Don’t act like your life is over if you don’t get this one scholarship.

Judges know that you would very much like to receive the scholarships that you apply for. It’s natural for you to have some emotional stock in whether you win or not. College costs are serious business, and every dime you can get someone else to pick up for you, the better.

But in thousands of applications over the years, we’ve seen applicants taking this to extreme levels. Time after time, students write that if they don’t receive this very scholarship, they probably won’t be able to attend college. Or they won’t be able to pay the rent, or they’ll be kicked out into the streets (I’m not exaggerating here).

Now I admit that one of my purposes in writing this book is to help you manipulate the scholarship judges and, where appropriate, play on their emotions to your advantage. But remember, it’s a fine line. You must be careful about how hard to try to tug on the judges’ heartstrings. There are a couple of reasons why laying on the desperation in a scholarship essay is a bad idea:

1) It puts undue and unwelcome pressure on the scholarship committee. Judges are human, and no one wants to feel like the person who flushed a kid’s educational dreams down the toilet, or worse yet, got you tossed out of your apartment and onto the streets. Committee members have a heart, but they also have a job to do, and that’s to select the most qualified applicant. By suggesting that you won’t make it without them, you put them in a bind. How? Well, you’re not the only one doing it! There are a dozen stories a week just like these. And when there’s one scholarship to give and 12 people (this week) who say they can’t make ends meet without the award, then it’s a lot easier for the committee to trash all 12 and get back to its job of selecting the most qualified applicant.

2) From a more practical standpoint, you should never depend on receiving any one scholarship. The odds are always stacked against you (although less so, now that you’re reading this), and placing your hopes on one award is like putting all your money on one roulette number. Always have a backup plan. Always investigate all your student loan options, grants, jobs, etc. Even someone with all the inside info on this site shouldn’t bank on receiving scholarships if at all possible. Develop your educational plan first, including costs and how to pay for them; then, as you receive scholarships, start erasing sources of funds like loans and jobs as they’re no longer needed.

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