choosing a college

"Judging Scholarships, Part II"

Article By: Laura DiFiore
Founder of FreSch!, a leading free scholarship search and information website
and respected scholarship expert and judge.

Continued from "Judging Scholarships, Part I"

2. "Pick the Contenders" Stage

Remember that quite a few outstanding students ended up in the "no" pile during the first stage because their applications were not good enough, not because the student was not qualified.

This is an important point to remember: The best applications get the most serious consideration.

The person looking at the applications at this point may still be a secretary, volunteer, or intern. Or it may be the "Scholarship Administrator." Sometimes, it is one of the "Official Judges," who has been chosen to select the applications that are seriously considered. It may be the entire judging committee. Sometimes this stage is "combined" with the "Weed out the Junk" stage.

Either way, usually at this stage, your application is being looked at for what is wrong with it. The reviewers are not looking for the best applications. They are looking for the worst applications that they can eliminate.

This is a particularly tough stage to "win." A critical eye is being used to find any reason to eliminate your application.

#1 reason your application will die here: Rudeness.

Be polite! Having personally read over 8,500 scholarship applications over the last two years, it amazes me how rude many students are. You are asking the judges to give you money. Rudeness will not win you any points.

#2 reason your application will die here: Spelling.

I know I harp on spelling over and over (and I know I'm not a perfect speller, either!), but it is an easy way for judges to reduce the number of applications they have to seriously consider. If you have even one spelling error or one typo, your application may well be history.

If you do not take the time to spell-check your application, the judges will not take the time to read it.
"Let's see, we have Claire here, who is studying Competur Sceince? Sheesh, she can't even spell her own major right!! Forget her!"

#3 reason your application will die here: You don't "make the grade."

At this point, your application is also being compared to other applications that have been received. I'll use GPA as an example:

The judge or judges look at the first student in the pile. He or she has a 3.6 GPA. Goes to the "potential yes" pile. They look at the next student, who has a 3.4 GPA. Oops... they have already seen an application from a student with a higher GPA, so this student can't compete and goes into the "no" pile.

It is important to remember that even those scholarships for which academic achievement is not the primary consideration, the judges are going to look at your grades, your community service, and your school activities. They are ultimately looking at The Whole Person Who Is You, not just your grades or your need.

Here's an example:

The primary consideration is financial need. This means the "poorest" students are going to be considered, right? Imagine there are 10 students who all have equal financial need: $30,000 in family income, two kids in college, one parent disabled. But of those 10 students, one of them has a 3.0 GPA. That application is going to STAND OUT from the other 9 who have 2.6 GPAs.

Maybe all 10 have 3.6 GPAs and equal need. But one of the students has a lot of volunteer work and is active with church and school. That student is going to stand out above the others for serious consideration by the judges.

3. Pick The Winner.

This is where things get ugly. Judges have their personal favorites, fights break out, coffee mugs go flying, and arguments occur over which student is the best.

Okay, that's an exaggeration but by now, you and your application are now being discussed, debated, and fought-over.

Of all applications received, 1%-5% might make it to this stage. Or less.

At this point, the judges are now looking at your application to find reasons to say yes. The judges ask themselves questions such as:

  • Why is this student better than the others?

  • Why does this student deserve our money? Our support?

  • What makes this student outstanding?

And somehow, amazingly enough, a winner is chosen. There is no easy way to describe how out of the remaining 5, 10, or 100 applications the winner is chosen. There's a lot of discussion, votes are taken, or perhaps they use the point system yet again and assign a grade to each application.

"Application number 2012, from Bob in California, 3.9 GPA, volunteers, active in school, studying Physics, who saved the entire city of San Mateo by inventing an earthquake early-warning system when he was 7 years old, raised $200,000 for Save the Armadillos, and wrote a chapter for Miss Manners. I count 10 votes out of 10. We have a winner - Bob it is!"

While the very best student is chosen as the winner, the decision can also be somewhat subjective.

When you have 5 or 10 students who all have equal academic achievement, community service, financial need, service to their schools, and meet all other requirements, the final decision sometimes comes down to who the judges like best.

This is where the time you spend on personal statements and essays will push you over the edge to the winners' circle. Something about you and your application needs to stand out from the crowd for you to win.

To beat this stage of the game:
  1. Really read the application. Most applications tell you who they are looking for.

  2. Write your personal statement so that it "talks" to the judges, tells them what they want to hear about you, but yet at the same time, is truthful. Don't let your personal statement sound like a singles ad!

  3. Let your personality shine through! Let them know who you are and why you deserve to win!

  4. Tell the judges why you are a unique, special, deserving person, one worthy of their time and money. Remember, you are unique, special, and worthy!

  5. Be the best person you can be.

  6. Don't be pathetic, whining, rude, or ignorant.

  7. Ultimately, it's the whole person that is judged, not just your grades, need, or athletic ability. You are a unique, special deserving person - sometimes despite your grades! Let that shine through!

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Thank you for visiting,

Al Brouillard

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