For Nigerian students, winning scholarships to fund their education domestically or internationally is highly competitive. Each year, thousands of qualified students apply for a limited number of awards across various scholarship programs.
Small mistakes in applications can make the difference between potential success and rejection. Avoiding common errors and flaws can significantly improve Nigerian students’ chances of securing vital scholarships.
In this comprehensive guide, we will uncover the biggest scholarship application mistakes made by Nigerian students through an analysis of the following:
- Flawed timelines for applying
- Poorly written essays and statements
- Failing to follow instructions
- Insufficient proofreading
- Weak recommendations
- Not tailoring materials for each scholarship
- Lack of guidance and feedback
In addition, expert tips from Nigerian scholarship judges and past winners will be provided to help students avoid these pitfalls.
Let’s get started.
15 Biggest Mistakes Students Make on Scholarship Applications
1. Applying Too Late or Rushing Applications
Scholarship applications take significant time and effort to complete fully. Rushing through applications or failing to begin early enough often leads to mistakes, missing documents, and disqualification.
- Begin searching for scholarships 12-18 months before your planned enrollment.
- Start applications 6-12 months in advance of deadlines
- Request letters of recommendation 3-6 months ahead
Equally problematic is applying for scholarships you discover just weeks or days before deadlines. This rushing results in more errors and weaker overall applications. Avoid scrambling last minute.
2. Writing Poorly Developed Essays and Statements
Essays and statements are critical parts of scholarship applications that allow selection committees to understand students’ backgrounds, interests, struggles, goals, and more. Nigerian students often fall short by providing too little detail or writing about general topics like financial need and desire to achieve without standing out.
To write compelling essays and statements:
- Start drafting them 4-6 weeks before deadlines to allow proper time for revisions
- Outline key stories and messages you want to convey before writing
- Share specific anecdotes and examples vs. vague generalities
- Showcase obstacles overcome, accomplishments, and life experiences that shaped your dreams
- Explain why you are truly passionate about your chosen field of study
- Describe how this scholarship will enable you to fulfill your goals and potential
- Have multiple teachers, parents, and mentors review drafts and provide feedback
- Revise repeatedly until the narrative flows smoothly and makes you memorable
Investing significant time to refine scholarship essays and statements is vital to boost chances of success.
3. Failing to Follow All Instructions
Scholarship application instructions provide crucial details on exact requirements that must be followed meticulously. This includes:
- Word or page limits for essays and documents
- File formats required (e.g. PDFs, JPEGs for uploads)
- Details on where to email, mail or submit application components
- Proper forms for letters of recommendation, transcripts etc.
- Due dates and deadlines with any timezone specifics
- Addressing selection committee members by proper title
Nigerian students often make mistakes like:
- Submitting essays over the word limit which leads to automatic disqualification
- Uploading files in incorrect formats unable to be opened and read
- Missing hard application deadlines or getting timezones wrong
- Not addressing letters properly or putting wrong application cycles
To avoid these errors:
- Carefully read all instructions multiple times to understand the requirements
- Follow each direction precisely rather than skimming over details
- Use checklists to track the completion of each required application item
- Seek clarification from the scholarship provider if any instruction is unclear
Leaving out required items or ignoring formatting, submission, or addressing details can ruin application success chances. Follow instructions meticulously!
4. Inadequate Proofreading
Typos, grammar mistakes, inconsistent formatting, and other errors in scholarship applications suggest applicants do not care or lack needed attention to detail. Limited awards mean such sloppiness can ruin Nigerian students’ chances, no matter their qualifications.
To proofread effectively:
- Set applications aside for several days after finishing, then re-review with fresh eyes
- Read everything slowly, line-by-line multiple times looking for errors
- Use tools like Grammarly to catch grammar errors
- Ask teachers, parents, and peers to proofread, as other eyes may catch more issues
- Check email addresses, phone numbers, program details, and other info for accuracy
- Ensure correct spelling for your name and references everywhere
- Double check consistency of formatting, fonts, margins, line spacing
With intense competition, students cannot afford even small proofreading oversights that undermine professionalism. Leaving enough time and having others cross-check are wise practices.
5. Disorganized Documents
Scholarship applications include many components like essays, transcripts, letters, resumes/CVs, tax forms, and supplementary materials. Nigerian students often submit these documents haphazardly with inconsistent formatting, incorrect attachments, missing pages, lack of clear labels, etc. This suggests disorganization.
- Maintain all materials neatly in dedicated scholarship folders, both physical and digital
- Use a checklist to track requirements and completion of all needed items
- Standardize the formatting of all documents – font, margins, line spacing
- Clearly label all files and attachments
- Print copies to check document order before submitting
- Bind materials submitted by mail professionally
Taking time to organize all elements of an application demonstrates care and attention to detail.
6. Unprofessional Communication
How Nigerian student applicants communicate with scholarship providers also impacts impressions. Using informal language in emails, sending sloppy application documents lacking proper address letters, and not addressing selection committee members by title and last name comes across as unprofessional.
To communicate properly:
- Craft emails using formal language, proper grammar, and structure
- Begin call conversations politely with proper greetings
- Address all provided names of selection committee members formally
- Start documents with formal address blocks and letters
- Use professional email addresses and voicemail greetings
Conveying professionalism and respect in all interactions builds trust in applicants’ maturity and fitness to be ambassadors if awarded.
7. Getting Weak Recommendations
Nigerian students often ask teachers, community members or family friends for scholarship recommendation letters who lack deep knowledge of their academic potential and strengths. This results in vague, generic endorsement letters that fail to impress.
Best practices include:
- Asking teachers who taught you for classes directly and can speak in-depth about your abilities
- Pursuing recommendation letters from non-academics like volunteer leaders, coaches, employers, etc.
- Choosing recommenders who have known you for over 6 months minimum
- Selecting a mix of references who can highlight diverse strengths
Taking time to identify and approach references familiar to your talents will lead to much stronger recommendation letters.
8. Not Preparing Recommenders
Even if selected recommenders know a student well, failing to provide a proper context of the scholarship purpose and the student’s background gives letter writers little unique detail to draw upon, this again leads to vague, disjointed letters.
To prepare your recommenders:
- Have an in-depth discussion explaining the scholarship goals and why you need their help
- Share your academic records, resume, essays, and other application materials as reference
- Provide recommenders at least one month to write thoughtful, complete letters
- Follow up politely before the deadline to confirm the letter submission
9. Missing Financial Aid Paperwork
Students must provide financial aid documentation for needs-based scholarships like FAFSA forms, tax records, bank statements, verification paperwork, etc. Nigerian students sometimes fail to submit these supporting documents correctly or entirely.
To avoid issues:
- Use a checklist to track all required financial documents needed
- Consult scholarship advisors on correctly filling forms like FAFSA
- Submit tax records and bank statements well before the deadlines
- Follow-up after submitting FAFSA to ensure verification completed
- Make copies of all documents to resend if lost
Without required proof of financial need, chances for applicable scholarships vanish. Follow up meticulously.
10. Transcript Errors
Official school transcripts with grades, GPAs, and academic records are central to all scholarship applications. Nigerian students risk disqualification through issues like:
- Submitting unofficial printouts vs. original sealed transcripts
- Missing records if transferring schools
- Incorrect contact information on transcript requests
- Including high school transcripts when not required
To avoid problems:
- Check application instructions for specifics on required transcripts
- Request transcripts 4-6 weeks in advance from registrars
- Verify transcripts include all institutions attended
- Resubmit immediately if any issues identified
Having your academic history fully accounted for strengthens the application.
11. Inaccurate Personal Details
Scholarship applications require extensive personal details. Incorrect information like inaccurate birth dates, contact information, academic program details, and more can sabotage Nigerian students.
To provide details accurately:
- Carefully fill forms with info matching official documents
- Verify addresses, phone numbers, and emails are current
- Have someone cross-check all entered data for typos
Even small errors undermine accuracy. Entering personal details meticulously is essential.
12. Forgetting Required Signatures/Confirmations
Nigerian students invest significant time completing scholarship applications only to miss final steps like:
- Forgetting to sign key documents
- Not having parents/guardians sign financial forms
- Neglecting to click submit buttons or confirmation checkboxes on online forms
To avoid invalidating your application:
- Use checklists to ensure you complete every item
- Ask someone else to verify your application includes all required signed forms
- Save and print digital confirmations when submitting online
It only takes one small missing signature or clicks to make all your efforts pointless. Never forget the finishing touches.
13. Technical Issues
From computer problems to unreliable internet, applications encounter risks like:
- Power outages deleting application drafts
- Documents corrupted from incompatible software -Unavailable file formats unable to be opened by selection committee
- Lost applications from sending incorrect email addresses
To minimize technical risks:
- Use secure cloud storage and email to safeguard application drafts and materials
- Confirm compatible file formats in advance for uploading documents
- Verify accurate scholarship program email addresses when submitting
- Print hard copies as backups for online applications
With proper diligence, Nigerian students can avoid falling victim to technical issues undermining their scholarship pursuit.
14. Using One Set of Materials For All Applications
Customizing your materials for each individual scholarship demonstrates aligned values and relevant background. Reusing the same generic essays and documents feels disingenuous.
Research what each scholarship provider cares about. Adapt your materials accordingly. Highlight related experiences and goals. Make them feel special, not just one of many.
15. Not Seeking Feedback Before Submitting
Without objective experts reviewing your materials and providing constructive feedback, you miss opportunities for improvement.
Have teachers, parents, mentors scrutinize your essays and profiles for needed polish before submitting. Be receptive and grateful for their suggestions. Revise again before applying.
Avoiding these common pitfalls and application flaws will give Nigerian students’ scholarship efforts a significant boost. Follow expert guidance, allow ample time, and double check everything. With care and wisdom, your scholarship success chances rise dramatically. Stay determined!