Scholarship Screwup #10: Act Like You’ll Starve If You Don’t Win

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.

Creatively making ends meet is what it's all about.

But in hundreds 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 creating the Outlaw Student site and writing the 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 these emails), 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 in the Superpack 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.

38 thoughts on “Scholarship Screwup #10: Act Like You’ll Starve If You Don’t Win”

  1. Josh,
    Really i appriciate what you wrote here.Am a journalist from this country and u touched the points that i saw by my nacked eye.But Josh…as i wrote in my application…Media plays a vital role in such world.So,professionals of those country should get adequite knowlede on the subject matter.Any ways,i appriciate your concern on such issue.

  2. Josh,

    To give a scholarship for poor countries is beneficial for future life of those people.Because in media we can struggle malgovernance,corruption and government miss allocation of budgets and enhance democratization process.In my assumption,it is better to give priority for journalists of such countries.Because it is very essentuial to see the future bright world.

  3. I just think scholarships are a waste of time. I’m about to start my 4th year at a university, and right now I just saw “Whatever!” to scholarships! Why do they all have to be essays? I’m in college! I have enough essays to write for class!

  4. I sincerely hope that the scholarships received your committee have exponentially better spelling, punctuation, and grammar than these posts…. journalist? sheesh… Maybe you folks should stick to txting. lmao.

  5. Honestly speaking your idea is correct because everyone should have something to back up and prepare a contingency for that. That is to say if one way or another that person cannot get the scholarship from may be he/she should think of another mean to get the fund for his/her education if that is a must he//she must receive

    I recalled when I was in secondary school in Hong Kong many years ago someone support my school fee and paid that every month but one day the office called me and told me that my school did not come for more than a month and asked me to settle that as soon as possible. At that time all I could do was to ask my parents to help and at the same time I tried to earn more money by doing part-time jobs. Finally I could manage to settled that by myself. There is a saying in Chinese God would not give a person an hopeless way. And I beleive God will help those who would help themselves, right?

  6. I’ve been reading these tips everyday now, and they have been really helpful. Thank God, I am currently in a position where my finances are being taken care of, but I can’t even begin to tell you how many jobs and loans I have around my belt right now. My question is for those who are where I once was: What if you really cannot afford to go to college without the scholarships? I don’t mean for those who are laying all their eggs in one scholarship, but for people like me who go to a school where school-based financial aid is taken away based on the number of scholarships you have; therefore, one large scholarship is a lot more effective than a few small ones. How can they get across to the judges without mentioning all the “hardships” of working instead of studying? It seems to me that the best way is to be honest and let them know there is a possibility of REALLY NOT GOING TO COLLEGE!! Can you suggest any alternatives?

  7. To give a scholarship for poor countries is beneficial for future life of those people.Because in media we can struggle malgovernance,corruption and government miss allocation of budgets and enhance democratization process.In my assumption,it is better to give priority for journalists of such countries.Because it is very essentuial to see the future bright world.

  8. Writing about how you need a scholarship in the comments on this blog is not going to make you more likely to get a scholarship.

    Just saying.

  9. Marietha Sebastian

    Really it is hard to excel in higher education level without scholarships, but something which is paining is that, nowdays scholarships are full of buoracracy, politics and corruption especially in 3rd word countries. If you are not known you are lost unless otherwise you use other language to convince judges (MONEY). It is better to offer a scholarship to some one who is real in need and he or she deserves to get it. Take Care

  10. First of all, it irritates me that these comments are so judgemental and simply signed by a person named judge so-and-so. Of course, most American teenagers and older adults looking for help to perhaps finish a Master’s program are not from a third world country, that is the extreme. It also irritates me that these comments are coming nine months after I have completed my Master’s program. Honestly the $1000 from StraightForward in the grand scheme of my $50000 Master’s program really would not have helped. Also, coming from these judgemental, self righteous people, I honestly would have felt terrible accepting it. Good luck to all of you college bound students out there, study hard and stay in school. It will pay off in the end.

  11. Everyone has hardships, I have severe ADD to the point where I need medication for it. Why say this? I am a highly intelligent human being who is hindered by this fact but I am not asking anyone to give me a scholarship because of that fact, people would think “Oh that applicant has ADD, which means they’ll have a hard time in college anyway.” I have maxed out my options for loans, I was irresponsible earlier in my senior year to not apply for a scholarship when in fact I could have gotten plenty, but that is a lesson learned. Applicants, don’t sit at your computer writing a sob story about how you need scholarships, everyone who isn’t Bill Gates kid needs one! Stop being selfish, think of all the people who are worst off then you! I know I may not get the scholarships I applied for through StraightMedia, but there are plenty of other ways to pay. Get a job, go through AmeriCorps, try for more scholarships! If you have the guts sign up for the army(I’d never do that because this country’s currency is going down hill). Just turn the negative into a positive, just think about all the people who don’t have the option to go to college. You’re lucky enough to go, stop making excuses and do what you have to do!

  12. Really is it the meaning to manipulate the judges for getting a scholarship? According to me, whatever it is always more meaning to say trues on the essay I often write to the committe. Otherwhise, getting luck of one who is worse state than you is all as scholarship,it means that you wont get a right gain on scholarship.And this is not really fair.



  14. Your writings and tips have been so helpful and honestly, lightened the doom and gloom feelings I’ve had about finding Scholarships! I thank you for that! The only issue I have with this advice and scholarships in general is that most judges probably depend on the person’s content, flashy achievements that their parents probably made them do when they themselves may not have wanted to do it and impressive grades and awards flaunted in an essay rather then how well written it is or the amount of motivation and the overall feel and actual intellect (Not speaking academic or “book smarts” but more social intellect and a person’s motivation to achieve their goals) that takes place in an essay. So. What my concern is; or more my question is, is what do the people who do have aspirations and goals and try viciously to achieve them in high school but seem to keep getting bellow the standard due to having a hard time learning do? What if instead of doing all these frankly stupid things to “impress” colleges, I was working incredibly hard, abandoning all hope for any fun or a social life and STILL, I just didn’t have the book smarts or memory skill to make the average standard. I’m scared I’ll be judged on the fact I didn’t perform well, instead of how dedicated I’ve been. It just feels like I’m being cheated because I know I’m smart and capable of things but…the standard by which I’m judged by just doesn’t show it.

  15. Laura Valdmanis

    I will be a senior in college and always looking for scholarships. I feel we would not be applying for scholarships if we were not desperate! The bottom line is I plan to graduate from college no matter what, but those college loans are getting scarey. My future is bright and I will succeed! Laura Valdmanis

  16. Am I REALLY suppose to tell them how badly I need the scholarships? I feel guilty for putting my emotional burden on someone else. I’m already not happy with the fact if I can’t pay off my student loans my whole family will be in danger of losing our home, I don’t want other people to have, to try and understand my position. But if you say it will help then I will try thank you so much for sending these tipes to me I will do my best to apply them.

  17. all these tips for the scholarship are true.And we really have to be honest when we want somebody else to help us with something because if we dont spak clearly it will not be possible to get what we want..

  18. I think your tips are excellent. They are to the point, and easy to understand. If people don’t like them, let them figure out another way to pay for college. I’m too busy scribbling notes from your tips to debate and nit-pick what I don’t like about them…they’re free tips!

  19. I was not limiting myself to one scholarship.I was only explaining the extent to how much i need this scholarship.Of course i am applying for other ones, i jst wanted to give the best reason.I won’t feel bad if the judges don’t pick me.You can’t win them all,i could always use a boost though.

  20. josh, i’ve gotten your scholarship tips so far via email; absolutely love it. they’re really common sensical, but they’re good reminders for people like me who are applying and getting the application-anxiety cases.

  21. I like people that say that writing a scholarship is too much work.
    I like people that say that they never win scholarships and when I ask how many applications they have submitted they say 3.
    I like people that say they will only apply for the big awards.
    I like people that are not GREATFUL (it’s great if you get it and it is still great if you don’t) because I do not live in lack or greed.
    I definitely despise people that change their major just so they can apply for more awards, and do it with that kind of intent. I hate scholarship judges that target a stereotype that is not a legitimate criteria for the award.

  22. I understand the purposes and facts that you teach to make us understand that getting scholarships is hard and really confusing…but, your facts do make many great points that i may just for the future and your scholarship may be my first step

  23. kouotho diana

    i wrote everytime Josh Barsch’s topics , and it is the first time there is a lot of recations.
    And it s my first time i write.
    I didn’t finish the first point that the second point was my thought.
    It s clear it s hard and we need a scholarship to pay the school, or the rent etc.
    But we have to optimize our chance.For example , do a lot of applications for scholarship, get a job, search a lot of opportunities; because if studies if something important for us, we don’t have give up , we have to try again.
    good luck everybody 🙂

  24. hi, i must say you are a source of inspiration. Your publications have inspired me in writting better scholarship essays that are directed to the point. You are really genius. More power to your elbows

  25. It is even more hard to go to school with kids after I read all the comments and even some of the essays that won, especially when, at school I am graded for being more experienced and older. It is expected that I have years if experience to make me write better, or backing me to do better work. I learned to write in college, just like everyone else, but I work harder than the students who don’t do so well. It’s very annoying. I was homeless one week before class. I think the judges should be choosy.

  26. Dear Sir
    As for me i dont have much thing to say all i need is some money for study becuase i want to have a good life in the future as now i am very poor men so if who can offer or give good chance for poor men please help me

  27. All what I know is that God works in His mystrious ways and I know the most needy like me God is going to make a way for me to win this scholarship because he holds each and every ones destiny and nobody can change.

  28. By the way, does anyone know any other places to sign up for legitimate scholarships? I apologize to Josh Barsch and anyone else for asking about other sites. I’m trying to apply to as many as possible. Anything would great.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top