. Doing so can at best delay the processing of your application, and at worst remove your eligibility entirely.

It’s worth your time to review when scholarships are on the line.

Silly mistakes can literally cost you, so remember that it’s always worth it to review.

Bonus: Make copies of everything you submit. Application materials can get lost and it will be your responsibility to make sure the review committee has what they need to make their decision.

5) Get Recommended

Nearly all scholarship opportunities require at least one or two letters of recommendation. Make sure you have people who can truly vouch for you.

Ask someone who can speak to your strengths.

A letter of recommendation that specifically details your work ethic, drive, sense of responsibility, and other positive traits can be a huge boost to your application. You’ll want to select people who can speak to your strengths and highlight things that make you stand apart from other applicants.

Don’t wait until the last minute to ask, either. If you haven’t asked someone if they’ll be a recommender for you, go do that right now.

Read: How to Get a Stellar Letter of Recommendation

Authored by Gilmar Rosas

Gilmar works with American Honors and covers tips on how students can excel both inside and outside the classroom.