Using a previous scholarship essay contest we hosted, where our judges received more than 4,000 essays, we noticed some frequent mistakes students make that can instantly disqualify you from an essay contest.
We thought to ourselves, "Hello, learning opportunity!
Here, an example of what NOT to do in an essay – and some tips on making yourself a better candidate for scholarship cash.
Here’s one of the essays we received for a previous scholarship contest, to help you learn the do’s and don’ts of essay writing:
“To be able to hold onto your money you have to know how to manage it. Money management is a complicated process. As teenagers we often have no idea how to manage money and we end up wasting a lot of it. But in a bad economy most of us have had a crash course in what happens when you don’t manage your money properly. We have had to delve into a world foreign and unfamiliar to us and solve our own money problems. The most successful of us have managed to still have some semblance of a social life without going over our small budgets. The keys to doing this successfully are actually quite simple.
Set up your own budget of expenses. Teenagers may not have to worry about paying a mortgage or rent but we do have to be able to pay for gas, insurance for our vehicles, and the never ending list of project expenses and supplies for classes. So you have to sit down and balance what you spend in a month with what you actually make, and whether that’s the money you get for your birthday that you manage to stretch with help from mom’s pocketbook or it’s the minimum wage that you get from the local fast food joint where you have managed to find employment the money comes from somewhere and it needs to be written down.
Review your expenses daily. This includes balancing your checkbook and reviewing your online statements, as well as calculating any emergency expenses that you were not considering. This needs to be fluid as sometimes things come up that you just couldn’t have forseen.
You have to get creative. You are not always going to have the time to sit there with a calculator crunching numbers so create small ways to keep thing balanced without having to. Send yourself easy phone reminders about a few of your expenses. Always bring your school id with you because a lot of places will give students discounted rates. And finally, just remember where your money is going it will help.”
So, what was wrong and what was right?
One thing the essay writer did correctly was to stay within the word count for the contest.
The essay contest stated within the rules that essays should range from 250-350 words and this essay comes in at 349 words. Good job!
Another positive is that the writer stayed on topic and answered the question that was presented.
However, even though the writer did stay on topic, the response took a meandering approach and didn’t take a strong or memorable stance. In short, the “meat” of the essay wasn’t there. Think of it this way: sum up in one sentence what you want the reviewer to know and remember after reading your essay. Did you get that across in a clear and concise way?
Each essay should get across at least one breakout idea (aka, the thesis statement) and the rest of the essay should focus on selling that point. If it’s a new, creative or off-beat idea, focus on selling and explaining that. If it’s a common idea, focus on trying to say it better than anyone else.
Here are a few more examples of what the essay writer did wrong:
Misspellings are the fastest way to ensure an essay is disqualified. When combing through a stack of essays, a judge will first rule out the essays with simple misspellings. Long story short: run a spell check and have someone else you trust look over it. It’s always best to get a second set of eyes.
Incomplete sentences – Remember, each sentence should have a subject (someone or something) and a verb (action). Wondering if your sentence is complete? Here’s a hint: A complete sentence tells a complete thought.
No capitalization –
it’s bad enough not to capitalize words at the beginning of a sentence, but at the beginning of a paragraph it stands out even more! Yikes!
Missing punctuation –
In this example, the writer does not have proper command over the use of commas — namely they are missing in places they should have been added and added places they are not required.
Poor grammar and sentences that don’t make sense –
The essay writer uses poor word choices, improper grammar and mistakes such as having too many spaces between words. Another example of poor grammar is the confusion of grammatical persons — in the beginning of the essay the writer uses the first person plural (we) and toward the end, the writer uses the second person (you).
Run-on sentences –
In this essay, one sentence has 72 words. As a rule, try to keep sentences no longer than 35 words each.
Keep these tips in mind the next time you write an essay. Remember, you don’t want to give the judges any reason to disqualify your essay right off the bat.
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The University Fellows Experience is a community of elite scholars from diverse disciplines who share a similar passion to become change agents through commitment to leadership and service.
Following the classical purpose of education, the production of good citizens, the University Fellows Experience strives to prepare the most able and dedicated students at The University of Alabama for remarkable lives of leadership in and service to their community, state, nation, and world.
Defining Qualities of a Fellow
- Intellectual curiosity and sophisticated intellectual engagement
- Collaboration with others on significant contributions in a variety of fields
- Passion for being a leader, committed to making positive contributions to society
- Initiative, creativity, depth of character, exceptional potential
- Demonstrated leadership throughout high school career
- Continued development of leadership qualities in college career through active involvement
University Fellows Experience Chief Components
- Mentoring by top University of Alabama faculty members
- Team-built atmosphere of support and stimulation
- Interaction with cutting-edge experts in all fields
- Engagement in important cultural, social, and scientific enterprises
- Service to the community, including an ongoing initiative in Alabama’s Black Belt
- Professional internships in the area of each student’s interest
- In-home dinner discussions with faculty, staff, and community leaders
- Fellows-specific seminar courses
- Sophomore significant contributions
- Teaching seminars as seniors
- Senior Symposium
- Assistance in applying for jobs, prestige scholarships, and graduate/professional schools
- Guidance in creating a portfolio preparing students for substantial experience post-graduation
- Cultural immersion, including annual domestic excursions and an optional international excursion
The University Fellows Experience seeks students with a true passion for service and leadership. Those selected will pursue knowledge and action in the classroom, on the campus, in the community, and in the world. Mentored by top professors, supported by their UFE peers, and stimulated by world-class experts in many disciplines, University Fellows will enjoy the richest of college educations, create enduring personal cultures of learning, and embrace service to others as a guiding priority.
The University Fellows Experience provides unique opportunities for leadership development, meaningful civic engagement, service to the community, and interaction in a variety of academic enterprises. Throughout the college experience, Fellows enjoy a close knit community of mutual support and interclass exchange of ideas through Dinner Discussions with community leaders and academic experts, Community Immersion Experiences, cultural exposure opportunities, and project development and implementation. With topical one-hour seminars offered for interclass discussion and exploration of ideas, Fellows enjoy a sense of community throughout their time at The University.
Sophomore Year: Expand
Seminar to explore issues of leadership in the community, including a series of exposures to the practical and multi-faceted aspects of being a good citizen
Participate in significant contributions both individually and collaboratively in an effort to connect idea development with the creation of positive action
Freshman Year: Develop
Seminars to explore issues of servant leadership, personal development, project development and implementation, and civic engagement
Black Belt Experience in May, wherein Fellows partner with local initiatives, programs, and individuals in Perry County, Alabama and implement projects that address challenges of systemic poverty
Junior Year: Focus
Receive individualized assistance and support for career options and post-undergraduate opportunities
Active and ongoing research and correspondence with key figures in their field of interest, including pertinent professional conferences
Peer Mentors and committee chairs for UFE Committees in the planning and implementation of key events, programs and initiatives
Senior Year: Culminate and Give Back
Distinguish themselves in their fields of study through published or presented articles, research, or related productive materials
Reflect their work in a four-year culminating Portfolio
Teach one-hour Honors College seminar courses on a topic of their choosing
“The great end of life is not knowledge but action.” The words of Thomas Henry Huxley embody the belief of the University Fellows, those individuals who strive to see knowledge turned to action for the good of our communities. Black Belt Experience, the signature Fellows project, creates an opportunity for students to explore the various issues affecting poverty in the Black Belt and to partner with individuals in Marion, Perry County, Alabama to create systemic change. Students are servant leaders and change agents who create projects that both respond to the needs of the community and capitalize on the students’ particular interests, gifts, and abilities in preparation for lifelong civic action.
The University Fellows’ inaugural Black Belt Experience was May 2009. Since that time, the Honors College has developed significant community partnerships and seen these grow into integral relationships that both provide ongoing opportunity for meaningful service learning for our students and provide fresh energy and perspective to many challenges expressed by member of the Marion community. The continued work with specific partners such as the local public elementary, middle and high schools, the Perry County Chamber of Commerce, the Marion-Perry County Library, and the local nonprofit Sowing Seeds of Hope enable a more promising future: sustainable projects that see educational growth, economic development, health and nutrition improvement, and greater community interaction.
Eligibility and Application
A student with an ACT score of 32 or an SAT score of 1450 (evidence-based reading and writing plus math) and a high school GPA of 3.8 is eligible to apply for the University Fellows Experience. Once accepted to the University, a student can access both the Honors College and the UFE online applications. Students in UFE must be members of the Honors College; they may apply to the Honors College before applying to UFE or at the same time. UFE applications must be submitted online by the deadline of December 15; students will be notified of their application status by early February. Semifinalists will receive phone interviews and finalists will be invited to on-campus interviews on February 23-24, 2018.
A student with a 28 ACT/1320 SAT or higher and HS GPA of 3.5 or higher may benominated for consideration by a high school representative or a UA faculty member is he/she does not meet the general requirements for UFE consideration. The online nomination form(including the student’s full contact information and letter of recommendation) must be completed by December 9. Please note that the nomination form is only for students who do not meet the automatic eligibility requirements.
The UFE selection committee will consider the candidate’s record of impact in the community, leadership achievements, extracurricular activities, and candidate’s essays much more heavily than grades and test scores. We seek students who ultimately will make a difference throughout their lives; therefore, creativity, productivity, community engagement, leadership, and personal growth are points to highlight on your resume and in your essays.
A required letter of recommendation must be submitted for applicants through the online system by January 7, 2017 (limit to one letter per applicant). Recommenders will be notified by email when an applicant selects them as a recommender.
Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions! You may email email@example.com or call (205) 348-5500.