Application Tips

Strengthen Your Scholarship Application

Explore these tips to learn how to strengthen your scholarship application.



Complete the Application in 3 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

· Extracurricular Activities

· Honors and Distinctions

In the first step, Scholarship Application, you will provide academic information such as your grade point average (GPA), school, major, and more. This is the section where you will answer the reflection questions, which are important for your overall application score.

While you work on the Scholarship Application step, you can save your work as a “draft.” When you have completed the Scholarship Application step and proof-read all your responses, you will click “mark as complete,” and then return to the application dashboard to complete the remaining steps.

In the remaining steps, you will add information about yourself, such as activities you participate in and any awards or distinctions you have received.

In the Extracurricular Activities and Honors & Distinctions steps, you will click on the green “+New Item” button to add a new entry. Under these sections, add as many new items as you like. You must add at least one item in each step. You can save individual entries as “draft.” Please note that the application will not let you submit if you have any entries saved as “drafts” when you go to submit. If you make a mistake, entries can be deleted using the “delete” button. When you are done with all your entries in either step, click the white “close” button at the top right, and that will take you back to your application dashboard.

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

Once you complete each of these steps and have reviewed all of your responses, you can return to the application dashboard and click the green “Submit Application” button. The green submit button will only be highlighted and clickable if you have completed all the application steps. You must click on the green “Submit Application” button to have your application reviewed by the College Fund and to be considered for scholarships.

*** 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 1-800-987-3863 from 8am to 4:30pm (MST), Monday through Friday, if you need assistance with your application.

Reflection Questions

The Scholarship application has three reflection questions that resemble mini essays.
These questions give you a chance to share your story. The reflection questions prompt you to discuss three subjects: an obstacle that you have overcome to get to where you are now; your educational goals and how this scholarship will help you achieve them; and how your education will help the Native community.

We recommend that you type out your responses to the reflection questions in a Word document or similar text editor. This way you can edit freely and utilize spellcheck or grammar check functions.

To enhance your responses, start by creating an outline of your thoughts and initial answers to each question. The outline does not need to be exhaustive, but it will allow you to start organizing your thoughts about the questions. You will need to choose your words carefully, as there is a limit of 300 words per question. It is very important that you think deeply about the questions and provide a thorough responses. As always, don’t forget to check your grammar and spelling!

For scoring, the reflection questions count heavily compared to other sections of the application. A high scoring essay will be clear, complete, and compelling. Thoroughly answer each question with the details of your unique story in a way that will engage reviewers. Pay attention to the help text below each question text box for additional guidance.

Formatting & Editing

These tips for formatting, editing, and proofreading make sure your application is PREPPED for excellence. You can apply these tips throughout your application.

Start with the basics:

  • Creating descriptive and appropriate responses
  • Writing in complete sentences
  • Ensuring that answers flow cohesively
  • Using correct grammar

In your Reflection Questions, Extracurricular Activity entries, and Honors & Distinction entries, use full sentences that allow your personality and passions to come forward. For example, if your educational goal is to complete a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and teach on your reservation, it is recommended that you respond with a full sentence like the one below:

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.

Do not answer the reflection questions with bullet points or fragments. It is not recommended to format your answer like this:

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

If you need help editing, just remember PREPPED.

PREPPED stands for Prepare, Readability, Every Question, Punctuation and Grammar, Passion, Examples, and Double Take. Here’s how to be PREPPED on your application:

  • Prepare: Gather necessary information prior to starting the application. Prepare your response by thinking critically about the questions and creating outlines when appropriate.
  • 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?
  • Every Question: Did your answer completely address a every part of the question?
  • Punctuation and Grammar: Is your grammar correct? 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 or effect?
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • Double Take: Once 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. After 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 application responses are ready for submission!

    Application Photos

    The American Indian College Fund may use your application photo in donor reports, direct mail appeals, and marketing opportunities. Students will need to upload a photograph in their application each year.

    Try to focus on the following things when selecting a photo for your application:

    • Your photo or headshot should feature you above all else
    • Your face should be clearly visible (avoid ball caps, sunglasses, or heavily pixilated or dark images)
    • Headshots are preferred but full-length photographs are acceptable
    • Traditional regalia is encouraged but not required
    • Please have someone else take the photo and avoid selfies
    • Consider the lighting. It is better to have light in front of you than behind you
    • Don’t forget to SMILE!

    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.

    Extracurricular Activities

    Extracurriculars are any activities that you do outside of your required schoolwork. This includes, but is not limited to, traditional and cultural activities, clubs, sports, volunteering, work/employment, faith-based activities, community-based activities, and hobbies.

    Extracurricular activities set you apart from other applicants and increase your chances of receiving a scholarship. For these reasons, we encourage you to add a complete history of your extracurricular involvement.

    Don’t be discouraged if you do not have time for sports or a dozen bake sales. The American Indian College Fund encourages you to think outside the box when it comes to your time spent away from school work. Many of our students are nontraditional students, returning to school later in life when they have full-time jobs and families. For this reason, employment and family duties can be Extracurricular Activity entries on your scholarship application. More entry types are:

    • Volunteer and/or service-related activities
    • Athletics
    • Student Government
    • Academic and Professional Organizations
    • Multicultural Activities
    • Employment
    • Work Study
    • Family-related activities

    Updating Your Profile & Application

    Applicants can view their profile and scholarship application whenever they wish. Students will be able to update their profile as needed. However, the scholarship application cannot be edited once it is submitted.

    Profile – It’s important to keep your profile information up to date in our system. If your contact information changes, it is your responsibility to update your email and phone number with us. This is important, as we will notify students of awards, opportunities, and next steps via email.

    Full Circle Scoring Insights

    What happens to my application when I submit it? How will my application be scored?

    When you click “submit,” your application is stored securely in the online application system until scoring begins. Students who submit their application between February 1 and May 31 will have their application scored by the end of July.

    Applications are scored by independent reviewers who have experience in Native higher education. Each application submitted between February 1 and May 31 will receive three scores by three separate reviewers. We then take the average of those three scores to assign the application its final score. 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. As a merit-based scholarship program, the rubric scores applications based on thoughtful responses and a student’s ability to demonstrate merit. The reflection questions are the highest scoring portion of the application. There is also a preference for students attending tribal colleges and alumni of tribal colleges.

    Typically, scholarship awards are determined by the end of July. 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 800-987-3863.

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

    News & Events

    Empowering Paths: An Indigenous Woman’s Vision for Legacy and Leadership


    Linette Factor, CMN, Director of Business Affairs, 2023-2024 Indigenous Visionaries Fellow

    Linette Factor, CMN, Director of Business Affairs

    By Linette Factor, CMN, Director of Business Affairs

    2023-2024 Indigenous Visionaries Fellow

    Hesci (hello)! I am Linette Factor (Muscogee [Creek]), an American Indian College Fund Indigenous Visionary Fellow and Director of Business Affairs at the College of the Muscogee Nation in Okmulgee, Oklahoma.

    As an Indigenous woman and leader, I’ve come to understand the profound impact one’s journey and legacy can have on the youth in our Native American communities. I aim to inspire those who are grappling with finding their path, particularly amid the societal challenges of substance abuse and violence. My perspective centers on advocacy, awareness, and creating a positive legacy that heals and strengthens our future generations.

    In our tribal communities, the shadows cast by drugs and alcohol often cloud the paths of our youth. It is here, in these shadows, that the role of advocacy and awareness becomes crucial. As Indigenous women leaders, we carry the mantle of our ancestors—a legacy of resilience and strength. Our advocacy goes beyond confronting injustices; it is about illuminating pathways of hope and opportunity for those who may feel lost. Our voices are not just expressions of protest but are also songs of possibility and promise for a brighter future.

    Legacy is the mark we leave on the world and those who come after us. It encompasses our actions, our values, and the impact we have on our communities and beyond. As Native American women, our legacy is tied to our culture, stories, and collective struggles. It is a thread that weaves through our past, present, and future, carrying the wisdom and aspirations of our ancestors.

    Creating a positive legacy is essential in the healing and empowerment of our youth. It shows them that, despite the prevalent challenges such as substance abuse, a life of purpose and pride in our identity is attainable. A positive legacy is a beacon that guides our youth to rise above their circumstances, encouraging them to forge paths of empowerment and success.

    To our youth searching for their path: Your journey is a critical chapter in the grand narrative of our people. Each step you take is integral to crafting your legacy, one that can inspire and support those around you. Embrace your Indigenous identity, draw from the wisdom of our elders, and use your voice and actions for impactful change. Your legacy can initiate change, foster healing, and lay the groundwork for a united, resilient community.

    As we navigate the complexities of life, especially in the face of challenges like substance abuse and violence, it’s crucial to remember the power of advocacy, the essence of legacy, and the transformative impact of a positive legacy. It’s about more than overcoming today’s challenges; it’s about paving a path for a stronger, brighter future for our youth and the generations that follow. Let us strive to build legacies that resonate with courage, resilience, and hope. These legacies are not just stories to be told; they are blueprints for the future we aspire to create.

    Forging a Career through Education

    Mariah Wanic, BMCC, Director of Charter Schools

    Mariah Wanic, BMCC, Director of Charter Schools

    By Mariah Wanic, BMCC, Director of Charter Schools

    2023-2024 Indigenous Visionaries Fellow

    After I graduated from high school, I decided to go to a four-year university. I was undecided on a major and was unsure of the career path I wanted to follow. At the end of my second year, I changed direction and decided to attend my tribal community college, Bay Mills Community College (BMCC). It proved to be a smaller, more personal experience where I was guided and supported by the wonderful faculty and staff. I was finally able to commit to a degree program in computer systems.

    During my time studying at Bay Mills Community College, I obtained two associate degrees: one degree in computer information systems and the other in computer hardware systems. While attending BMCC, I participated in a work study program, which inspired me to pursue a career within BMCC upon graduation. After earning my degrees, I applied for a position as the Administrative Assistant to the President of BMCC. I was hired, and then transferred to the Bay Mills Community College Charter Schools Office as an administrative assistant.

    With encouragement from my supervisor, I decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree through Central Michigan University (CMU). I graduated with a degree in community development and earned a promotion to Compliance Coordinator of the Charter Schools Office. After a short break from school, I decided to return to CMU to earn a Master of Science degree in Administration. I earned another promotion to Special Assistant to the President in Charge of Charter Schools. It was in this moment that I knew I wanted to continue furthering my education and my knowledge of education, which prompted me to enroll at CMU to complete a specialist in education degree.

    I reached the top of my field when I was promoted to the position of director of charter schools. Since I had completed the specialist in education degree, it seemed like a natural transition to apply to the Central Michigan University’s Doctor of Educational Leadership program. I was admitted, completed the required course work, and am now in the dissertation process.

    Pursuing higher education and working within my tribal community are extremely important to me. My goal is to defend my dissertation in 2025 and earn my doctoral degree, making me the first person in my immediate family to achieve this level of education.

    As the Director of the Charter Schools Office at Bay Mills Community College, it is extremely important to me that students in the public school academies authorized by BMCC receive a meaningful education in a positive learning environment. Bay Mills Community College authorizes 45 public school academies around the state of Michigan. The Charter Schools Office at Bay Mills Community College provides oversight for these public school academies; our mission is to ensure a quality education to underserved population.

    Through my 20 years of experience in the field of education, I am continually learning. Education is a continually changing field, especially public schools’ academies. It is essential for me to continue to grow and learn and give back to Bay Mills Indian Community for supporting me through my educational endeavors which led to finding a career that I am passionate about. Bay Mills Community College has been the foundation for my educational and career pathways.

    American Indian College Fund Hosting Online Book Discussion with Indigenous Author Mona Susan Power

    American Indian College Fund Hosting Online Book Discussion with Indigenous Author Mona Susan Power

    Free Event Scheduled Tuesday, March 26th at 12:00 Noon MDT

    February 20, 2024, Denver, Colo.— The American Indian College Fund (College Fund) is hosting a free, online book and author event for the public featuring the PEN Award–winning Native American author, Mona Susan Power, on March 26 from 12-1 Mountain Daylight Time. Power will discuss her new book, A Council of Dolls, with College Fund President, Cheryl Crazy Bull.

    Mona Susan Power is the author of four books of fiction: The Grass Dancer (awarded the PEN/Hemingway prize), Roofwalker, Sacred Wilderness, and her most recent novel, A Council of Dolls (longlisted for the National Book Award). She has received numerous fellowships in support of her work, including an Iowa Arts Fellowship, James Michener Fellowship, Radcliffe Bunting Institute Fellowship, Princeton Hodder Fellowship, USA Artists Fellowship, McKnight Fellowship, and Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Fellowship. Her short stories and essays have been widely published in journals, magazines and anthologies, and her essay, “Bloodthread,” is forthcoming in The Georgia Review. Power was born and raised in Chicago, is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna Dakhóta), and currently lives in Minnesota.

    The profoundly moving and unforgettable new novel spans three generations of Yanktonai Dakota women from the 19th century to the present day. Power takes the reader to the mid-century metropolis of Chicago, the windswept ancestral lands of the Dakota people, and bleak and brutal Indian boarding schools. A Council of Dolls is the story of three women, told in part through the stories of the dolls they carried.

    Sissy, born in 1961, has a difficult relationship with her beautiful and volatile mother, but her life is also filled with beautiful things, including a new a doll called Ethel Sissy received for Christmas. Ethel whispers advice and kindness in Sissy’s ear, and in one especially terrifying moment, the doll maybe even saves Sissy’s life.

    Lillian, born in 1925 in her ancestral lands during a time of terrible change, clings to her sister, Blanche, and her doll, Mae. When the sisters are forced to attend an “Indian school” far from their home, Blanche refuses to be cowed by the school’s abusive nuns. But when tragedy strikes the sisters, Mae finds a way to defend the sisters.

    Cora, born in 1888 during the brutal legacy of the “Indian Wars,” is not afraid of the white men who remove her to a school across the country to be “civilized.” When teachers burn her beloved buckskin and beaded doll, Winona, Cora discovers the spirit of Winona may not be entirely lost.

    A Council of Dolls is a modern masterpiece: gorgeous, quietly devastating, and hopeful. Mona Susan Power shines a light on the damage wrought by Indian boarding schools and historical massacres that echo throughout generations of Indigenous people. With stunning prose, she artfully weaves a spell of love and healing with her storytelling. To register for this free event, please visit

     PEN Award–winning author Mona Susan Power, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna Dakhóta), will discuss her latest novel, A Council of Dolls, March 26 at 12:00 noon Mountain Daylight Time with Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund. Registration is free and open to the public. To join the conversation visit

    PEN Award–winning author Mona Susan Power, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna Dakhóta), will discuss her latest novel, A Council of Dolls, March 26 at 12:00 noon Mountain Daylight Time with Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund. Registration is free and open to the public. To join the conversation visit


    About the American Indian College Fund The American Indian College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native higher education for 34 years. The College Fund believes “Education is the answer” and provided $17.4 million in scholarships and other direct student support to American Indian students in 2022-23. Since its founding in 1989 the College Fund has provided more than $319 million in scholarships, programs, community, and tribal college support. The College Fund also supports a variety of academic and support programs at the nation’s 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities, which are located on or near Indian reservations, ensuring students have the tools to graduate and succeed in their careers. The College Fund consistently receives top ratings from independent charity evaluators and is one of the nation’s top 100 charities named to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. For more information about the American Indian College Fund, please visit

    JournalistsThe American Indian College Fund does not use the acronym AICF. On second reference, please use the College Fund.