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Preparing Competitive Fellowship and Scholarship Applications. How to Stand Out from the Crowd. Standing Out from the Crowd! .

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Preparing Competitive Fellowship and Scholarship Applications

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preparing competitive fellowship and scholarship applications

Preparing Competitive Fellowship and Scholarship Applications

How to Stand Out from the Crowd

standing out from the crowd
Standing Out from the Crowd!

Writing techniques for “Who are you?” scholarship applications, or the personal statement for other types of scholarships. These are also good strategies for personal interviews.

These techniques are all about being MEMORABLE.

what s a who are you scholarship
What’s a “Who are you?” Scholarship?
  • These are scholarships that may fund students in ANY discipline, but one in which the selection committee wants to know as much about you as your work.
  • This kind of scholarship will typically involve a written application with essay questions and/or a personal interview. Questions seek to explore your critical thinking abilities and values.
typical questions
Typical Questions

Typical questions might explore:

  • What shaped and molded you?
  • What drives you to study a particular discipline?
  • What do you want to accomplish and why?
  • What’s an experience that changed your perspective on a political, social, or personal issue?
find your scholarship
Find YOUR Scholarship
  • Read the fine print on a scholarship’s eligibility and criteria for selection before you begin. In fact, devour the entire website for extra clues on the kind of person they want to fund. Read bios on previous award-winners.
  • Look for the unusual criterion that applies to you.
  • Find the right scholarships, with the right set of criteria, for you. Don’t waste your time on marginal scholarships.
sample criteria
Sample Criteria
  • Jack Kent Cooke Foundation criteria list: academic achievementcritical thinking abilitya breadth of interests and activities *financial need * will to succeed *
  • Look farther in the web material and you find:

Record of hard work *


Participation in or strong appreciation of the arts and humanities*

prove it
Prove It
  • Whatever the criteria for selection, your application should demonstrate that you have ALL of these qualities.
  • Show, don’t tell, drawing on your life experience and academic/volunteer/work record. General statements can come across as clichés. Back up your statements with details, examples, and specifics.
  • Some scholarships, as a part of their criteria, may ask to know about hardships and obstacles you have overcome. If discrimination, poverty, family breakdown, severe illness, or another problem beyond your control has been a major factor in your development , do write about it.
  • Tell your story honestly, simply, and without self-pity. Avoid playing for sympathy. Focus instead on how the hardships have impacted your values and motivated your career aspirations.
work from your life
Work From Your Life

Draw on your personal life and experiences to find truthful examples, anecdotes, feelings, and turning points that you can discuss with passion. Honesty and sincerity come through in your writing.

know what makes you different
Know What Makes You Different

How do you think you are special, unusual, or distinctive as a person and/or student? Try to create opportunities for these qualities to come through in the application. (Show, don’t tell…)

write like you talk
Write Like You Talk
  • Write like you talk, especially in early drafts. Pour your heart out. Don’t judge or censor your writing until you have a completed draft.
  • Having a distinctive “voice” is a huge plus. Applications which convey a real sense of the person writing definitely stand out.
be who you are
Be Who You Are
  • If you want to stand out, be who you are. Don’t just say what you think the selection committee wants to hear. Answer outside the box.
  • Colorless neutrality and safe, cliché answers do not make you memorable. Don’t try to hide who you are if you want to be remembered. Open yourself up and allow yourself to reveal who you are on the page.
tell stories
Tell Stories
  • Telling the story of a pertinent, personal experience is a great way to start an essay or an interview question response. It helps you come up with a unique answer with memorable and powerful images and ideas, and it is a great way to catch the judges’ attention.
  • Stories, images, metaphors, similes, analogies, your feelings and epiphanies— all of these are good. They give your answers power and impact and help you stand out from the crowd.
tell the truth then tell the moral of the story
Tell the Truth, Then Tell the Moral of the Story

It can be an effective technique to recount a personal story that does not necessarily show you in the best light, if you use it as a springboard into showing what you have learned or how an experience changed your direction and goals.

(But use this device only once within an application.)

think strategically
Think Strategically

Think strategically as you choose which questions you will answer and your word choices, anecdotes, and examples. Use every question to demonstrate a facet of how you meet the criteria for selection. Make your answers work for you on all possible levels.

maintain a sharp focus
Maintain a Sharp Focus
  • Have precise, focused responses to each question.
  • Don’t try to share every passion, ambition, accomplishment, or social concern. Again, think strategically.
  • Avoid repetition of experiences to better show your many dimensions.
keep it tight
Keep It Tight
  • Write (or speak) economically. Yes, you can use detail and images and stories and specifics. But keep it tight. Write fully and with passion, then pare it down to the gold. Examine every sentence for words you can leave out, while still retaining the meaning and impact.
  • Read aloud to catch awkward, convoluted sentences and restructure them.
  • Conversely, if you are not filling at least 2/3 of the available word count on your answers, you are missing the opportunity to build the strongest possible case for your candidacy and to leave a vivid impression.
be absolutely honest
Be Absolutely Honest

Don’t overstate accomplishments, claim credit for what should be shared, or propose a student plan or ambitions only to conform to this scholarship.

in the end
In The End…

Go for it, with great passion and a great deal of strategic thought.

Good luck!