This one is less clear to the layperson, so I’m going to lay down the law for you right here and now, so there’s no confusion. If you aren’t asked or invited to include additional information with your application such as transcripts, photos, newspaper clippings, artwork, CDs, letters of recommendation, trinkets you’ve whittled out of driftwood or anything else, don’t include it.
Why not, you ask? Wouldn’t it be something extra to help swing the judges’ opinion in your favor? Perhaps so, and if the instructions invite you to do so (for example, by telling you that you may include “any other information you feel is relevant” to the award), then do so. But if the instructions say, basically, “fill out the application and return,” then that’s not an invitation to stuff the envelope with photocopies of every accomplishment and award you’ve won since the third-grade spelling bee. Everything we mentioned above, we’ve received, and then some (OK, not the driftwood – that was a joke). I’m not saying you shouldn’t be proud of things like this (because you should), but they don’t belong in scholarship applications where they aren’t required.
Example: We once got a CD from a student who apparently was quite accomplished at playing the piano, and he’d played all the songs on the CD. I’m sure they were nice songs, but I can’t tell you for sure, because we didn’t listen to it. And to be honest, even if we had listened to it, I wouldn’t have known whether the guy was a good piano player; I’m not in a position to judge. I can’t even play “Chopsticks.” Point is, our scholarship was an essay contest, and because of that, we feel obligated to judge our students by their essays, period.
The first problem with “envelope-stuffing,” as I’ll call it, is Rule #2: Judges are busy. When they sign on to judge a scholarship competition, they’re expecting to evaluate the applicants based on the criteria of the contest. If it’s an essay contest, we expect to be reading essays, and that’s it.
The second problem is that submitting additional items is unfair to the other students who actually followed the rules. How fair would it be that the rule-breaker gets to submit an envelope full of additional support for the committee to consider, but the students who follow directions to the letter are only judged on the application itself? This site is all about giving you an “unfair advantage,” but it’s a fine line; if you take too many liberties, you’ll alienate the judges and get tossed.
BOTTOM LINE: Whether it’s the length, topic, or format of the essay or anything else, observe the instructions faithfully.