Use high-quality paper. is replete with advantages big and small, but this is one of the best, dollar for dollar. After years of administering scholarship programs, I’d say that 95% of all paper essays we’ve received have been printed on “copy paper” – basically, the cheapest and lowest-grade paper you can stick in a printer. For most uses of a printer, this makes sense. There’s no reason to spend a penny more for things like school assignments, letters, forms, grocery lists, and whatever else you use your printer for.

However, the scholarship essay is a special occasion. Think about this for a second: if you were going to an in-person interview with a scholarship committee and they were going to decide on the spot whether to give you any money, how would you dress? Would you put on whatever T-shirt and shorts happened to be at the top of your dresser drawer? Or would you actually clean yourself up a little bit and put on some of your nicest clothes?

You’d clean up, of course. There’s money at stake here, and you’re an intelligent GMS reader who remembers Rule #1: Put your best foot forward. Hence, you’ll try to look your best.

But why is it when this whole process revolves around making words on paper look nice, 95% of students make no effort whatsoever to “dress up” their applications? After all, a nice package of high-quality paper is a heck of a lot cheaper than a set of nice dress clothes. You can get 50 sheets of high-quality paper at OfficeMax or Wal-Mart for around $3, and it makes a HUGE difference in the appearance of your essay, in several ways:

a) It makes your essay different from almost everyone else’s essay, and that alone counts for putting a great deal of separation between your essays and all the others in The Stack (that’s shorthand for the huge stacks of essays that pile up, sometimes very high, on judges’ desks during application periods. You’ll read more about The Stack soon).

b) High-quality paper doesn’t dog-ear, wrinkle or crease nearly as easily as copy paper or other standard printer paper. That’s what makes it high-quality.

c) It shows that you cared enough about your essay to go above and beyond – that you took the task seriously enough to add some extra effort.

Those things may seem small and obvious, but they’re not. If so, everyone would do them. But by and large, people tend to do what’s most convenient and easiest, and in this case, that’s just printing their essay on whatever kind of paper happens to be already sitting in the printer. Bad news for them, good news for you: it opens up a quick, easy way to give yourself an advantage over them.

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