CONTEXT is everything: If a student comes from a background where their father is a lawyer and their mother is a doctor, the expectations are going to be higher regarding grades and extracurricular activity. Conversely, if a student came from a family without a higher level of education, expectations are revised. In addition, if you have ever failed, don’t worry! The judges tend to look more at what you did when confronted with failure than the failure itself (in general, a sports injury is not a “failure”, or something you have to “overcome”).
DON’T SUBMIT A PHONE BOOK: Weaker applicants often send more supplementary materials to compensate for their lack of credentials. So a lean file with excellent versions of all the required material is best. Please submit only what is required. We are constantly asked by parents “how far back should I list his/her accomplishments?” First, this is YOUR (the student’s) scholarship, please take ownership. You should be filling out the application and asking the questions! (The answer is: very little before eighth grade is relevant… it would need to be pretty spectacular.)
KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TELLING YOUR STORY AND OVER-SHARING. As most any college application advisor will tell you, the essay is your chance to personalize your file, turning it from a sterile collection of grade point averages to something with a beating heart. While most any topic will work in the right hands, dwelling on your chronic medical conditions may not be best. Other less-than-optimal choices: poetry, or how you cope with privilege.
THEY NEED TO FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU. The judges are looking at you as an investment in our community. They’re going to choose whom they like and whom they want to get to know. Your essay needs to convey a sense of who you are. Be prepared to answer the question “why should we give you a scholarship?” The judges are not trying to be rude, they truly need to know!
REIN IN THOSE EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES. Captain of nine different squads? Different sport every year? While you may think you’re showing diversity, you may actually be convincing the judges you can’t sit still. Instead, opt for four to seven extracurricular activities and commit to them. Founding a club or starting a program in your community shows leadership. If you are called in to interview, be prepared to talk about your accomplishments!
DON’T BE RUDE TO YOUR GUIDANCE COUNSELOR, TEACHER or FOUNDATION STAFF. Counselors and Teachers can have a pretty big impact, particularly when it comes to recommendations. Foundation staff members do not get to “vote” as to whether you get a scholarship, but everything you do is communicated to the judges through them… the good AND the bad.
DON’T HAVE A GOOFY EMAIL ADDRESS. Doing everything right on your application can be undermined with a return email address of firstname.lastname@example.org. You never know who’s reading your application. Also, be aware of your social media presence and reconsider your outgoing voicemail message. Sometimes we look, and so do college admissions officers! Always be professional!