By tamaraStudents are heading back to school, which means one thing — scholarship season is about to go into full swing. With the majority of scholarship deadlines falling between October and April, now is a good time to gather the necessary documents required for many of these programs. You will find that having these items available in a central location, otherwise known as a scholarship portfolio, will not only make the scholarship application process easier, but also less stressful. In general, the following five items should always be kept up-to-date and included in your scholarship portfolio. 1. Résumé Many scholarship providers will expect you to include a listing of your employment and volunteer positions, as well as extracurricular activities, awards and honors, and any leadership positions. All of these details can be easily combined into a résumé, which can often save you considerable time when filling out scholarship applications. College students can stop by their career services office on campus for free assistance in creating a professional résumé, or they may wish to use one of the many free templates available online. High school students may also receive help from their guidance counselors and/or parents. At least once every six months, you should review and update your résumé. 2. Transcripts If you plan to apply for merit-based scholarship programs, a recent transcript or report card is a must. In some cases, providers will require an official document, but many will also accept copies. It’s not a bad idea to order two or three official copies at the beginning of each year or semester, as well as keeping several unofficial copies on hand. 3. Financial Reports Need-based scholarship programs often require students to submit proof of financial need. This may include a copy of your most recent tax form (or your parents’), and/or a copy of either the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE®. You should have several copies of each (when applicable), as well as your Student Aid Report (SAR), included in your scholarship portfolio. If a recent medical emergency or serious illness has caused financial hardship, you may also wish to include medical bills and other documentation to help provide proof of financial need. 4. Identification Most scholarship providers will require proof of citizenship or age to verify eligibility. You should keep copies of your birth certificate, passport, and driver’s license handy at all times. In addition, a professional photograph, preferably a headshot, should also be kept in the scholarship portfolio. Scholarship programs that require an audition often use this item for applications, but providers may also request a photograph for use on websites and other publicity pieces when students are selected to receive an award. 5. Personal Statement A common element used in college and scholarship applications, the personal statement is one item that should definitely be included in a scholarship portfolio. Scholarship providers often use the personal statement to gain insight into an applicant’s beliefs and core values, so it’s important to take the time to draft a well-written piece that does not resemble a regurgitated version of your résumé or transcripts. Other Things to Consider These five items are some of the most commonly requested during the scholarship application process. There are, however, a few other pieces you may want to consider keeping on file. For example, it’s often a good idea to ask a teacher, mentor, or coach for several copies of any letters of recommendation they may provide, especially if the letters do not contain any identifiable information, such as the scholarship provider’s name or the name of the scholarship itself. You may also wish to keep unofficial copies of your SAT and ACT scores on hand, especially if you’ve taken the tests more than once. It can be difficult to remember all the scores, so it’s a quick way to retrieve that information without having to access your online accounts. Remember to review your scholarship portfolios every semester to ensure you have everything you need for your upcoming scholarship applications. It’s also a good idea to save both paper and electronic versions of your documentation, just in case something is accidentally lost or destroyed. A well-organized scholarship portfolio is often the key to scholarship success!