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Applying for Scholarships
Letters Of Recommendation - Most scholarships are going to ask for at least two letters of recommendation. Teachers, employers, and counselors are great sources for letters, but be sure that they know you well enough to be able to write an anecdotal letter about you and all your great qualities. Ask five or six people for letters so you will have a variety to choose from and to make sure you have the required number before the deadline. Be sure to ask for letters of recommendation at least two to three weeks before you actually need them. Follow up four or five days before the deadline to see if the letter is ready. Your visit will also provide a gentle reminder about the task. Provide the person with a list of activities that you are involved with so that they may use it as a reference. Don’t forget to ask them for several copies and for permission to copy the letter for other scholarships and applications; usually photocopied letters are acceptable, but the original is always better. Request the school letterhead (most teachers will use this automatically). Most importantly, send the person a thank you note. This gesture shows the person that you appreciated the time they took to help you out. Follow the guidelines as directed by the application; if the committee only wants two letters of recommendation, provide two only. Letters from close family friends and relatives are only appropriate as directed in the application.
The Essay - Most scholarships are going to require the applicant to write one or more essays. The type of essay and the topic will vary from scholarship to scholarship, but the format for an essay is generally the same. The essay should almost always have a title, typed clearly at the top of the page. If the essay has a broad subject such as “reveal something to us about you that you think we should know,” try to focus on one specific life experience. Don’t try to conquer a big broad topic such as “sports have changed my life.” Instead, focus on something narrower such as that championship soccer game that your team lost last year and how that changed your views on failure. Before submitting your essay, have at least two people proofread it for errors. Also, avoid the use of the words interesting, good, fun, or nice. These words are bland and vague, giving the reader an unattached feeling to the author. For additional information and tips, review the Personal Statement Power Point on the UMHS OWL.
Transcript - Unless the scholarship specifically asks for an official transcript, have your counselor print you out a transcript and take it down to the printers. Make as many copies as scholarships you plan to apply for. You may wish to highlight AP or Honors courses and your GPA to make things easier for the committee
Scholarship Folder - Keep all of your applications, letters, essays, etc. in a folder or file. On the outside of the file, keep track of application deadlines and the date you actually mail the application. Note that some scholarships ask for additional paper work, such as sample work. Check the application several times to make sure that it is complete and neat.
More Thank You Notes - If you receive the scholarship that you applied for, be sure to send the committee or scholarship sponsor a thank you note. For some scholarships, it is possible to reapply each year. Sending a thank you note is not only professional and courteous, but will increase your chances of receiving the scholarship the following year.
Scholarship Search Links
UMHS OWL - Personal Statement Sample #1
Please Note: The name of the city has been deleted. Other names have been changed at the request of the author.
My classmates complain that (city) is boring. Compared to a big city, it seems to have nothing: no art, no culture, no variety, just warehouses, agriculture, and pale, cloudless summer skies. But those who complain have obviously never been to Big Burgers. The restaurant itself is not very inspiring: its three booths and eight buttons aren’t covered with Monet and Picasso; the gum-smacking teenage waitresses don’t recite Shakespeare when they take an order; the radio doesn’t play Miles Davis or Rachmaninoff (“just old-time rock and roll oldies…on Arrow 108”). But the people who enter Big Burgers make it as interesting as any place I’ve ever been.
At any hour, a doctor and a state mathematician could be having a quiet game of chess while a mentally disabled man is inviting everyone to feel his biceps and demanding seriously, “Has a furry cat ever rubbed up against your leg?” Or one of the three hippie-Deadhead-drunks could be creating a napkin-cartoon and offering it to the respectable County District Supervisor with the assurance, “It’s my best one yet,” while his friends howl “OOOOHHHH!!!!” every time a chess piece is taken, and a gawky, flat-topped teenager sporting three-dollar shades and a Doom II t-shirt hits on an unwilling waitress who’s wishing to God that somebody, anybody will order some food.
Of all Big Burgers’ customers, the regulars are the most interesting. Ed Fisher is Big Burgers’ unofficial greeter, a pudgy, 50-ish balding man who sits on the third button from the door and welcomes each customer with a smile and a “Hot enough for ya?” Currently living on worker’s compensation, he leaves his lonely, empty house every day and comes down to Big Burgers for five or six hours, spending every minute engaging customers in friendly (if often one-sided) conversations about weather, politics, and anything else he read in the Democrat.
In the mid-afternoon, Dan Martinez will stride into Big Burgers grinning as though he’s figured out that life is a chess game and he was born with two queens. But if his unusual intelligence is his extra queen, an impenetrable pawn row of alcoholism, inertia, and stubbornness has kept her ineffectual, forcing him to warehouse jobs and welfare lines. Big Burgers is the only place that’s ever worked out for Dan, the little oasis between Alcoholics Anonymous and his favorite local bar where he can reassure himself that intelligence compensates for laziness by using his natural, undeveloped chess talent to defeat inferior opponents.
From seven to seven, Big Burgers’ owner, Bob Johnson, stands behind the counter in his white, sweat-soaked shirt, waiting for the opportunity to ask “What can I do for you today?” and take his pencil from behind his ear to write down “DBL DB w/ cheese, sm choc shake”. At his restaurant he feels in control, free from the domineering mother he still lives with at age 42. But occasionally, his mother will drop by to scold “Why are you always playing chess?” or “When was this counter last washed?” reducing him to a powerless child with a red, oily face and greasy, unwashed hands.
Over time, I’ve become a regular too, the high school kid who blurts out a hopeful “Want a game?” every time a chess player walks through the door. And after getting to know them, I now find the other regulars even more complex and interesting than the games of chess I play with them. (City) may be a boring place, but as long as it has characters like these, it will always be interesting.
UMHS OWL - Personal Statement Sample #2
The Role of the Teacher
A little boy with tousled blonde hair sits frantically tapping his pencil to a beat all his own, while his teacher patiently gives directions. “Oh, I know how to do this,” he blurts out rocking precariously in his chair. Across the table from him sits a small brunette with freckles dusting her nose. She is dressed from head to toe in the trendiest fashion. At the front of the room is an empty desk which is occupied two or three times a week by a little girl who doesn’t have a permanent home. Though she is only in kindergarten, she is already falling behind. These are just a few of the faces who greet me each day as I go to work in Patty Smith’s kindergarten classroom at Gibson Elementary.
This is my second year working for Ms. Smith as part of my class Careers with Children. On a typical day I will supervise the children on the playground, help out with arts and crafts, test them on numbers and shapes, and read for small and large groups. Each day I look forward to the new challenges presented by these very eager students.
I also enjoyed the challenge of teaching the basics of swimming to preschool children this past summer at Country Oaks Racquet Club. My charges would begin the two week session with fear and apprehension, but by the end of the first week the kids would eagerly dive to the bottom and blow bubbles while reaching for a submerged ring. The expression on their faces as they mastered a new skill was my reward. It was also gratifying to know that parents requested me for additional lessons.
When I wasn’t teaching swim lessons, I was responsible for life guarding at the pool. As a lifeguard, I often have the unpleasant task of removing kids from the pool who are not obeying the rules. Even though I am small in size, the rule-breakers would follow my directions. Of all of the jobs I have had, this one is the most difficult. A lifeguard has to be focused at every minute to prevent serious injury or accidents in the pool. I take my job very seriously and appreciate the responsibility.
It is these experiences working with young people that have increased my desire to become a kindergarten teacher. My mother has cautioned me about the low pay scale, but I know I would rather get paid less and enjoy what I do, rather than make more money in a job where I am not happy. I am organized, patient, caring, and demanding. All of these qualities will help me with my profession. I know how to plan and budget my time wisely as I have played three varsity sports for the past two years as well as maintained a part-time job. Though I will probably not continue in sports, I will most certainly need to have a job while attending college. My schedule for the past three years has prepared me to take on a full academic load and a part time job.
As I begin to think about what the future has in store for me, I will remind myself of those faces in that kindergarten class and what I have to offer. I have the work ethic, the determination, and the desire to achieve my goal of becoming an elementary school teacher. Someday soon those faces staring back at me will be my very own students in my very own class.