"Judging Scholarships, Part II"
Article By: Laura DiFiore|
Founder of FreSch!, a leading free scholarship search and information
and respected scholarship expert and judge.
Continued from "Judging Scholarships, Part I"
2. "Pick the Contenders"
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
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
This is a particularly tough stage to "win." A critical eye is
being used to find any reason to eliminate your application.
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
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.
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
#3 reason your application will die here: You don't "make the
At this point, your application is also being compared to other
applications that have been received. I'll use GPA as an example:
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.
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
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.
where things get ugly. Judges have their personal favorites, fights break out,
coffee mugs go flying, and arguments occur over which student is the
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
- Why does this student deserve our money? Our support?
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 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
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:
- Really read the application. Most applications tell you who they are looking
- 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!
- Let your personality shine through! Let them know who you are and why you
deserve to win!
- 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!
- Be the best person you can be.
- Don't be pathetic, whining, rude, or ignorant.
- 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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