Send in your essay near the beginning or the end of the application period.

Psychological studies indicate that people tend to recall items at the beginning of a list and the end of a list far better than they do those in the middle of the list. Try it yourself — go look at 20 items in your kitchen, 20 books in your bookcase, or any set of 20 things. Then leave the room, come back, and see which items you remember. You’ll certainly remember the very last item or two, because they were the most recent things you saw. And for some reason, you’ll remember the first few as well.

Why does it work this way? Beats me, but it works. This is why a highly-touted study method advises you to study in short bursts of an hour at a time and taking frequent breaks, rather than one long period. With many different bursts, there are many different beginnings and endings that stick in your brain, and that increases your total recall.

How does that possibly relate to when you should send in your scholarship essay? Because scholarship judges reading through scholarship essays are the same as you looking through your kitchen items or books, except on a larger scale over a longer period of time (the entire application period). A scholarship judge is much more likely to recall the first few great essays he read and the last few great essays he read than he is to recall some great ones that came along in the middle. This doesn’t mean your judge is dumb or forgetful (he may be both, but not on the basis of this phenomenon alone) – it just means he’s human. And if there’s one point I like to hammer home over and over again in this book, it’s that judges are subject to normal human tendencies and you should, where possible, exploit those tendencies.

So when it comes time to send your essay, do so on Day 1 (if you buy the theory that it gives the judges months to soak in how great you are, day after day) or near the end of the application period (if you prefer the recency angle). Either choice leaves you better off than applying in the middle of the application period.

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