Application Tips

Strengthen Your Scholarship Application

Explore these tips to learn how to strengthen your scholarship application and find answers to common application questions.



Completing the Application's 5 Steps

Once you set-up your profile in our application system, you will have to complete 5 steps BEFORE you can submit your scholarship application for consideration by the College Fund:

· Scholarship Application

· Education History

· Extracurricular Activities

· Honors and Distinctions

In the first step, Scholarship Application, you’ll provide information like your grade point average (GPA), school you plan to attend, major and the year you expect to graduate. This is the section where you will answer the reflective questions, and you can provide identify as a descendant of a boarding school survivor and provide an essay for scholarship consideration.

You can save your work in this section as a “draft” or “mark as complete,” and return you to the application dashboard

In the remaining four steps, you’ll add information about yourself like schools you have attended, activities at school, church or community, and any awards or distinctions you have received.

In each step, you’ll click on the green “+New Item” button to add a new entry. Include all high schools, GED programs or colleges – even if you did not graduate. Under the Activities and Honors sections, add as many new items as you like. You must add at least one item in each step.

When you’re done, just click the white “CLOSE” button at the top right, which will return you to your application dashboard.

The last section, RESUME, is optional – but we encourage you to complete it if you are interested in internship or career development opportunities.

Once you complete each of these steps, return to the Scholarship Application step, and click the blue “Mark Complete” button if you haven’t done so already. This will return you to the application dashboard, where the large green “Submit Application” button will now be available at the top right of the page.

You must click on the green “Submit Application” button to have your application reviewed by the College Fund.

*** Warning – you will not be able to change your application once it has been submitted! ***

We are here to support your success. Please email us at, or give us a call at 1-800-776-3863 from 8 am to 5 pm (MST), Monday through Friday, if you need assistance with your application.

Reflection Questions

The Full Circle and TCU Scholarship applications have an essay-style format with three reflection questions.

These sections are your chance to share your story and give readers an opportunity to see how a scholarship would help you achieve your stated educational and professional goals and require you to discuss three elements: an obstacle that you have overcome in order to get to where you are now; your educational goals and how this scholarship will help you achieve those; and how your education will help your Native community.

We recommend that you type out your responses to the reflection questions in a Word document (similar to this template) to ensure safekeeping if you need to abandon the application before submission.

To enhance this section, start by creating an outline of your thoughts and initial answers to each question. The outline does not need to look perfect, but it will allow you to start thinking about and organizing these questions and how they relate to each other.

Here are two sample outlines to help get you started:

  1. A Visual Outline for those who prefer to see the outline as part of the big picture.
  2. A Textual Outline for those who prefer a more linear approach.

Whichever outline you choose, remember that they are not meant to be exhaustive. They are designed to help you organize your thoughts and begin planning for writing your final responses. There is no right or wrong answer for these questions, but it is very important that you provide a thorough response to each reflection question.

As always, don’t forget to check your grammar and spelling!

NOTE: The reflection section is ONLY available in the application, not in the profile. This means you must have all of your application ready (INCLUDING YOUR TRANSCRIPT READY TO UPLOAD) when you answer these questions; otherwise your answers will not be saved.

Formatting & Editing

Now that you have outlined your responses and completed the first draft, you can celebrate the next step with these tips for formatting, editing, and proofreading to make sure your application is PREPPED for excellence.

We frequently receive formatting and style questions from students about the scholarship application’s reflection questions. While we do not require applicants to use any specific style, such as APA or MLA, our readers do expect you to follow basic essay formatting. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
• Writing in complete sentences.
• Creating appropriate paragraphs.
• Ensuring that answers flow cohesively.

Do not answer the reflection questions with bullet points or fragments. For example, if your educational goal is to complete a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and teach on your reservation, it is not recommended to format your answer like this:

  • Educational Goals: B.A. in early childhood education, plan to teach on the reservation

Instead, use full sentences and allow your personality and passions to come forward, like this:

It is my dream to complete my bachelor’s degree in early childhood education in order to teach the next generation of leaders on my reservation. I believe that foundational life skills can be taught at a young age, and I want to be a part of empowering these learners through my degree.

Once you have typed out your three responses, the real fun can begin. With a solid edit and thorough proofreading process, you will be amazed at how polished your application becomes.

Proven tips to ensure a successful editing process can be easily remembered by being PREPPED.

PREPPED stands for Passion, Readability, Every Question, Punctuation and Grammar, Printout Spellcheck, Examples, and Double Take. Here’s how to be PREPPED to finish final touch-ups and tweaks to make it your best essay yet:

  • Passion: Read over your words and ask yourself if your passions are evident in your writing. Are you writing something because you think it is what the readers want to hear or are you genuinely passionate about your goals and dreams?
  • Readability: Do your answers flow? Are the sentences and thoughts laid out in a cohesive way that leads the reader through your answer from start to finish? Are there any parts that sound awkward or out-of-place? Are they necessary and if so, where could they be better situated?
  • Every Question: Did your short answer completely address the question?
  • Punctuation and Grammar: Is your grammar on track? Did you place commas in the correct spots? Do your possessive nouns include the apostrophe properly? Have you used the correct form of commonly misused words, such as they, they’re, their, and affect and effect?
  • Printout Spellcheck: To avoid submitting an essay that says “Richard is my best fried,” as even Microsoft Word’s Spellcheck will not catch that error, print out a copy of your answers and perform a manual spellcheck. In addition, read your work out loud. You will be surprised how many grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes you can catch that way!
  • Examples: Did you provide specific examples to better explain your statements? Are these examples relevant to the question and the point you are trying to make? Do they make sense in the context of your answer?
  • Double Take: Now that you have gone through the finer details of editing and proofreading, ask a friend, instructor, tutor, or family member to read through your responses. Ask them to use the PREPPED checklist. Once they have read them over and provided feedback, edit your answers once more to reflect any changes. Then go through this checklist one last time.

Congratulations! You are now PREPPED and your reflection questions are ready for submission!

    Application Photos

    The College Fund uses student application photos in donor reports, direct mail appeals to supporters, and on our website to inspire more supporters to give; therefore, it is critical to present yourself in a way that portrays you in a positive light to donors. Upload a new photograph to submit alongside your application each year.

    • Your photo should depict you in a professional light. Your face should be clearly visible (avoid ball caps, sunglasses, or heavily pixilated or dark images).
    • Your photo should be a headshot, depicting you from the neck up; however, a family photo is also acceptable.
    • Traditional regalia is encouraged but not required.
    • While digital cameras produce higher-quality images, we understand that not everyone has access to one. When using your phone, have someone else take the photo (no selfies). Make sure the photographer is close enough that the photo doesn’t need to be cropped; this will help avoid potential image quality issues. Most tribal colleges have a camera in the financial office.
    • Try to take the photo outdoors for better lighting. The subject (you) should face the light source or take a quarter turn to the light source. The photographer should never face the light source (this will help avoid silhouetting, which results in darkening of the subject). Using a light source like a window or a strong light in front of you is ideal. Blankets and other backdrops can add interest to your photo. If you are taking a photo against a wall, stand at least four feet away from the wall and focus on your face. Avoid using a computer to take a photo, as it can cause photo discoloration.
    • Don’t forget to SMILE! Make sure your face is in focus and you are not in a side profile pose. Try to fill the frame with the most important part of the photo, YOU. The scenery may be nice, but remember, we want to see your faces and show the donors who you are.

    Proving Descent

    For students who are not enrolled tribal members themselves but are able to prove that their parents or grandparents have tribal enrollment, the following is very important.

    The graphic below illustrates an excellent example of how to prove descent through a paper trail:

    Examples of tribal documents may include:
    – Official letter from the tribe stating the enrollment status of the parent and/or grandparent;
    – A copy of the Tribal ID card;
    – CIB (Certificate of Indian Blood)

    Enrolling in Your Tribe

    Each tribe has their own unique requirements and process for becoming an enrolled member. The best first step is to reach out to your tribal government to learn more. If you need help contacting your tribe, visit the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) website at to learn more.

    As each process is unique, and tribes of differing sizes and administration have varying capacities to handle enrollment requests, you shouldn’t assume that your request will be processed quickly. Many smaller tribes with limited staff are completely unavailable to complete this work due to seasonal subsistence activities and other cultural practices.

    Exploring Extracurricular Activities

    Note: This application tip is a response to the extracurricular activities segment of the College Fund’s Full Circle and TCU Scholarship Program applications. However, the information found in this tip may apply to scholarship applications in general.

    Sports teams or clubs are the first that come to mind when thinking of extracurricular activities. While these are indeed prime examples to include in your scholarship application, they are not the only ones.

    It is important to think about the background of this question. Application readers are looking for ways that you have demonstrated participation and leadership in your school, community, and/or tribe. Readers want to see that you are engaged and involved in these areas.

    Don’t be discouraged if you do not have time for sports or a dozen bake sales. To avoid getting caught in a rut of sports- or student-government-only types of extracurricular activities, explore these topics instead:

    – Arts (theatre, photography, etc.)
    – Church Activity
    – Clubs (in school or in the community)
    – Community Activity
    – Hobbies
    – Media (web work, school newspaper, etc.)
    – Military (ROTC, drill team, etc.)
    – Music
    – Volunteer Work/Community Service
    – Employment

    Remember, this section is designed for you to show your community participation and leadership. Be creative and thorough, and let your story shine!

    Updating Your Profile & Application

    It’s important to keep your profile information up to date in our system. Be sure your email and phone are always accurate, so you receive notifications about your application status and our staff can reach you with any questions or requests to successfully evaluate your application.


    You MUST contact a member of the Student Success Services team to assist you if any of the following circumstances apply:

    • You have transferred schools (even if it’s from one tribal college to another).
      • You have changed your major and/or degree program.
      • Your anticipated graduation date has changed (whether you’re graduating early or have decided to add a minor and will be in school longer, we need to know because either could affect your eligibility for certain scholarships).
      • You are a high school student and submitted the application under a different college name than the one you’ve decided to attend.

    Remember, accurate and up-to-date information in your application allows the College Fund to determine your eligibility for a variety of scholarship opportunities, so it is vital to ensure that your scholarship applications are updated!

    Full Circle Scoring Insights

    You’ve spent hours perfecting your application and endless nights editing your short answer questions, and you’ve just received the confirmation email of submission. What happens now? Where does this elusive Full Circle application soar in cyberspace, who reads it, where are they, and what are they looking for?

    First and foremost, when you hit the ‘submit’ button on your application, it is stored securely in the online application system until scoring begins in mid-May.

    To ensure the highest quality of readers, we invite eight to ten higher education professionals from around the country to take several weeks out of their summer to evaluate the applications. The majority of these readers are American Indian. College Fund staff members do not score the applications.

    For scoring consistency across the applications, all readers use a rubric system to determine how many points to allocate for various portions of the scholarship application; higher scores are more likely to receive a scholarship. The rubric scores content, fluency, and technical conventions of the three short-answer questions. Applications with higher GPAs, extracurricular activities, and honors and distinctions are also desirable, and there is a preference for tribal college students and alumni. The final score is determined by averaging the numbers from multiple readers on each application.

    Readers finish all applications by mid-June, and this is when the awarding work begins. For the rest of the summer, the Full Circle Program Manager and the SSS Team work to award students with high scores who match various scholarship requirements. With more than 50 different scholarships programs under the Full Circle Scholarship Program umbrella, it takes a long time and patience to match eligible students with donor requirements for scholarships.

    Typically, scholarship awards are determined by mid-July; however, you can log in to your online application profile at any time to see if you have received an award. If the word “pending” appears beside the application, that means your application is still under review, so keep checking back!

    We hope this has been helpful in outlining how scholarship applications are scored. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us by email or at 303-426-8900.

    If you have additional questions about applying for scholarships, be sure to read through our Frequently Asked Questions.

    We hope this has been helpful in outlining how scholarship applications are scored. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us by email at, 303-426-8900 or at 800-776-3863.

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