Scholarship Screwup #1: Thrust Your Religion and Politics Upon Me

by Judge Josh on July 17, 2009

I almost didn’t include this tip, but it’s one that every applicant needs to hear. Unless the scholarship you’re applying for is sponsored by an explicitly political or religious organization, you have almost no chance of winning if you write an essay “taking a side” on controversial issues like abortion, affirmative action, the Iraq war or any other polarizing issues. Why not, you ask? Surely it takes guts and conviction to write such an essay, no?

Feel free to rant about politics and religion all you like -- in a soundproof room, by yourself.

Yes, it does. And let me be the first to say that I’ve got a ton of admiration for people, students and otherwise, who stick to their convictions and lay their neck out on the line with an unpopular opinion, regardless of who it might offend.

However, I didn’t write my book or start this website to tell you how to speak your mind. I wrote it to show you how to win money from a group of people who will sit in judgment of you and thousands of your peers (hey, we’re called judges for a reason). And I submit to you that essays about contentious issues usually don’t win.

More practically, consider this very basic truth: the more contentious the issue you choose to write about, the more likely it is that one or more committee members will completely disagree with you. Divisive issues divide, and in all likelihood, you’ve got no idea who’s even judging your scholarship application, let alone the personal and political beliefs of those people. But if a judge happens to hold beliefs that run counter to the ones in your essay, should that affect their judgment?

In a perfect world, absolutely not. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and if you happen to find one, email me and I’ll meet you there for margaritas for the rest of eternity. Remember that committee members are people just like you and me. They try to keep their emotions and personal beliefs out of their decisions, but it doesn’t always work.

Offend them with the content of your essay and you probably won’t win the scholarship. Again – I’m not saying it’s right, but that’s just how it is. It’s real life, it’s unfair, and that’s how it goes. Rather than pretending otherwise, I’m advising you to acknowledge this reality and go the safe route with safe topics when you have a choice.


{ 82 comments… read them below or add one }

Shiu Kong Ng August 1, 2009 at 7:50 pm

Honestly speaking I really do not what this passage is asking me to do. Anyway my comment to this passage is I totally agree with what it is say. This is because I will start my doctoral study this fall and I have read some books and arcticle talking about to attend the examination for the research. The examiners could ask some hard questions that one may not be able to handle easily.However there can be some people to support and one has to well prepare and do some research before going into that exemination and do wish that my topic for research “Online learning for Maintenance Workers” will be appoved without any objection from the board.

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Brittani August 1, 2009 at 11:14 pm

Agreed. Sure. However, I am with the above commenter. I am not sure what this article wants us seekers to do about our opinions. I believe that the author wants us to buy the book in order to be a successful writer, but i am unsure. It is quite discouraging to hear from a judge how bias the panel is and will be. Unfortunately, I have submitted many and no response due to my strong opinion. Is this article suggesting that I do away with my real opinion and cater my decision to a straight middle path leaving the judge in awe and with the ability to complete their own interpretation with a good taste about (me) as the writer, in their mouths. What money will make you do? Interesting concept!

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Nino Legaspi Cuestas August 2, 2009 at 5:23 am

Actually I don’t know where and what to start. Politics and Religion are both delicate issues to deal with, though however, these two are factors to be considered why people are at conflict- war. Indeed, in my home town (part of Mindanao, Philippines) Religion has something to say about the blood shed by the victims of “doctrine-ideology”; and Politics in the other hand has something to offer to unfold the agenda of each sides who would like to control and manipulate the issue. And the rest of “us” are victims of our own tasteful ignorance of what is really the “truth” behind because we only put our confidence to where we are affiliated according to our interest.
However, its not all about religion or politics alone, its all about how to fill in the it seems gab between the two elements of human existence. Religion as much as Politics is like a mother who could give birth to a child- the “one” that whether we like it or not is designed to be a potential for both unity and revision. The reality that “man” cannot scape otherwise he cannot be part of the journey towards “the exile of humanity” in-order to reach the desire/ thirst of belonging to his own humanness. The question about neither religion nor politics is yet another illusion of man’s hope in attaining oneness; both are just tool to realize what is attainable only to accept and respect the differences and uniqueness of these two realities working to form and shape “man” into the fullest, human attempt to fill in the gap between Religion and Politics using what is good and healthy of both.

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Kristin Saplala August 2, 2009 at 7:41 am

So basically, the article says “BE SAFE. CHOOSE SAFE. GET THE MONEY, NEVER MIND YOUR BELIEFS. YOUR BELIEFS WILL DESTROY YOU. AND NO ONE WILL PICK YOU.”

Unfortunately this teaches the students to be paranoid of the outside world. The author is right that it IS an unfair world. That is the stark reality. We must not shun away from it. Another reality is writing what is in the hearts and minds of every human being, that no matter how ‘contentious’ the issue is, there is a commonality that binds all of us, which outweighs our cultural and social differences.

Ranting on impulse with personal insults will indeed do a lot more harm than good. Like the commentator above me, Shiu Kong Ng says, deep and extensive examination and research of both (or many) sides of the issue should accompany every word written on the essay. This will show your commitment on the matters on hand. Neutrality AND RESPECT should be the tone, and are to be achieved, yet not forsaking the very purpose on why you choose to write so.

You do not write for yourself. You write for the many. Money may be what you need now, but if you sacrifice your principles for silence and popularity, then you are no better than a paid mercenary.

That is the problem with society today. You haggle for the few, for the accolades that pass swiftly after a time. As long as you get the money, all is good. Perhaps this recession is a blessing….

Remember that what you put down on paper should be FOR A CAUSE FOR ALL HUMANITY, which is priceless than any award prize a board panel will mete out.

If you manage to win them by not losing yourself, then that is good. Let no one dictate you.

Peace. Salaam. Shalom. Respect.

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edna thackeray August 2, 2009 at 12:23 pm

you can write in such a way as not to be untrue to your own beliefs, but MUST validate and uphold them
not everyone can do this well…to take the opposing of differing view is to also be certain you have the
right reasons/validations for such beliefs

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Aamer Trambu August 2, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Hey Judge Josh,

Thanks for the tip.I’ll keep it in mind, it’ll go a long way.

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Salih August 2, 2009 at 2:12 pm

it is all wrong to behave the prejudiced about any thing , also to have a wrong ideas about most cominities whitout knowing well about it.So I agree about eveything you wrote me on your article.

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A. G. August 2, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Shiu, the passage is telling you not to write about your religious and political views in scholarships because you might write about something that one or more of the judges may disagree with, which would affect how they judge your essay.

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Evette Brown August 2, 2009 at 3:30 pm

I have written countless essays and I receive A’s on them academically, but I never am the winner of these scholarships. I do hope these tips will assist me in alleviating debt to my university.

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anonymous August 2, 2009 at 4:39 pm

great tips, are you a doctor of scholarship applications, did you major in “Scholarshipology”? i have gotten many generous scholarships this year, just by writing essays and listing my numerous high school accomplishments, the way i felt most comfortable with. there is no right or wrong answer as to writing a scholarship application, so long as someone can make it appealing, and market themselves as a good candidate. god is the only one who can give opportunities to people, and if He wants, he’ll give the gates millenium scholarship to the most illiterate, unprofessional student you can imagine. stop giving yourself so much credit, after all your NOT the person donating thousands of dollars to unfortunate students willing to further their education!!!!

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Justin H. August 2, 2009 at 5:49 pm

Good advice!

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Jackie August 2, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Hi Josh,

Thanks for the great advice. However, I have a question? Would it be so wrong or offensive to state how a political or religious figure inspires you? Would it be wrong to mention prayer at all? I know that some people pray and some don’t, but I wouldn’t necessarily be “thrusting” my religion upon a judge (or in my case college admissions officer) by mentioning how prayer has helped me throughout the years, or saying that Obama has inspired me to set my goals higher.
Also, I’m not sure if the advice you give regarding scholarship applications/essays applies to college essays as well. Currently, I’m trying to get into college as well as win scholarships, so if you could help with both processes, it would be extremely appreciated. If not, that’s okay. You still give marvelous scholarship advice.

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Anonymous August 2, 2009 at 11:49 pm

I agree with Shiu Kong Ng as well because I’m confused of what this tip is telling me to do. I understand the simple rule, but I don’t recall writing an essay which takes a side on controversial issues of any sort. So why I received this as an email, I am very uncertain.

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cadnaan suleiman ahmed August 3, 2009 at 4:20 am

i am highly thankfull to you if you approve me as one of your students

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Arthur Poplawski August 3, 2009 at 6:19 am

I believe that the written statement is an opening to the world around us. No matter what field one is getting into there are always people that oppose your point of view, but if one sticke to the facts, not beliefs, it is virtually impossible to be proven wrong. In my opinion, that is what has hurt this world, choosing sides! If every one could learn to be open minded we can live in a lot more peaceful world. Being an engineering student that doesn’t agree with all the laws of physics, creates contraversy where ever I mention it even though I have cold hard facts that support me. so as I must grin and bear it as those powers that be of any caliber should also. Albert Einstein appeared in the New York Times Magazine on November 9, 1930 pp 1-4 Science and religion. that is a must read for anyone that is trying to progress in thier field.

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Josh Barsch August 3, 2009 at 10:53 am

Wow, thanks so much for all the comments, everyone. They’re rolling in relatively fast, but let me try to at least briefly respond to as many as I can. First though: Of course, if an essay question asks you directly what you think about a political or religious issue — sure, answer it honestly. In this tip, I mostly refer to open-ended essay questions that allow you to write about whatever you want. I’ve no doubt that so many of you have strong and perhaps eloquently worded opinions on political and religious topics, especially the polarizing ones. I also know with certainty, however, that judges have heard every argument for and against every hot-button issue of the day, and essays like that will not stand out in a competitive situation. Application requirements differ, of course, but if I had to give generic advice in this regard: writing about unique personal challenges you’ve faced is often a great choice, because those are stories unique to you, and will thus stand out more easily among judges.

I think that covers Shiu and Brittani.

Nino: I’m not *exactly* sure what you mean, but remember (everyone!) that the title of the tip is not to thrust your politics and religion upon others. Obviously there are times, especially when you’re asked specifically, when you’ll touch on religion and politics. The tip above refers more to an essay that hops onto one side of a controversial issue and just argues a hard pro or con.

Kristin: While I think your summary is bit sweeping and grandiose, you’re right that my basic principle is, yes, do what you can to get your scholarship money now. If your personal cost-benefit analysis drives you to basically write whatever truth you’re feeling at this stage of your life at the expense of losing scholarship money, that’s certainly a valid personal choice — but I think most students probably disagree. They’d probably agree to change topics for a better shot at the money (that’s what I think, but others will certainly chime in here with their opinions).

Edna: Well-said, and good points.

Anonymous: I did not major in Scholarshipology, although if there *were* such a thing as a doctor of scholarship applications, I would probably be one (as it stands now, I am a merely a wet nurse of scholarship applications). I’m definitely happy you got your scholarships by listing activities, and that’s great for you — as a rule, however, for the many other students on this site, it’s not a course of action that’s going to lead them to much scholarship money. Can’t argue with you about God, of course, but a correction for you: I am, in fact, the person who donates thousands of dollars to unfortunate students looking to further their education. I started the 15 different scholarship programs at StraightForward Media, and have given over $100,000 of my own money to students all over the world since 2003.

Jackie: I think what you suggest is fine. You understood the tip correctly where some others commenters have not — it’s the “thrusting your beliefs” part that I meant to emphasize.

Thanks for the comments everyone! Keep them coming. I try to answer as fast as I can.

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meka howard August 3, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Thank you for this input, but I am a follower of Christ.. It plays into everything I do. You asked a question and my faith was a part of, and should have been in the response. If that disqualifies me, then ok. I do not apologize, nor think it is right for you to ask a question and then tell me that my response is wrong because of something that I included, a relevant something at that.

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Lauren Schmenk November 17, 2010 at 12:18 am

I agree with you 100%

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Liz August 4, 2009 at 8:43 am

Just wanted to say thanks for the advice. I’m quite happy to save the contentious issues for university papers, since they won’t get my anywhere in the scholarship world – and there’s no point in writing something that’s gonna be tossed aside. It at all possible, I’d rather not let OSAP own my soul by the end of undergrad studies.

Also, somewhat off topic, but I can’t help myself.

“But we don’t live in a perfect world, and if you happen to find one, email me and I’ll meet you there for margaritas for the rest of eternity.”

That is a perfectly awesome line, and I will be using it often in my own life. <3

Thanks a bunch!

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hailu August 5, 2009 at 12:28 am

true,that is what have been in my mind for long time.i have tried many time in many scholarship site for free scholarship.but i am still helpless to continue my masters program.any ways God says let it be.

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Melanie August 5, 2009 at 11:12 am

Thanks so much for the advice. I comprehend how writing about a controversial issue is a big mistake on scholarships, but I also understand how some of us turn to such a topic. It’s especially difficult to make an astounding essay when all the scholarship tells you to do is write a 500 word essay on the topic of your choice! Could you please give us some tips on choosing a good topic?

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Candace August 5, 2009 at 2:08 pm

I don’t mean to kiss butt… but if any of you have taken a sociology or psychology class you would have to agree with Josh. This world if full of “what side are you on?”, “i don’t agree with you (because that viewpoint isn’t currently the most popular)”, etc.

Here’s another thing to think about… When writing an essay (although being extremely careful not to offend your reader), be safe and write it as if you were on both sides. Professors (and others) don’t like hearing “I think”, “In my opinion”, “I was raised”, etc. Truth of the matter, who cares! If you were to write an essay or report about something that is deemed controvercial (or even taboo) make statements in order to keep your reader wondering and guessing exactly which side you stand on.

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Nesma Ghareeb August 8, 2009 at 6:13 am

Im not sure what i should do, should i come clean about my beliefs? or just ignore them and dont say them??

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Josh Barsch August 10, 2009 at 8:51 am

Liz, Hailu & Candace: Thanks!

Melanie: Well, most topics are decided for you by the question, of course. But I believe that, when you have an open-ended essay question that gives you a choice of what to write about, the best essays come from unique personal stories that describe challenges the writer has overcome. Anything showing a concrete plan to use their skills to better the world in some specific way is also nice. Click around the site and you’ll see a bunch of different entries on what makes a good essay.

Nesma, Meka, et al: Again, remember what I said specifically — I just said that if you have an open-ended essay question, choosing a polarizing/controversial religious or political topic is probably not a great way to win. Not only might they offend a judge with different views, but they’re also unoriginal topics. It’s fine to be whatever religion you are, and I understand that your religion dictates every part of your life. No problem with that at all.

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Machellee August 10, 2009 at 9:08 pm

I, Thank you for the heads up and the advisement. I guess, I am a little razzled, due to I was not asked to give any comments about Your or Mine Religion and or any Politicial Issue. I was asked more or less, “What makes you a Good College Student”. I understand we are all ” One big Melting Pot, or a Mixed Salad” as they say. Our society today is consist’s of all kinds of wonderful and diversified people. So, I do agree, those are 2 area’s of Topics, where I wouldn’t want to answer. For the simple reason, my major is Anthropology-Sociology with emphasize on Socio-Cultural studies. So, I keep a broad-minded, and unbiased thought process, while I study our world, and all the people that are a part of it. =)

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Machellee August 10, 2009 at 9:24 pm

Upon reading further comments, I agree with you, when you mentioned ” People like to hear your own stories”. I have applied for many Scholarships, and Grants, to further my education.( and I have been award several ) I will say, ” When you are asked to explain what makes you stand out from your peers”, Be honest, and be true to yourself. Research Scholarships that benefit you also. **
I do agree with the author, Judges are looking for people who are full of inspiration, and who truly have a desire to further their education !
Thanks for the TIP !

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Carolyn Harrison August 11, 2009 at 6:29 am

Wow, I never really thought about it; I guess I just expect writing to be taken a face value, by judges at least; I never knew how some writing will affect people differently, and the best part of all it actrully makes allot of sense as well cause I know how some writings affect me why wouldn’t it affect a judge the same way? Thankyou for the tipe it was very helpfull and will give me something to think about with my next scholorship entry.

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Alexa August 11, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Scholarship essays are like friendly conversation…it usually doesn’t involve politics, religion, or sex unless both parties agree to it 😉

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Anonymous 2 August 12, 2009 at 11:04 am

First, thank you for giving these tips to people.. many people need to understand that GPA isn’t everything. But there are also people who don’t want to hear it from people like you, especially since they know what not to do when applying for college/scholarships. They should’ve known about these tips at one point in their four years of high school. Second, we don’t need you to make a whole story about our hard-earned GPA’s. A simple sentence will do. Finally..GPA may not always mean everything but in today’s world, it still matters. We still need that GPA to graduate, to get into elite schools, and to receive scholarships within elite schools. And of course, the GPA you earn depends on the school you come from. Someone’s F in one school may be an A in another school. So for you to say my GPA doesnt matter…. yeah… it does matter because for me, its a matter of passing or failing and participating in school activities. So why not make my parents proud instead, right?
Also, many judges select winners based on what people have done, but only on those who have something that stands out. That is completely biased because the people who won may have studied with scientists or did research and such with some prestigious people, but not everyone can have those opportunities. Someone can say they studied with a scientist, but so what? Did they learn anything? Community service is something that should be looked at more than at the fact that someone studied with a scientist. To finish up, if you really want to judge a person for a scholarship, don’t ask stupid questions like what is your GPA and what activities have you done. Ask questions that makes a person reflect and write about his/her life in the most interesting ways.

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Bernard Jules Roberto August 12, 2009 at 12:22 pm

I think it is important this advice and everyone has to confirm it.

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Bernard Jules Roberto August 12, 2009 at 12:41 pm

that’s a very good advice

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Jose August 15, 2009 at 10:38 am

I’d like to say something, I’m an ESL student, but I have one advantage that I’m a US Citizen, so I’m able to apply for a scholarship, but I won’t gain those scholarships because I always make grammar mistakes or I don’t know how to explain my ideas clearly, so how can I gain a scholarship If I don’t know how to write, and how can I attend to college If I don’t gain a scholarship.

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parisa sadeghi August 20, 2009 at 2:21 am

I DID NOT UNDRESTAND WHT THE AUTHOR IS GOING TO SAY?
HELP ME FOR GAINING SCHOLARSHIP.
I WANT TO STUDY MARKETING IN EUROPE BUT NO BODY ANSWER MY QUETIONS.

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Dawn August 29, 2009 at 6:18 pm

I appreciate the truth no matter how harsh. I have read several of these “don’ts” from judge Josh. I have learned alot from them. I still haven’t won an award, but I have learned something. No doubt it is a bummer that things work the way they do sometimes, so unfairly. But when those judges have the power to chose out of so many who all want the money and feel they all deserve it, how do you set yourself apart as an individual without sharing some of your opinions or beliefs? From what I can tell you have to be starving in some third world country to diserve the money. Maybe the judges need to feel good about what they do with their power to award one out of many. I think it is kind of great, even if I don’t win.

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sheny September 7, 2009 at 12:19 am

Totally agree. Just think, every war is about religion and politics.He’s not telling you not to believe in something, just that if you want something from somebody ” Don’t talk about Religion or Politics”.

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Midekssa September 8, 2009 at 1:13 am

I am an Ethiopian and lecturer at Wollo University, which is governmental University, in the faculty of Agriculture and veterinary Medicine, in the department of veterinary Medicine. I am qualified with the Degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, from Addis Ababa University, Faculity of Veterinary medicine as August 2007.
Now I wish to get MASTERS schoolarship in Pharmacology or Veterinary Microbiology or Animal Medicine.
I hope you will help me to acheive MSc degree in either Pharmacology or Veterinary Microbiology or Animal Medicine in the coming year.
Thank you!!!

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David September 16, 2009 at 9:33 pm

I think the article is great becuase it teached us a lot of things especially about how to become perfect writers. Althought the article has some misunderstanding parts and the author should be more specific and explain more.I am not asking for a long and detailed explation, just a brief explanation. Well, But I guess it will help me to improve my writing skill and will make become in a good writter. Well, I’d like to think that the article is right but its not at all. Just want to thank you the author and encourage you to keep giving us helpful advices. Thanks a lot!!

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lilia wustefeld October 13, 2009 at 12:10 pm

i mean its true the road is not allways fair, but to be fair and honest its also not so bad to be fair i guess.

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Cathy D. October 19, 2009 at 3:17 am

Sir Josh is absolutely right. Religious and political beliefs should’nt be included in writing the essay since in the first place the scholarship is for everybody that means it is open for all the human race. C’mon, how are we suppose to have world peace if there’s no respect for everyones beliefs. The scholarship was not created to cause division but rather to unite us people that we are open minded enough to understand and give due respect to everybodys affairs particularly in such crucial issue as religion and politics.

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Shanaye October 20, 2009 at 9:27 pm

Thank you for the advice. It has been greatly appreciated. I believe in sticking to my guns because if others determine your diction or personal expression, then why live in a democracy? However, you must not bite the hand that feeds you, so good tip !

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hassan haji October 23, 2009 at 2:58 pm

hi, thank you for your concern and bright advice.

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Mustafa November 20, 2009 at 11:59 am

Good I think we need to live with each other regardless all differances
thank you very much

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Anonymous November 30, 2009 at 1:32 am

I’m puzzled. I didn’t write an essay based on politics or religion and I’m getting an email like this one. It baffles me, but I’ll attempt to keep an open mind and listen to what you have to say in the future. After all, you are a judge.

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Idih sunday December 17, 2009 at 3:47 am

Thank you for your concern and advice. I love politics because polics is not game but the exist to resulve the problem of the lager society, and want to drink of it.

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missd December 18, 2009 at 2:11 pm

i didnt even write about politics or religion wtf so why would they send me the email

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KiKi December 28, 2009 at 5:56 pm

What if you approach a controversial issue from a “middle-road” perspective? In my county, the new school board majority wants to discontinue the diversity policy and in my essay I am writing about it. However, after reading your emails, I decided to take a “middle-road” approach, explaining both sides of the issue and bringing up an anecdote about how I have been on both sides of the spectrum. Would this still limit my chances of winning scholarships? Please respond, its due January 4

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Josh Barsch December 28, 2009 at 6:06 pm

Hi, KiKi. Sure, I think that’s fine. Even though you say it’s controversial in your area, with the above tip I really refer more to universally controversial issues — ones that won’t be over and done with a year or so from now, I mean. In addition, I think your interest in a hot local issue may show reveal in you a connection to your community that’s deeper than that of many of your peers, which would also work in your favor. So, I say go for it, and good luck!

Josh

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KiKi December 28, 2009 at 6:07 pm

Ok. Thanks for the tips!

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Anonymous February 28, 2010 at 1:04 am

So really all this scholarship is asking of its applicants is that we be unoriginal and not be too passionate about issues. Talk about how we can turn the lights off when not in the room to conserve energy. Or how we can donate our money to Haiti or our time to some local charity or volunteer position of some sort. Maybe wash our hands for 20 seconds in warm soapy water to prevent the next pandemic that kills fewer people than the seasonal flu. Just so long as we don’t make people feel uncomfortable about where they stand in important issues or make them question themselves or God forbid: think. My bad.

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Landen February 28, 2010 at 1:21 am

I actually just flipped through all the advice because it all looked good, and, well, Josh’s replies are hilarious. Mostly because people have tempers and don’t think before they speak and he toys with them. But anyways, thanks for the advice. Even if it pisses me off as well, I know that I need it.
P.S. da speling of sum ppl on dis forumm….wow! i hop u didnt rite like that on ur aplicashun. actually i hope you did becuz then i stand a beter chance duh

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Valerie March 7, 2010 at 12:47 am

Really? Losing my religion … (sarcasm is so hard to convey in cyber-land)
I worked in a scholarship office at community college and I have read some amazing g-a-r-b-a-g-e that people spew into personal statements. Lame. Sometimes they are given the $$ for lack of competition. BEST STORY EVER– 2 letters of recommendation – student got one letter and put 2 copies of it in the package!
Unless applying for a religious based scholarship that asks the questions- mind your own business and don’t spread your business – it would be like telling the scholarship committee your favorite position during sex. Unnecessary
– but hey score other points and tell them you are strong in your faith and volunteer at your local place of worship — see look no direct conflict there.

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Alberto Moises Panganai Bvuwayi March 10, 2010 at 2:56 am

I think this might be an essay interview to see if im eligable to get ascholarship. Im soo worried if i could get this scholarship. This is because each time i apply for anything through web site it end up as though there are some pple who want to cheat. Myself i just lost a chance recently to study with Atlantic International University. So i have to apply for scholarship. But now it seemed as though its just a chatting site. I shall only believe this until i get it.

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jenny April 11, 2010 at 8:02 am

so we’re supposed to lie in our essays??

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Char Lefave April 11, 2010 at 1:27 pm

@ Jenny: That’s not what the OP is saying at all. They’re saying to choose a neutral topic for your essay, like how this scholarship will further your education, or why you need it, or your academic goals. However, if you’re writing an essay for a political advocacy group or a church endowment fund or some other group that deals with those sensitive topics, you can go ahead and tout your beliefs.

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Hilary. April 15, 2010 at 1:50 am

Hello josh,thanks you josh,what u wrote was true and also a great advise for people like us who are seeking for scholarship.another thing u wrote that is absorbly true is that this world is not a perfect place.this write up will in a long way for all those who are seeking scholarship.thank you.

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LDreamChick April 23, 2010 at 5:56 am

I found this tip very surprising. I’ve written on divisive issues because I expected those judging me to be intellectuals who were open-minded and logical. People who would champion new ideas. If some of our greatest thinkers in history had done what was popular to avoid the spread of their beliefs, I shudder to think how much we wouldn’t have progressed. If anyone makes a sound argument, does it matter if previously you saw it differently, or if your generation didn’t realize it? Just because a solution may seem more apparent today doesn’t mean the US was ready for it before. Just because no one thought of it before doesn’t mean our solutions wont work. When I say solutions I even mean ways of thinking.

I never thought that people offering scholarships would be the type of people who would want me to argue “popular” things. I mean you’ve written about how students who say the same thing get voted off the “potential winner” category. How do we stand out and still write what everyone else does?

I personally don’t think that I could argue experience that made me arrive to popular opinions that I don’t truly understand. First of all, it’s hard for me to make up stories about why the status quo works, when we wouldn’t have problems today if these popular beliefs were perfect. I don’t see how pointing out flaws in existing systems and describing a theory that’s never been put into practice are offensive because of age. I may be a young less experienced college student, but I know many adults who haven’t been through half of the experiences that I’ve had in my short lifetime. Does that mean they automatically have more wisdom? Maybe more intellect but I’d argue that wisdom comes from experience and critical thinking about all the potential angles one can consider.

Next, I noticed that the issues you used as examples were all liberal political concepts. Then found myself wondering why you think that war, affirmative action, and abortion may have “popular” and “unpopular” sides to them. I know many people who are against cigarettes, drunk driving, and allowing guns to be available and I’d say there are more of those people than there are of people who support it so people can have freedom to protect their own homes. As far as I know, gun control is more democratic than conservative. While conservatives may feel freedom to own weapons is perfectly ok they don’t agree with freedom to be violent, freedom to have an abortion if you don’t believe that life begins at the point of conception. But liberals do believe in freedom. But freedom with consequences, like someone who expresses violence to the point of murder gets arrested, someone who kills a baby when everyone has agreed that it’s capable of feeling pain, is cruel. Raping children or adults is not ok. Wouldn’t the “popular” or similar concepts be belief in some type of Liberty? Why can’t I highlight my own experiences that led to my own concept of liberty without offending a judge?

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Tamika Montgomery May 6, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Hello. Thank you for the useful information. My husband is a retired SSG in the Army. He spent a tour in Iraq. I do write about Iraq and how it personally affected my husband and I. Is this acceptable? It is unique to us and it did present great challenges for us to overcome. I don’t speak on whether or not the war is right or wrong. However, I do emphasize the price the soldiers and their families have to pay to provide freedom for our country. I am a Christian and I am applying for scholarships to attend a seminary to earn my Master of Divinity. When I am asked the question about my plans and career after college, of course it is spiritual and Christian related. Is this not okay for me to discuss? I don’t see how I can get around it. I’m working to become a Chaplain for the Veteran Affairs Medical Center to serve the veterans and their families. This is what I have to discuss in my essay. What do you advise? I look forward to your response and expertise advice. Thank you in advance.

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brit May 17, 2010 at 6:48 pm

I appreciate you sticking your neck on the line about me not including my beliefs (let’s get that one straight, I have a relationship not a religion). But, when I write and you ask me a general questions about my likes and dislikes, I’m going to be myself and if I offend you tough luck. Jesus is offensive, he was murdered! I don’t think society really thinks about that concept. Because I love my God and I serve him with all my heart, he has impacted me in such a way that I can’t help but to bleed love onto everyone around me. So, this “screw up” you mention is one that I don’t think you fully understand, quite honestly. You’re telling me to not push my beliefs on you right? Well, if that’s so, then I can very well tell you the same thing. For you to tell me not to talk about what I believe, then you are pushing YOUR beliefs on me so that I make you more comfortable. I’m not here to fill you with a bunch of crap like so many vulnerable teens out there will do. I know what I want and who I am. If this scholarship here is going to contradict what I believe and stand for, then please don’t waste your time on me, give it to someone else who doesn’t mind blowing smoke up your butt for money. Thanks, Britt.

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brit May 17, 2010 at 7:14 pm

I appreciate you sticking your neck on the line about me not including my beliefs (let’s get that one straight, I have a relationship not a religion). But, when I write and you ask me a general questions about my likes and dislikes, I’m going to be myself and if I offend you tough luck. Jesus is offensive, he was murdered! I don’t think society really thinks about that concept. Because I love my God and I serve him with all my heart, he has impacted me in such a way that I can’t help but to bleed love onto everyone around me. Why should I have to conform to this world? You say take the “safe route” why? So we’re all supposed to take the “safe route” and never stand up? If not, please clarify. You’re saying in order to receive money to further my education I have to lower my standards to never speak my mind and not to offend anyone? Nice tip.
So, this “screw up” you mention is one that I don’t think you fully understand, quite honestly. You’re telling me to not push my beliefs on you right? Well, if that’s so, then I can very well tell you the same thing. For you to tell me not to talk about what I believe, then you are pushing YOUR beliefs on me so that I make you more comfortable. I’m not here to fill you with a bunch of crap like so many vulnerable teens out there will. Its funny how you pick and choose what comments to ad on this site. Plus, your little caption on your picture is quite hilarious. If that statement is true and you stick to it, then please occupy the room next to me and read your book.
I know what I want and who I am. If this scholarship here is asking me to contradict what I believe and stand for, then please don’t waste your time on me, give it to someone else who doesn’t mind blowing smoke up your butt for money. There are plenty of scholarships out there for me to apply for and achieve without compromising my integrity. Thanks, Britt.

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RAFIU SADIAT May 23, 2010 at 11:43 am

thank u so much for this information will be glad to be one of ur student thanks.

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Sonscary May 31, 2010 at 7:25 am

T/Y 4 the blunt tip, straight-forward in our faces. Preferred. Writing with idiosyncrasies and quirky tidbits yet omitting the bible-thump & p/c front: a possibility. *Snooze L Chick- Guess what? JUDGES DO NOT DEBATE YOUR POLITICAL-OH-SO-CRITICAL, or respond to losers, so your very, very, moving (like I just felt breakfast moving back up into my throat) novella up there went 89% UNREAD! ! *Brit- R.E.L.I.G.I.O.U.S. beliefs…..spare people your religion, orientation, etc. unless applying for a scholarship from a religious institution- maybe Jesus bred w.the whore who maybe wasn’t but got pegged by pedophiliac Popes to oppress more women? Is Jesus is fictional fabled after Krishna, or Egyptian’s Horace or a 500BC story of Mithra from the Alexandria empire, or Dionysus Greek? I’m being a geek….. Apostles symbolizing our astrological age..12 houses? Mr Crucifish from the age of Pisces..that sorta thang?.. Sheesh- debates and debacle. FYI, I believe that driving is a privilege, not a right- WHO GIVES CRAP? no one (sob)
I say go get tissues, ‘Anonymous’ issues and keep discussions about what you do with your hands to yourself.
Guess the # who discontinued reading this comment starting at my holy ho-hum?
I’d like to thank the Academy.

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xaz November 14, 2010 at 12:39 pm

bravo. umm, marry me?

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Sonscary May 31, 2010 at 7:26 am

BTW- Master of the obvious (moi) has the annoying need to point-> EVERYTHING is about money. Religion, Politics -all that fun stuff is ALL about flow. Just like all this is. Who has it, who wants it and how they’re gonna get it. Just a nougat for the noggin while ya brew your spew.

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Nathanael King June 9, 2010 at 5:49 am

Hey Judge Josh,

I do know of a perfect world, but there are no scholarships to apply for there, because they aren’t needed. Education is free from the One who knows everything. There aren’t any martinis there either, as there are far better (and less damaging) pleasures to enjoy. In case you haven’t guessed yet, I’m talking about heaven, and the way there has been provided free of charge by God’s son Himself. All one must do is admit that they are a sinner, trust Him with their life, and accept His sacrifice of Himself as their substitution, so that they don’t have to take the punishment for their own sins, which is death and Hell. It’s all explained in the Bible, and I’d love to meet you there.

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brit June 24, 2010 at 3:47 am

Sonscary, honey, really? You’re callin me religious? Haha, I’d love to see your face if you really did meet a pharisee like you so eloquently geeked out about. I’m just a girl that loved God and isn’t afraid to say it. And you can call me whatever you’d like, but I ain’t takin any of it to heart because I know the truth. And sooner or later you’ll find that flaw and it’ll rock your world. I’m not here to judge and condemn not my job. Hell’s hot, forever’s a long time…I’m just tryin to help.

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james June 30, 2010 at 4:22 pm

thanks for wasting my time…. All the points you have stated are things every logical person knows.

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Anonymous June 30, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Obviously not, if the other comments are any indication.

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Victor Omatsone July 23, 2010 at 3:04 am

No doubt Judge Josh is very very explicit with his expository work. My advice is not to shy away from politics or religion but to handle each subject matter moderately as possible. Thanks for this EXPO

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Chelsea July 28, 2010 at 1:29 pm

The tips are very helpful. Thank you!

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Spo September 2, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Frankly, I think you guys are being a little touchy about this. All he is saying, is that judges are normal people, like you and me, and its human to have trouble not letting a bias effect your opinion. He’s not saying throw down your beliefs, he’s saying if it’s not necessary, don’t throw theories and beliefs at them. Answer the question at hand, and keep preachy, bold beliefs to yourself, because you never know who you might offend, and with good writing and ideas, you don’t need them to write a good essay.

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Mohamed October 24, 2010 at 3:55 am

hi all i believe that if questions asking about something that relate to my religious belief or political opinions i never ever change mine to get acceptance for judges, but i will explain that if necessary, but if questions related to general topics, actually no need to add more words in no suitable place, the best speech is the lesser , the guider and evry body could detect when, where and what to say.

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Mukwusu November 1, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Thanks for the tips. Every one should use wisdom in whatever they do in life. Unless Religion and politics are the topics provided by the judges, the topics should not be imposed on them if they don’t want it. I agree, but everyone has to still stand on what they believe in, with their lifestyle rather than words only.

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xaz November 14, 2010 at 12:27 pm

annnnnnnd that’s why you guys won’t get picked. so someone (an expert, no less!) gives you advise on what not to do, and you stubbornly say you think you should do it anyway. hmm. there are sensitive topics that judges may find offensive. do you really think it’s a great idea to talk about how jesus saved you, and everyone needs jesus christ or they’re going to hell….when a jewish judge is reading? i’m sure you can imagine all the other offensive ways to write. i only offend people with my lack of capitalization. josh is telling you that your butt does look big in those jeans, you know, the truth. people like him are going to be scanning through your applications, so listening to his fair warning is only sensible. he just wants to make sure you stand out like a red letter on a page filled with black and white. get the money now (get through the doors!) and be political religious fanatic of the millennium once you get into school and/or graduate. if one had to borrow money from someone else in order to get into school, one would most likely appeal to the people giving out said money. question: if you feel your god will grant you a way, then why are you worried about applying? neutrality is not dishonesty, nor is it being untrue to yourself.

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Lauren Schmenk November 17, 2010 at 12:11 am

This is retarted. You asked me who my hero is, and I answered. I love how biased this panel is. Put yourself in the shoes of the student whos applying. It shouldn’t be judged on who the person is, it should be judged on what the question is and how well it was answered.

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Anonymous November 21, 2010 at 1:28 am

Evette,
Do you ever wonder if your A’s are bias too? The essays says no one is perfect, and I agree. But you can be a student and do a poor job, and still get A’s- only because the teachers see your grades, or only because you cry and wine for an A. Your A means nothing more than that to me- because I learned unfortunately that, that’s how I get them. You need to think for yourself. In essays be the pop culture, not the celebrity.

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Stephanie January 9, 2011 at 10:39 pm

I totally understand your advice and agree it is sad we don’t live in a perfect world. Even in a less than perfect world, it is sad those who are judges cannot lay their opinions aside and respect someone’s differing opinion. I am one of those very pro-life, strong religious convcitions people. Not all of my opinions are in line with the average “Christian” though. I attend a Christian school and had to deal with this issue not for scholarships but for grades. How awesome it is my school, a fundamental type Christian school, not only allows me to express different opinions but encourages it, and my professors are able to put their opinions aside when grading my papers. It seems scholarship judges should be able to do the same, but oh well… I guess it boils down to this for me: if I have to choose compromising my beliefs or hiding them to get money, I will figure out a way to do it without the money. If more people in Nazi Germany had stood up in the beginning despite being “politically uncorrect,” maybe things would have been very different and millions of lives spared. What is more important: to play the game and get all you can or to stand up for what you believe no matter the consequences? I vote for those who are not lukewarm but who have an opinion, whatever opinion that may be, and who are willing to be different and speak out whatever the consequences. What lesson are we teaching our youth when we tell them to go along and keep silent to get what they want? Just a thought….

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Ashley Rivera February 9, 2011 at 12:51 pm

What if the essay question asks us about our volunteer work and our volunteer work happens to be at our church? How can we keep it so religiousless then? I ask because this was an essay question and after reading this I feel like my chances to get it dropped.

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Elizabeth March 1, 2011 at 1:22 pm

I understand that writing an essay about a controversial topics, such as religion or politics, might cause problems – but what about mentioning your religion or your church, especially if it is a contraversal one, like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon church). How would that affect my chances?

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Anthony July 13, 2011 at 10:54 am

While I do understand the point, it doesn’t take a lot of thought to extend the premise from “Religion” and “Politics” to “Music” and “Books”.

Sure, a democratic judge may disagree with my republican views and a republican judge may disagree with my democratic views. A theistic judge may disagree with my atheistic worldview. And those three judges will probably judge against my essay for my disagreement.

But then…Let’s say I am doing an essay on the musical quality of heavy metal. If a judge doesn’t like heavy metal music, then the same logic applies. Same if I do country, rap, or even pop music.

Simply: You can’t please everyone.

And now I dare you to think of an “open-ended” topic that can’t tie into something people have strong opinions over while being entertaining. Any “selfish” topic like your future, volunteer work, grades, or achievements is too boring. Any historical or scientific examination will be boring, may lack a specific point, and may be controversial. Any philosophical discussion will be percieved as a ‘ranting’ and be both boring and controversial.

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meshack July 15, 2011 at 10:01 am

i didnt know that such issues are of concern as am yet to write an essay but all in all, thanx

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Jane February 21, 2012 at 10:23 pm

I believe it is best to go with both sides. There are always pros and cons for most topics. It is always best not to say which side one is on unless, there are no options and it requires one to do so.

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EFUA February 29, 2012 at 7:56 pm

I donot have much to say but the best that come out of my mouth is the words, statements and speeches one make is to be thought twice.first whether the message is going to produce a positive result or not and finally are you sure what you are delivering? This can be done by checking your instincts.thanks

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