Maxwell H. Atlanta, GAMajor: Neuroscience
Life is serendipitous; while considering this question, I happened to come across a bumper sticker quoting Derek Bok, the former Harvard president, stating:
“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!“
Though obviously witty and eye-catching, the words struck a chord in me because they made me think about what life, without education, would be like. Sure, education, in particular college education, is important, but with the economy in decline, is it worth it? Although a college degree unlocks many doors, there are certainly success stories of college dropouts who have still “struck gold.” Are the rising costs of college justified? Are four years in an ivory tower worthwhile? In my opinion, the answer is “yes.” Beyond the increased likelihood of career success, college helps us to better understand the world. College campuses are mini-communities where we, as young adults, can initially experience our independence. What happens outside of college classrooms (i.e., club participation, dorm living, etc.) is just as much a part of the “education” as what occurs in the classroom. The academics equip us with information necessary for achievement and scholarship, but the social learning provides the foundation for civic mindedness and community involvement. So, to those who say that education is a waste of time, money and effort, I respectfully disagree. For the few who are lucky enough to succeed without going to college, I offer my congratulations. For the rest of us, Ignorance is not bliss, and college is the surest way to avoid it.
The essay: It’s the most important part of your scholarship application, and it can be the hardest.
But, the essay shouldn’t keep you from applying. Take a look at some commonly asked essay questions and use them to prepare for your scholarship applications. Brainstorm ideas, do some research or create your own “stock” of scholarship essays.
Your Field of Specialization and Academic Plans
Some scholarship applications will ask you to write about your major or field of study.
These questions are used to determine how well you know your area of specialization and why you’re interested in it.
• How will your study of _______ contribute to your immediate or long range career plans?
• Why do you want to be a _______?
• Explain the importance of (your major) in today’s society.
• What do you think the industry of _______ will be like in the next 10 years?
• What are the most important issues your field is facing today?
Current Events and Social Issues
To test your skills at problem-solving and check how up to date you are on current issues, many scholarship applications include questions about problems and issues facing society.
• What do you consider to be the single most important societal problem? Why?
• If you had the authority to change your school in a positive way, what specific changes would you make?
• Pick a controversial problem on college campuses and suggest a solution.
• What do you see as the greatest threat to the environment today?
Scholarships exist to reward and encourage achievement. So you shouldn’t be surprised to find essay topics that ask you to brag a little.
• Describe how you have demonstrated leadership ability both in and out of school.
• Discuss a special attribute or accomplishment that sets you apart.
• Describe your most meaningful achievements and how they relate to your field of study and your future goals.
• Why are you a good candidate to receive this award?
Background and Influences
Who you are is closely tied to where you’ve been and who you’ve known. To learn more about you, some scholarship committees will ask you to write about your background and major influences.
• Pick an experience from your own life and explain how it has influenced your development.
• Who in your life has been your biggest influence and why?
• How has your family background affected the way you see the world?
• How has your education contributed to who you are today?
Future Plans and Goals
Scholarship sponsors look for applicants with vision and motivation, so they might ask about your goals and aspirations.
• Briefly describe your long- and short-term goals.
• Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
• Why do you want to get a college education?
Many scholarship providers have a charitable goal: They want to provide money for students who are going to have trouble paying for college. In addition to asking for information about your financial situation, these committees may want a more detailed and personal account of your financial need.
• From a financial standpoint, what impact would this scholarship have on your education?
• State any special personal or family circumstances affecting your need for financial assistance.
• How have you been financing your college education?
Some essay questions don’t seem directly related to your education, but committees use them to test your creativity and get a more well-rounded sense of your personality.
• Choose a person or persons you admire and explain why.
• Choose a book or books and that have affected you deeply and explain why.
While you can’t predict every essay question, knowing some of the most common ones can give you a leg up on applications. Start brainstorming now, and you may find yourself a winner!
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