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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Financing your education abroad may mean multiple sources of funds including scholarships and fundraising. The Office for Education Abroad has its own scholarships, but be sure to look at other opportunities, especially in your MSU college(s) and also sources outside MSU.
Office for Education Abroad Scholarships
MSU undergraduate students applying to any credit-bearing study abroad program are eligible for Office for Education Abroad Scholarships. MSU graduate students applying to join a credit-bearing group program abroad are also eligible; however, graduate students pursuing individual or independent research abroad are not. A special award is reserved for MSU medical students participating in a College of Human Medicine or College of Osteopathic Medicine study abroad experience. About 30 percent of students who apply for EA scholarships will receive an award.
You need only submit one application in order to be considered for all the Office for Education Abroad scholarships for which you are eligible.
EA Scholarship Deadlines
Spring Break (need-based awards only): January 15
Summer, Fall Semester or Academic-Year: March 1
Freshman Seminars Abroad (need-based awards only): June 8
Winter Break and Spring Semester: October 1
Scholarships for Research Abroad, Internships Abroad, and Independent Study Abroad
External Scholarships for Education Abroad
Bridging Scholarship for Study Abroad in Japan
The Bridging Project offers scholarships to American undergraduate students participating in study-abroad programs in Japan.
Diversity Abroad Scholarships
Aimed at increasing education opportunities for non-traditional student populations. The Diversity Abroad Network also has an opportunity for a summer scholarship.
Fund for Education Abroad
FEA scholarships are intended to meet the financial needs of students who might not be eligible for government grants or existing funds limited to specific programs or groups of students.
Provides an extensive list of scholarships available for specific requirements or university programs.
Lists scholarships available for certain program types or locations.
The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi
Awards grants designed to help support undergraduates as they seek knowledge and experience in their academic fields by studying abroad.
BUTEX North American Scholarships
BUTEX awards sixteen scholarships to students studying abroad for either a semester or for a whole academic year. Eight scholarships are available to North American students studying in the UK.
Institute of International Education
IIE administers several scholarship programs, including the Freeman-Asia program, Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, Fullbright, and David L. Boren Scholarships and Fellowships.
IIE Generation Study Abroad Travel Grants are available for U.S. students from a broad range of backgrounds to make it possible for them to participate in academic, internship or service-learning experiences abroad.
Rotary International Global Grants
Global grants support large international activities with sustainable, measurable outcomes in Rotary’s areas of focus.
Tortuga Backpacks Study Abroad Scholarships
Scholarships are awarded twice a year to passionate students who want to explore the world.
365 Pet Insurance Minority Students in Veterinary Medicine Scholarship
$500 scholarship for full-time CVM students who are of Hispanic, African-American, Native American, Pacific Islander or other minority designation.
Fundraising will help to make your program more affordable, and it also educates the public about education abroad. Local, regional and national groups, as well as individuals, are all possible contributors.