So once you find the scholarship opportunity, how do you close the deal and win the scholarship? After all, you will be competing against people who have good grades like you, or can play sports well like you can, or have the same kind of community service record you do. Short of hiring someone else to do it, what can you do to give yourself an edge when it comes to winning?

Check the eligibility requirements carefully.

If you aren't eligible, don't apply. Even if you think you might have special circumstances that should be considered, don't waste time applying if you don't meet the published guidelines.

Follow the directions to the letter.

This is very important. With so many applicants, the easiest way for the scholarship committee to weed out applications is to reject any application with any errors. If the application doesn't say that you need to include copies of your high school transcripts, don't include them hoping they will impress the judges. You will probably end up disqualified. Follow the directions exactly as they are written. Do not add or subtract anything.

Make sure that you have filled out every part of the application.

Again, a simple mistake can doom you. Check and double check the application materials to make sure you haven't missed a question or forgotten to add a piece of documentation.

Make sure everything is legible.

Print the documents on a computer whenever possible, but if you have to fill out a form by hand make sure everything is readable. Photocopy the form before you fill it out so that you have backup copies if you mess up one and need to do another one.

Focus on writing an excellent essay.

Most scholarships require a written essay to demonstrate ability and knowledge. Your essay or your personal statement is what will really impress the judges so put most of your effort into creating a great essay that will stand out from the rest of the applicants and really wow the judges. Get help writing it if you need help and make sure that you have a parent or teacher look it over and offer suggestions.

Watch the deadline.

There is no real advantage to turning in the application early but it does need to be on time or it will be immediately disqualified. Write the date the application is due on your calendar and highlight it or put it in your personal planner and mark it. Don't procrastinate.

Make sure that you send the application materials a few days before the actual deadline so that they will arrive before the deadline. Sending your materials with delivery confirmation or some kind of tracking number is always a good idea. This way, you will have proof of when the materials were sent and when they arrived.

Write your name on all of your application materials.

You will be sending in a lot of documents that might become separated so put your name on every sheet of paper. That way, even if your application gets mixed up and pieces go missing, each sheet will be able to be traced to you.

Back up your application.

Keep several copies of everything that is in your application. If something happens and you need to re-submit your application you will be able to send in another application quickly if you have copies already on hand.

Get a proofreader.

Have your mom or dad, a teacher, an older sibling, or a neighbor read over all your application materials to check for spelling errors, grammar mistakes, or other problems. Your application should be perfect when you turn it in or you could get disqualified.

Gather your supporting documentation early.

If you need to have copies of transcripts or test scores, letters of recommendation, or other types of documentation for your application, get all of those things together at least two weeks before the application is due. You don't want to be scrambling to get a crucial piece of the application a few days before the deadline. You don't want to submit an incomplete application because you were waiting for a letter or a copy of a transcript.

You should also make copies of all your supporting documentation and keep them in a file with the other application materials. Oftentimes, you can reuse materials for multiple scholarship applications.

Get your application to the right people.

Once you are ready to send out the application, make sure that you have included all the parts of the application in a neat packet and send it through a reliable service.

Using FedEx or UPS might cost more than just sending the application in the mail, but if you use a service like FedEx your packet will stand out because someone will need to sign for it. Also, you will have proof of when your application packet was delivered and who it was delivered to.