We’ll start with the length of your essay because it’s commonly abused. While I’ve never met a scholarship judge who actually sat down and counted every word to ensure that an applicant didn’t go over the limit, you still must stick to that limit. If an essay calls for 750 words or less and you send in five single-spaced pages, you either didn’t read or simply didn’t care about the instructions. When you do that, you’re sending us one or more of the following messages, none of which makes us happy.
What you’re saying: I feel my essay is perfect, and any alteration of it would soil its perfect form. It simply cannot be edited further.
What the judges say: Even the world’s most accomplished writers — Pulitzer Prize winners, best-selling authors, etc. — have editors. One task these editors must perform is to cut out words, paragraphs and pages that aren’t necessary. It’s hard sometimes, but it has to be done. If you can’t cut down the length of your essay, get a friend, parent, teacher, English major, or someone else to do it. But it can and must be done, because otherwise, your application gets thrown in the trash. And we don’t mean it gets thrown in the trash like your 3rd grade teacher would threaten to do if you forgot to write your name on your paper — we really, honestly throw it in the trash. Actually it’s the shredder, since it’s got your personal information on it. But you get the message.
What you’re saying: Yes, my essay is too long, but that’s too bad, because I have some REALLY important things you need to hear.
What the judges say: Most of the people who apply for this scholarship have some really important things to say, and they say those really important things within the allotted word limit. That’s what you have to do, too, if you want a chance to win. Think of the rules like a basketball game: regardless of how badly you want to win, you can only have five people on the court at one time. You can’t throw two or three extra people out there, because then you’d have an advantage that no one else has. That’s cheating and it’s not allowed.
What you’re saying: I didn’t realize I submitted an essay that was too long; I didn’t read the instructions.
What the judges say: If you’re not going to read the instructions, then we’re not going to read your essay. Sorry.