Filed under: Articles, Misc | Tags: colleges, essay, scholarships, tips, writing
Using Key Club in College and Scholarship Essays
by Lam-Ha Dang
For most seniors, the two months of March and April will be two very dramatic, if not climatic, months of the year. It is the time that most colleges and scholarships release their admissions or award decisions. As a senior myself, I’ve been through the process of applying and patiently awaiting my letters, hopefully bringing good news, so I complied a few tips for filling out applications and especially for writing essays.
Many colleges and scholarships, as you may know, do not look for academically incredible students, but rather well-rounded citizens. Colleges want to know that besides being a stellar scholar, you are also involved in your community, using what you learned in the classroom to change the world for the better. They need to know that you will be a positive and unique contribution to their student body and campus. Likewise, scholarships may emphasize community service and leadership, but that does not mean a great academic background will not help. Be sure you place academics in top priority.
Luckily you are a Key Club member, so you have many expriences to draw from when presenting yourself to the judging panels. Obviously, you have showed that you care about your community and a leader at school, but that is not enough.
+There is a reason why it’s called a “personal essay.” You can log 500 hours of volunteer work, but if you fail to show how it has effected you, your application will not be as competitive. Be sure to show how community service has effected you as a person and your goals for yourself. Provide analysis, not just as series of assertions.
+Be specific. Rather than talking about community service in general, pick an experience that has left a huge impression on you or clearly shows your character. There are many ways to approach this: pick an experience that you’ve learned from or had an interesting or important “ephiphany.” Pick wisely because the readers of your essays are professionals. They can notice undertones and nuances very easily. Sometimes it’s just these little details that will undermine your application or set you apart.
+“Write from the heart.” As corny as it may sound, writing honestly will definately set you apart from the hundreds or even thousands of applicants. Because your experiences are unique, your essay will be unique as well. It will be much easier for you t0 write something that is true and honest than something made up. The essays I like the most are those that were very very raw and open.
+Show how you will apply what you’ve learned and experienced in the future. Many scholarships will ask this question specifically, but even if they don’t, be sure to include this information somehow. I find it to be a nice way to close your essay.
+Many scholarship pair community service with leadership. Think of leadership from many perspectives. You do not have to be a “Vice President” or “President” of a particular club or organization to be a leader. Before talking about your leadership experiences, be sure to define what you think a leader is. This gives the reader some context and implicitly tells them how you were a leader.
+Use quotes. I found this to be very helpful when writing my essays. Quotes frame your essay and thoughts. For the reader, it might clear up some confusions because they could allude to the quote for better understanding. Don’t restrict yourself to just famous quotes. Pick quotes that have real value to you and relevance to the essay topic. If a quote from another language clearly describes your thoughts, use it! Even write it in the original language and translate it. This implicitly tells readers that you are in touch with your heritage and are culturally aware.
+Be explicit. Judges have a limited time to read your essays. Don’t try anything too fancy because they won’t have time to understand it.
+Answer the question. I can’t stress this enough. You may have a wonderful fantastic well-written essay, but if it doesn’t answer the question they’re looking for, judges will perhaps (most likely) disregard it.
+Have someone else read it over. You may understand perfectly what you mean, but to others it might be clear as mud. Another person might catch nuances that you missed.
+Give yourself plenty of time to complete the essay. Make multiple drafts and/or essays. I found myself writing several essays for the same prompt. You’ll be surprised because you’ll end up using all of them somehow. Get the essay prompts early if you have to. Free-write over the summer or at least have ideas.
These are the tips for now. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment. I’ll try to answer them next time. Happy writing and best wishes!
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