By tamaraScholarship competitions are stepping outside of the traditional paper entry forms and online applications. No longer are students limited to impressing judges through 500 words or less, or relying on their transcripts to propel them to the finalist pool. Social media has opened the door to a whole new world of scholarship competitions. Although Facebook is a very popular arena for companies and organizations to host their programs, many are now turning to YouTube, as well. YouTube provides a forum where students can think outside the box and truly showcase their talents and creativity. For some, the idea of a two-minute video application can be intimidating, especially if they are not familiar with how to create, edit or promote their video entry, but it’s not as complicated as it may seem; virtually any student with a video recorder (or webcam) and a laptop can produce an amazing scholarship video. Students simply need to follow these easy steps. 1. Set up a YouTube account Students will need a YouTube account in order to upload their completed project to the website. Signing up for an account is simple and free. Those who already have a Google account or Gmail address can simply sign in and start using the website. 2. Review the Scholarship Guidelines Students must pay close attention to the rules governing the scholarship video competition. Most will set limits on the length of the video (usually between two and five minutes), as well as providing a focus for the content of the video. Although creativity is encouraged, those who neglect to adequately address the competition’s purpose, or exceed the time limit, may have their entries rejected. 3. Create a Superior Product Whether students use a camcorder, webcam or a video montage, the quality of the final product is what matters most. Students need to pay close attention to lighting, inside or outside. Those using a hand-held camera should also consider using a tripod for clearer shots, which will provide better quality for compressed videos. Sound is also an important element. Most microphones in hand-held camcorders are low-quality. Students should consider using an external microphone or music to enhance the quality. In some cases, text subtly injected into the video with music can be even more powerful than the spoken word. Once students decide how they will create their video, they can utilize several of the free video editing tools available online. One of the best is iMovie. There are many tutorials available to help students learn how to edit, add music and learn everything they need to make a professional video. Students who do not use Mac can use Movie Maker for Windows, which also has a slew of tutorials to show students all the tips and tricks needed to create an amazing video. 4. Share the Video Many of the YouTube scholarship competitions have a social media aspect linked to the requirements. Those who are not currently using Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets may have a disadvantage, but there are other methods of promoting their entry. First, students should create a great title for their video and use an engaging thumbnail to help draw people to their video. Using keywords will also increase the chances of the video being found on search engines and make it easier for people to find it on YouTube, as well. Choosing one to three keywords at most is suggested, and these words should be used in the title, video description and tags. Students should ask friends and family to share the video with others on Pinterest, StumbleUpon and other social media forums. Those who blog should consider writing a post to create buzz around their entry and embed the video in their blog. Not every scholarship contest on YouTube is legitimate, so students should be cautious before providing any of their personal information. It’s a good idea for students to visit the scholarship provider’s website and verify their physical address, email and/or phone number. Students should also look to see if any past winners are posted. Any contest or competition that requests students pay a fee to enter, or require they provide their social security information, should be avoided. Typically, video contests sponsored by a college (.edu), not-for-profit (.org) or a government agency (.gov) are safe for students to enter. Students should always remember; if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.