Scholarship Screwup #4: Give Us Some Vague, Self-Absorbed Plans for Your Future

A rule of thumb in scholarship essays (and life, if you will) is that it’s better to be specific than to be vague. Society is accustomed to using vague labels for people and what they do: student, businessman, housewife, factory worker, etc. These labels are convenient for the normal “small-talk” conversations that fill our daily lives.

Nothing wrong with wanting tons of money. You may want to tell the committee something different, though.

But your scholarship committee is a different audience. We want to know what’s different about you, and how you stand out from the millions of other people in this country alone who call themselves “students.” Even among those who have specific plans for their lives, there are big differences, and in a scholarship competition, it’s up to you to give the judges details about what you actually plan to be doing in the future, rather than just dropping a label on yourself. Let’s consider the example of students who aspire to be doctors.

If you tell the scholarship committee that you want to be a doctor, that sounds pretty good. If you say that you want to be a doctor who performs research that leads to new drugs to reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s, or that you want to work to improve dental health among inner-city children, or open a practice in the country in order to improve elderly care in under-served rural areas — that sounds exceptional.

The more specific you are, the more your essay is going to resonate with the committee, and it’s not hard to see why. Saying you want to be a doctor is nice, but it just doesn’t mean a lot unless you say why you want to be a doctor and what you’ll be doing once you’re in that career.

And now, on to the second part: It’s a good idea to talk about your future plans in terms of how you’ll be helping others. If you plan on becoming a teacher or a nurse or another job that’s strongly associated with community service, then this will be pretty easy; however, your future plans don’t have to be 100% charity work in order to do this effectively. Well-compensated professionals of all types are responsible for helping people in countless ways.

Of course, there’s an elephant in the room here that we need to acknowledge. For a great many people, the biggest (and sometimes only) reason for working toward a certain profession is the fat salary it promises. Many doctors and lawyers care less about helping people than having a Benz in the garage and a vacation house on the beach. In that case, I say — more power to you, and I hope you get it all! (If you do, please remember little old me who helped you get there). But when it’s time to write about your career aspirations on your scholarship application, then you should lie.

Lie? Yes, lie. Remember again — this is not an article about morals and ethics. It’s about how to win. And in this case, honesty is not the best policy.

What’s wrong with expressing a desire to make a good honest buck? I mean, isn’t the desire to get rich at least part of the legendary American Dream? Yes indeed — I’m right there with you (hey, I don’t give my book away for free, do I?). But let’s have a practical moment here: Who’s reading these scholarship essays and deciding whether you should win?

You guessed it — mostly teachers and other education professionals. And as you know, teachers don’t exactly make boatloads of money. They gave up any dreams of big paychecks when they chose a more service-oriented, feel-good job. So a lust for money and material possessions is not going to resonate terribly well with these people.

Remember: Scholarship judges are normal people, and it’s normal to gravitate toward people whose interests are similar to your own. Therefore, we can assume that teachers will tend to empathize with students for whom wealth is secondary to service. If that doesn’t describe you, then do your best acting job, at least until you’re done with your application.

Until next time, good luck!

60 thoughts on “Scholarship Screwup #4: Give Us Some Vague, Self-Absorbed Plans for Your Future”

  1. I am actually one of those people who gave up the promise of a high-paying job for a lower-paying job that I feel will be more fulfilling because of its service-oriented nature. I gave up pharmacy for education. Although a pharmacist’s salary is absolutely amazing, I would much rather give that up for the joy and satisfaction of administering education to and having a positive impact on the lives of so many young children.

  2. “Lie? Yes, lie. Remember again — this is not a book about morals and ethics. It’s a book about how to win. And in this case, honesty is not the best policy.”

    It’s a shame you want to impress upon the minds of today’s young people that integrity is only valuable on a convenient basis.

  3. Ok u need help. These comments r rude and I don’t even remember writing an essay on half of the stuff u said I screwed up on. I think this scholarship is a fraud. Get a better job that doesn’t involve ruining my life.

  4. I am appalled that you would suugest someone lie on a scholarship essay. You promote making a farce of the entire process. The end will never justify the means. I am now unsubscribing because of the lack of ethics. Shame on you!

  5. Yes, you may say I am telling lie. Nonetheless I am telling lie with my leg got walking problem due to a fall from hiking in year 2000 and my family was very poor when I was a kid. As a matter of fact at that time I attended a so call school which had only one classroom for six primary classes and operated by some charity organization. While the only teacher was teaching one class pupils from other five class would do writing or silent reading or other kinds of learning activities but not allow to make any noise that might disturb teaching. Therefore we only had one hour teaching for every six hours of school.

    Now I have time to learn but I do not have sufficient fund. I do want to know how to put what I have been doing, classroom teaching, for last ten years into online learning for those maintenance workers. As a matter of fact I found from my experience that those workers were welling to learn but due to the fact that their daily workload was rather heavy and so sometime they could not put their job down just for a short while and sometime when they were on their way to class their supervisor called them by phone to take some emergency cases. Therefore they missed their class.Hopefully with the help of online learning they are able to learn at any place and any time.

  6. Mr. Josh, your tone was acceptable in this article and I totally agree with you. Of course, I am not the person to “lie” so the judges will probably put my essay on ambitious list. I have enough future plans and desires but I realize maybe only a few will be accomplished.

  7. I love reading these post. Each one is so dead on and consistent in the manner to which they are delivered, not to mention down right hilarious. Where was this last year when I was writing up scholarship applications? I probably could have use them. It is such a blunt and unforgiving manner of telling it like it is about scholarship applications that I can’t help but laugh every time I read one of these.However the , I am going to have to buy a copy of the book.

  8. Oh my goodness, my computer is out of battery and I need to sleep (3am here) but I cannot wait to see the responses on this one 🙂 I don’t feel quite so bad about the things people write to you because I can see that you are probably immune to most of it. He’s being honest people…if you don’t like what he’s writing you don’t have to keep reading. I will be though…need the laughs!

  9. Jaya Bahadur Mahara

    Dear Sir,

    I am Jaya Bahadur Mahara of 32 years old and working an NGO named YES Nepal since 2002 in the are of community development and Gender. I want to complete my Masters in Sociology or relevant subject and my organization also able to pay some little fund. So I am interested and request to you what is the process to get scholarship please give simpe and short way. My English language is poor so clear to me in simple english language.

    Thank you.

    Sincerely yours

    Jaya Bahadur Mahara
    YES Nepal

  10. A lie is NEVER worth a scholarship or any form of money for that matter! I agree, this is not a book about morals… but how can a scholarship comittee make an HONEST decision on who they should award the scholarship to, if the applicant’s essay is a total lie? Without honesty people cannot truly determine who is most deserving of the scholarship? This is absolutely not fair to those who are honest! Where has this country gone? Why give up on the philosophy that “your word is your bond?” If you have to lie to get a scholarship, why don’t you just lie to get a job, or a wife, or a husband? Oh, I know why…because it is WRONG!

  11. So… What happens if your dream career in life isn’t in order to provide a service to the people but something less admirable? What do people who want to write movies or act in a play or become a professional athlete do? Or in my case, design video games?

    Even if I say something like, “I want to design educational video games that teach kids as well as entertain!” won’t that sound so obviously like a lie?

  12. Mary Ann Robles

    I absolutely enjoyed reading this article. The information here is definitely true, and EVERYONE CONSIDERING APPLYING FOR A SCHOLARSHIP SHOULD READ THIS. Thanks so much for the great advice!!!!

  13. we all agree on that he/she must desire to have been interested more than ever on the major chosen by her/him if somebody decides getting a scholarship.But lying to get a scholarship is not so good. it must be so importand reason if somebody lies about somebody.
    Probobly you think he/she must lie ,which scholarship get had for him/her.
    But if She /he do lying even though he/she dont need a scholarship,how will you understand whether he she says trush to have needed that money?
    Perhaps There is something that what I dont know about how to be known is that important reason for me if I have not an idea on that- how to know whether he/she says trust about things wroten on.

  14. All of these posts so far have been helpful, and even comical. However, I know you’re not pedaling proper morals, but I don’t think you should be encouraging students (especially those wanting to be doctors or lawyers) to lie about the fact they want the money more than anything. I’m sorry, when I’m sick I don’t want a doctor who got through med school by lying on their scholarship applications because he doesn’t really care about me, but the paycheck he’s getting from my insurance. That’s pretty sick, regardless of whether you are writing about how to win a scholarship or not. Obviously, it’s not the Nobel Peace Prize, but people should get scholarships because they deserve them and earn them, not because they lie about getting them.

    Give the scholarship to someone who is going to help people for the sake of bettering humanity, not their wallet.

  15. Yeah, I’m really going to listen to your further tips after you encourage people to LIE in this one! Why not lie about your GPA and extracurriculars while you’re at it?

  16. Shame on you for telling people to lie. The truth is ALWAYS THE ONLY WAY TO GO. That is one of the biggest problems with this country is that people lie, and here you are encouraging people to lie. I am very disappointed in your website for promoting that.


  17. ….some of these stories about doctors making tons of money reminds me of a funny story. My children and I were in a restaurant and happened to see my dentist and some of her staff. She generously and secretly paid our bill. Upon telling my husband later that day, he commented on how she has enough money, we’ve paid her enough… Fast forward to my next checkup…me in the chair and my then 6 year old, who talks nonstop, conveyed dad’s opinion. The dentist promptly put both of her hands and a quick selection of a sharp insturment into my mouth and asked my 6 year old. “OH…why does your dad think I have so much money?” Grrmggllmmp…I could do nothing as my 6 year old expanded on the answer while usually quite gentle dentist began poking quicker and harder at my teeth. She was pretty upset and explained that she really doesn’t make that much money after paying staff, building costs, equipment, etc. Doctors make a good living, but they usually go deeply into dept first and spend many years in school first. (But I still deserve the medical professions scholarship more) Break over, back to schoolwork 🙂

  18. I just want to say thanks SO much for all the tips! I’m just about to be a senior about to apply for some major scholarships and so these tips are great help. Thank you so much!!!!

  19. These 10 tips that I’ve received in my email have been extremely helpful. I will definitely keep these tips in mind when writing scholarship essays for next year.

  20. I really cannot believe the people saying “lying is never the way to go.” Who hasn’t lied before? Everybody lies! I have never actually lied on a scholarship application before (could be the reason I have never won), but I will remember this advice next time I apply.

  21. Am not so desperate for anything in this world that i would have to resort to lying, even if the end is very promising, i’d rather lose telling the truth than lay my foundation on lying. Very shaky, huh? The other advise are very okay but this particular one really tipped me off. Sure we lie daily, but we shouldn’t rely on them because the truth always manages to rear its ugly head soon enough. thanks anyway

  22. Super Senior: Thanks!

    Marguerite: Great! Hats off to you for doing what you love.

    Kristin Call, Lisa, Sarah, Kelly, Jackie: Enjoy Never-Never Land. Tell Peter Pan I said hello. I don’t care who you are or how you live your life — everyone tells lies. Some are small, some are huge. Anyone who says they NEVER lie is…well, a liar.

    Ashlee: u should ask ur parents b4 u get online. rotfl!

    Shiu, Annie, Hope, Linda, Anonymous, Jill, Mary Ann: Thank you! I really do appreciate it that you guys take time out of your day to leave positive comments.

    Tammy Dao: I don’t think that sounds like a lie at all. I’d go with it.

  23. Ani: Let me give you a counterargument. I would rather have the doctor who’s in it for the money working on me than someone who just wants to help people. The well-compensated doctor is probably better-rested and has better facilities. He/she has a greater incentive, in my opinion, to provide quality care (to continue bringing in the money). Money is a powerful motivator for all kinds of things, and in general, a motivator to continue being the best in your chosen field. Just food for thought.

    Lisa T., Shannon, Sarah, Raven, Anonymous: You’re welcome, and thank you!

    Damola: I know. Apparently there are saints in our midst.

    Fofo: I’m glad you’re not desperate, and I understand if you would rather lose a scholarship than lie. I do think you’re in the minority, though.

  24. middle aged scholar-mama

    I;ve read all the “scholarship tip” e-mails that have been released so far. Many of them are good basic advice, though it applies more to the young people entering college fresh from high school than it does to the many older students who may also be seeking Straightforward Media scholarships. (this too may be a clue to those of us who are returning to school ourselves.)

    I’ve also read the comments and response here. it’s not a mater of “bucking for sainthood,” which is a red-herring and straw-man argument and something of an ad hominem attack on those who questioned the wisdom and the decency of the advice to scholarship applicants to lie about their motivation for going into the so-called helping professions. there *is* such a thing as ethics and good faith, and even idealism, one need not go for “sainthood” to attempt to live by equity and good conscience. defending oneself from criticism of one’s ethics with a sneering, sarcastic remark such as “oh, I see we have some saints among us” is a further refusal to deal with letitimate concerns in an ethical and thoughtful manner.

    but the cynicism of advising people, especially teenagers, who really are “just in it for the money” to lie and pretend to have a social conscience is appalling to me. I think you owe those of us who HAVE dedicated our lives, and those who plan to do so and are working toward careers that will emphasize this, to public service an apology, though I doubt that one will be forthcoming.
    I had felt Straightforward media Scholarships were one of the better options for garnering financial assistance for graduate and professional education. Since my goals are clear and very much within the public service iderology, I believed that I had at least a fighting chance of it. now that I have read this unconscionable advice to yong schoalrs to rpetend to be interested in helping humanity, I doubt that my own ethical convictions mean very much to the people at your organization.

    You have not only insulted everyone who DOES care about helping, say, inner city children or people affected by famine or war conditions; you have insulted the intelligence and good sense as well as the values of teachers and others who evaluate scholarship applications. In essence, you say by insinuation that those who are dedicated to community service, whether as teachers, physicians and other medical workers, researchers, and environmental scientists, are a possibly admirable but foolish group who can and should be deceived for the purpose of sending a young person to college to learn how to make lots of money.

    I am a re-entry graduate student planning a career that is based in health and environmental justice, and I have supported myself and my family, though never handsomely by financial standards, by working in the non-profit sector for my entire adult life. I am also the mother of a bright, studious teenager with a strong social conscience who will undoubtedly need fianncial assistance to achieve her own educational goals. I suppose I’m grateful for learning through these e-mails that she will be competing for scholarships against people whohave been counseled to lie about their motivations.

    I;d appreciate some honest and open dialogue on these issues, though Josh’s defensive and snarky responses to what are valid criticisms of his advice incline me to wonder whether that is possible. (please disabuse me of my own skepticism if I’m wrong, Josh. I’m willing to give your and your integrity the benefit of the doubt, though what you have written in the comments section here increases my doubt significantly.) i agree that we all have our weaknesses and that in dealing with bureaucracies, the systems involve often incline us to try to beat the system. Anyone who has ever had to apply for public benefits, or for nee-based financial aid through a university or even dealt with the intricacies of state or federal tax knows about this.

    I can’t speak for anyone but myself here, of course, but no one is saying you are a horrible person, Josh. however, I do feel you have given very poor and ethically questionable advice and that your defensive stance around challenges to that only makes it worse. Your attitude toward public service is troubling to those of us who were raised, and who are working to raise our own children and to teach other people’s children, with some sense of social conscience.

    You, as moderator of this discussion, have my e-mail, and yo can feel free to contact me privately if you would like to continue the dialogue. I think there are some important issues raised thus far and, unfortunately, the young people who are applying for scholarships to attend college for the first time are not always articulate and comfortable enough with expounding their sense of justice to express it clearly. I’d like to see these issues discussed in a public forum that is read my college and graduate school applicants so that they can daw their own conclusions. I am not sure, yet, where the best places for such discussion may be.

  25. Middle-aged Scholar Mama: No reason to keep anything private, I don’t think. Here is fine.

    Is it ethically questionable to encourage people to lie? Of course it is. I don’t think you or anyone else is breaking new ground in suggesting that’s so. And I freely admit that I have very little patience for and give very little credence to people who claim that lying is never justified. Regardless of who you are, you tell lies every day, even if they’re little lies (yes, even you). You justify them according to your own system of beliefs, as all people do. You park in a parking spot that someone else was waiting for, and you pretend you didn’t see them. You tell the homeless man that you don’t have any change, when you do have some. You tell the telemarketer you don’t have time to listen to her speech, when in fact you have plenty of time and you simply don’t want to.

    We all lie about things we feel justified in lying about, and we all use our own system of beliefs to determine those justifications. That’s fine.

    What’s not fine, though, is people like yourself and a few of the other “saints” on the page who decide that their own personal code enables them to see SO clearly into *every other person’s* life predicament and declare, across the board, that telling a white lie about wanting to help people at some future point in your life is absolutely, to use your words, “unconscionable” and “appalling.” And you think *I’m* the cynical one?

    Mama, you have absolutely *no idea* how desperate and destitute the personal situations are for a great deal of my scholarship applicants. None, I assure you. Otherwise you would not and could not make the smug and self-righteous pronouncements you make above. You’re the worst kind of sellout, Mama — you’ve made it through the most difficult times yourself, presumably doing whatever it is you’ve had to do to make ends meet for your family — and now you’re chastising those who would do the same.

    It shouldn’t surprise you that your “cynicism” is my “realism.” I don’t think it’s bad that all people lie. I think it’s part of the human condition and nothing to be ashamed of. All that said, I don’t believe I’ve ever chastised anyone for choosing not to lie on a scholarship application. All of these matters are choices that must be made according to your internal barometer of what’s right and wrong, just like any other choice. If you’re willing to decrease your chances of winning the final few thousand dollars that can put you through school by not adding a not-quite-heartfelt paragraph about wanting to help the underprivileged to your scholarship application — I certainly don’t look down on you if that’s your choice. Your choices are your choices, and I value nothing if not that. The purpose of the advice here and all over the site is to simply *inform* those choices. Criticizing the actual choices you make is not my intent — that’s the intent of you and the other “saints” I refer to. Your comments are the unvarnished judging of other people’s decisions, and they don’t inform the discussion at all.

    I’d contest your point about insulting all those who dedicate their lives to public service if there were any logic there to rebut, but I can’t see any. I hold up public servants as a model to emulate and explain why scholarship judges like them so much. If that’s insulting to you, then you’re probably just very easily insulted. If you would like to flesh out the argument a bit more, then I’ll happily respond to it.

  26. middle aged scholar-mama

    this is all getting far more personal than I ever intended, but it’s a quieter-than-usual afternoon, so here goes. I’m the “worst kind of sellout” because I feel that only people,young or middle aged or old, who are actually dedicated to helping the “underprivileged” should claim to do so??

    Josh, you are slinging insults here again. maybe I touched a nerve. I haven’t called you any names, and it’s rather undignified behavior to go throwing labels like “sellout” back at me. in general,I’d advise against ad hominem attacks. (okay, I suppose you could come back at me saying that using adjectives such as “undignified” and verbs such as “throwing labels” are also hstile. I’m not sure I;d agree, but I can try to see your point of view here – somehow, I got you on the defensive by criticizing the advice you gave.) I may find some of your statements unconscionable, but that doesn’t give me any right to label YOU and i won;t do it – we’re talking,as the parenting books and the fair-fight folks say, about the BEHAVIOR, not the PERSON. I don’t know what values you hold dear, quite candidly, other than that i do believe you really want to help young people qualify for competitive scholarships.

    and you know very little about me except for what i have chosen, perhaps foolishly, to expose here. you certainly don’t know what I’ve “sold out” if anything, or what I believe in that would present me with an opportunity to sell it out or not.

    you want to find out more? read on. it’s better than fighting, at least in my book. you might even find it somewhat musing; i hope so.

    certainly if you could see the circumstances under which I live, you wouldn’t think that “selling-out” had much financial gain to it.

    people who know me i the 3D world or online know that I will generally walk away from an ideological food fight, which is where this seems to be heading.
    with not just all due respect, which is another one of those vague insults people throw about, but really with respect for your person just as I want it for mine, I do feel that the only people who should announce that they have an interest in helping those with problems, or helping clean up the environment around them, are those who intend to do just that.

    it’s like pretending to be, say, a Roman Catholic in order to qualify for a scholarship that favors members of the Roman Catholic Church. I have zero problem with Catholics talking about thier beliefs, but I would never advise anyone who is not a member of that church to pretend to be one in order to get money. this isn’t about Catholicism, which is not my background, by the way; i chose it as an example. the same goes for any faith, or organizational affiliation, or whatever classification one might name. if you aren’t one of whatever-it-is, I think it’s considerably preferable to do the best job you an of being who you are.

    I feel I made my point; that there are people, young and middle aged and old, who legitimately devote their lives to public service, and that they are dishonored in extremis when someone pretends to be in their number for selfish purposes. you cetainly have the intelligence to hear it if you wish,but the children’s book one of my father’s associates wrote in my childhood says that most of us, children and adults have “a wishbone in the ear” – we hear what we want to hear, and understand what we want to understand, and override the rest.

    I’d be disappointed in my child if she DIDN’T have a sincere desire to use her intelligence toward advancing social and environmental justice rather than making a stack of money. chalk it up, perhaps, to being raised by politically and socially liberal parents who certainly have their own flaws but who impressed upon me, early in life, that thinking about other people and the world in which we all live rather than about one’s own advantage was a necessary component of civil society.

    I’ve lived according to these values. am I an aspiring saint? hardly. as I said, anyone who has ever had to apply for public assistance knows that the system makes us all into cheats to a greater or lesser degree. I could enumerate some of my own failings – I don’t always suffer fools gladly, and I reserve the highly subjective right to say who is a “fool” in that regard. I’ve used the office copier for personal business. I’ve driven on public roadways without a drivers llcense when there were money barriers to clearing up the idiotic parking pickets that led to my not being able to renew my license in the first place. (yes, I was raised middle class, but I’ve been poor more than once, and I;m not wealthy in the material sense now.)

    and though i have already said that i will not call you, or anyone, names in the process of discussing differences in views or outlook, let me expose something about myself that might make you like me more – or not. I am not at all above poking fun at people around me. you might find some of my remarks about them funny; it’s how I discharge frustration. I don;t know what your rules are about swearing here and it’s our forum, so I won’t push limits, but I’m the sort who will yell “Screw you Sam [or something very akin to ‘screw you’] , I hear you are about to get kicked out of the Idiot Club for acting like too much of an idiot!” AFTER I’ve hung up the phone on a totally irritating conversation with Sam. keeps me out of trouble, for the most part.

    you might actually find that you *like* my mild bitchiness and ;lack of pretensions – one of my ironic guiding principles has been “when you can;t be sweetness and light, at least be entertaining when you are being a grouch.” a couple generations of Borscht Belt comedians got that one down – sometiems I think I missed my calling as a countercultural stand-up comic. Dr.Freud was partially right about humor being a way to delect or express our hostilities – unfortunately, I don’t think Freud remembeed to laugh, especially at himself, nearly enough. I do like what one old hippie philosopher-type said in the late 60s or so, which is that we are supposed to laugh when WE step on the abnana peel, not when someone else does – but again, in the interests of self disclosure here, I will confess to getting in a giggle when some pompous ass (no, I am not referring to you or anyone here – what did i say, I don;t generally insult people to their faces, virtual or corporeal) who has been telling everyone else how much he or she knows about how to walk across the floor than any of us peons could possibly now…slips on the banana peel. i wasn’t the kid who was mean enough to put a dead garter snake in the shoe of the little priss in my camp cabin who was terrified of anything creepy-crawly, but I was, and still am, mean enough to find it absolutely hilarious when Miss Priss wouldn;t put her shoe back on even after the counselor had given the poor little reptile a decent burial because there were “snake germs” in the shoe.

    as for budgeting our time and money, those are both finite entities, and “I don’t have a quarter” or “I don;t have time” can easily mean “I don;t have a quarter to spare for you because i have some serious budgeting to do as I’m a paycheck away from panhandling these streets myself”” or “I don’t have time to listen to a sales pitch – i have a couple hours to spend with my family before bedtime, and I don’t want to lose any time of it letting you tell me about something I don;t want to buy anyway.”

    okay, so you, or anyone here, decide whetehr this one was more about honesty or more about dishonesty; i have a small container garden, some of which is in my front yard. i;ve already said i live in a ratehr transitional neighborhood. one of the neighbors came by last week and said, “you didn;t get in no tomatoes this year?” shel;d asked me that in April, whuich isn;t tomatoe season in the temperate zones. she;d been eyeing my tomatoes since the precvious summer, amybe more than eyeing them.

    well, I thought that was pretty funny, since she was looking right at about six large tomato plants.

    now I could ahve said, “no, no tomatoes” since she obviously likes to eat the fruit but soesn;t know what they look like. but I was honest and said, “not much fruit yet; we get them later in the season ehre; i have a bunch of flowers and a few little baby green ones.”

    she told me she really loves green tomatoes, and asked if I’d tell her when some of the green ones get big.

    yeah, right. like I’m not growing these mostly to feed my;s like the panbhandlers we discussed; if I do give fruit to someone, it;s generally because a) I care about them or b) they ahve done me or someone I care about a favor or c) they at least aren;t acting like entitled jerks – ask and I often share. whine and demand and I will avoid you and your demands.

    just then I saw that one of my plants does, indeed have a nice bunch of respectable sized green tomatoes – so i guess she doesn’t know what she’s looking at.

    well, total dishonesty would have been denying that i had any tomato plants,aince she did seem too stupid to even know what one looks like though she is probably one of the people who was helping herself to toamtoes and raspberries last year… and total honesty would have, i suppose, led to picking a nice fat green tomato right then for her to take home and fry. now the cartoon bubble over my head would say something along the lines of, “oh hey, i must have forgotten, you’ve been paying me a little money every month so we have a mini community supported garden here for you, right?”

    so I said, “yeah, it’ll be a little while for most of these to get to eating size.” I’m doing my best to keep a straight dface as I look at the plant with the fat tomatoes.

    as soon as she left, you bet I moved that one, and one other with its fruit getting big but still green enough to hide among the leaves for the uninitiated, to the backyard with some effort on my little handcart.

    what;s any of this got to do with scholarships? only this: we all choose to share what resources we control based on what makes sense to us, intellectually or ethically or in whatever ways we reason through things. I disagree with the advice you gave in Scholarship Screwup #4 and I have said why. it doesn;t mean I am humorless, or that I am pretending to sainthood, or that i don;t think you and I cold, possibly, have a good laugh togetehr over kids who write foolish thigs on their applications or personal statements, or middle aged neighbors who think they are entitled to tomatoes but don;t even know what they look like on the vine.

    this letter is too long. consider it a peace offering, we aren;t going o convert each other, but it;s been an interesting exercise in understanding people’s varying perspectives. even though i sometiems feel alienated from some of my fellow schoolteachers, which is some of why i am returning to school for a different profession, I guess I’m more like them than I thought, I believe in public service.

    and if I didn’t hate show business with a passion (I’m originally from Hollywood and left for college the weekend i graduated high school to get away from the entertainment industry), i could maybe have made a stack being funny on stage, and sponsored my own scholarship based on suporting young people, and middle aged ones too, with a social conscience.

    now would you like a tomato? i’ve got some good ones coming in. or is that too much if a bribe and thus a breach of ethics?

    oh yeah, for what it;s worth, I do distribute free healthy food in our community thorugh some nonprofit gorups on a regular basis. and my neighbor who was crusing my tomatoes would be welcome to a produce giveaway.

  27. middle aged scholar-mama

    PS do excuse my sloppy typing above.. you betcha if it were a scholarship application, or my masters thesis, or a manuscript for publication (and I’ve submitted all of those to the appropriate places as needed with eventual success!), i’d have gone over it carefully. and I wouldn’t have used terms such as :betcha” and I would not have gone off on tangents, no matter how entertaining or endearing I think they are, about my tomato-coveting neighbors.

    a little more about me: I’ve been “desperate and destitute” myself, with only a little class privilege to shore me up and keep me from the streets. I lived in campgrounds when I moved back to the bay Area to take a full time job teaching people with developmental delays, and I did not have enough money for first and last months’ rent. I walked around, for a eyar or two at least, with a badly chipped and discolored front tooth when i could not afford dental care to cap the tooth and had no health insurance. I’ve had to choose between doing laundry and paying off a parking ticket so that i could register my twenty-year-old car so that i could get to work or pick my child up at school. I’ve been represented by the public defender.

    as you said in another Screw Up tip, and that one did make me chuckle, “cry me a river.” I try not to, mostly because i find it undignified.but do’;t assime I’ve lived a life of ease, nor that the “worst” times are necessarily over in my life, or my child’s life, or those of any of us.. we really don’t know what’s around the bend, any of us, and I do know that life can throw some very mean curves at any time in the course of life.

    everyone’s got a story to tell. i;’m not asking for pity mostly because i don;t want to be a Pitaible Creature. i;d rather be respected for my abilities, given an opportunity or even a fraction of one. i will apply for financial assistance when i need it, whether it’s to get treated for skin cancer or to keep my child in an idp[eneendt college-prep school where she is challenged and nurtured in a way that i don;t feel the local public schools can provide, or to attend a conference on an important topic in which i ahve been involved in research or advocacy, or return to graduate study.
    i;d like to see more groups support the young people wh really DO care about, say, helping the underpriivileged, and it’s going to be harder for schoalrship judges to say who those people are if those who really don;t give a rat’s rear are being exhorted to pretend to those ideals. I think I;ve made myself clear, but that;s always a judgment call, like everything else.

    I must run: my lunch calls me.

  28. I am not one to entertain the idea of lying on an application. Personally I think I, and most people, have enough good motivations to highlight those instead. I believe this is probably the best application to what Mr. Barsch is saying.

    PS I am inspired by how many people responded that they to are trying to maintain their integrity! The future looks brighter all the time!

  29. Carolyn Harrison

    My gosh! You must know how helpful that was, you just have to. Most of the time I really get discuraged when people ask how I stand out from a crowd and every time I think I’m the most boring person on the earth because I have not Idea what makes people notice me (if they do that is). But the example with the doctor and exactly WHY he wants to be a doctor really shed some light on that gloomy question. The reason I say this is though I find myself just another face in the crowd, the reasons why I am joining the career of my choice are near unice as I’ve notice from those around me. Thank you so much for the tipe it will help me more then you may know.

  30. I really do love all of these tips as it helped me to realize what mistakes I have made. However I question the lying part. According to you, those who don’t lie are in the minority, yet the mass of messages on here are against lying. I find it very ironic that you tell people to lie and then say “Honest buck.”

    Believe it or not, there are many people who do not lie every day because there is no need to. If I get a telemarketer and I am not interested, I tell them that. I don’t have to lie and say I don’t have enough time (Cause for one, they will call back.) If people lie on scholarships, what is to stop them from lying in college to make a good grade? What is to stop them from lying in their careers? If you lie your way through a scholarship and you win, you are stealing from people who have decided to be honest. You wouldn’t steal from a store to get some money, just because this is in essay form doesn’t make it any different. It’s like buying an essays online for your English class.

    I know people who are in the most desperate circumstances where they have very little food. Forget about college, they are just trying to live, and yet they don’t go into stores and steal food. A few hundred or a thousand dollars just isn’t worth lying over. Even you said in one of your articles that people should try to get money through grants and other ways before scholarships and that they shouldn’t rely on scholarship money alone. So there shouldn’t be a need for this high desperation of money. That’s what loans are for too.

    What’s the point in scholarships if everyone lies? How can people tell which essay is legit and what isn’t? Is lying on your scholarship really worth your integrity? Wouldn’t you rather put a student through college who really has a desire to help people instead of one who is just stuck on getting a nice car? I’m not saying that those who are in for money shouldn’t deserve it. Everyone has different reasons for going to college. But would you rather have a honest person or one who is lying?

    People who lie and have part of their college paid for aren’t any different from people who lie for a better grade.

    Don’t sell yourself short Mr. Barsch. It looks like you assume that people who don’t want to lie are going to go ahead and put on their scholarship that they want to make a lot of money. In fact, you seem to suggest that if you don’t lie, then you won’t ever win money. No one goes to college just for one reason alone. I know you are an intelligent person who has helped a lot of students earn money for scholarships. But if people lie around one thing in life, they will always lie about another thing.

    Instead we can encourage students to really think about their goals of why they are going to college. Most people I have seen don’t survive college because they want a big car and a load of money. That just isn’t a good motivator. I have seen more people make it because they want to earn money to better provide for their family. Who doesn’t want their best for their family? People can earn money for the challenge of it. I know a lot of students who, even if they want to make a lot of money, they love learning and love the challenge of college.

    Isn’t there something better we can do instead of lying? I’m sure no one wants a doctor who lied through school or an employee who lies in your face. We all want, and probably need, people to trust. No one likes being around a liar. I know that isn’t want you were trying to imply, but I believe that there are better things we can do than encourage people to lie. (Even if it’s the easiest route.)

  31. Josh but what happen If your mayor doesn’t allow you to help people. For example, I’d like to study animation and visual effects. How this career can help people? I mean, what can I write in the essay.
    ok this is the true: make money- start a new business
    lie: to help people through the animation. (that’s stupid)

  32. Hi, everyone. The comments get a little more wide-ranging as we go along, so I’ll do my best to sort of rein it back in a bit, summarizing some of the points in the last few posts:

    1) This one probably bears repeating the most: I’m not *insisting* anyone lie on an application, first of all, nor am I saying you can’t win if you don’t lie. This particular tip is one of about 83 different ones in the book, so it’s certainly not an all-encompassing issue.

    2) Honestly, I think most of the commenters above who are upset about my take on the lying issue are making a mountain out of a molehill, for lack of a less trite phrase. I’m not at all backing away from my suggestion that you tell the judges you have purer motives than perhaps you really do; having said that, let’s not suggest that I’ve advocated wholesale fakery and deceit of an entire application here. I’m simply saying that if your current motives are mainly selfish, then scholarship application time is time to get nicer and more altruistic, in a hurry. Will anyone ever really know the difference? No. Would it be a GREAT thing if you followed through and ended up helping the unfortunate? Yes. Would it be WONDERFUL if, in the process of actually getting fat-cat rich, that you actually developed a desire to help others and divert a decent chunk of your money to charity, as happens to a great deal of people who get rich? Of course. That’s really all I’m saying here.

    3) It seems instructive here to point to resume padding as a relevant example. If you’re an employer, you actually *expect* a degree of padding on most resumes that come in. Yes — it’s actually expected for some of the roles and responsibilities to be a bit whitewashed, fudged, or lied about, however you want to put it. I’m trying to be nicer/less sarcastic than is my normal nature here, but seriously — are we really hurling daggers at anyone who, in order to eke ahead in life in some way, doesn’t tell the 100% full truth to everyone all the time? I think most people understand this, but I don’t want to seem like I’m ignoring the few people who have commented otherwise on this post.

    Keep the comments coming. Thanks!

  33. Mr. Barsch,

    Thanks for replying. I’m glad you have taken the time to explain yourself a lot better. I think the issue was that you were telling people to lie. That alone can easily be taken in the wrong direction. People don’t need to lie, just use their lesser reasons about helping people. I wouldn’t think it is lying if helping people was their #2 reason. Of course you don’t want to say that is your last reason.


  34. I totally disagree with lying. This is bad karma. Lying takes away from our soul.

    Be creative. I am sure an intelligent applicant can write in such a way that can put good information in without lying. I believe most people want more from a job than a fat pay check.

    Lying NEVER pays.


  35. I haven’t made it through all these comments yet, but, it’s not so much as lying, but embellishing the truth. Obviously, when choosing a career, not only are we looking at the “are we going to enjoy it” part, but we do consider the salary that comes along with it. However, when applying for scholarships, most judges are looking for the humanitarian side and the passion and dedication you will provide to the career. SO yes, you may have chosen a career because it will make you rich (only if you’re good at it), but there had to have been another driving force behind it….that’s what he wants you to focus on!!!

  36. Oh yes, I forgot something. “Why not lie about your GPA or extracurriculars?” because that is something that can be easily looked up, and then you would automatically lose. Lying about things that are facts and tangible, such as GPA’s, extracurriculars, etc. definitely not a good thing. Not that lying about anything is a good thing, but if you need to stretch the truth about passion/dedication and future plans in order to make things sound better or help you get something, then do it.

    Whether you lie or not, may turn out to be a lie anyways…our futures are not set in stone. You may say I want to be a lawyer to be rich….but, turn out to be an unsuccessful lawyer, or found that true passion about helping those less fortunate and not making tonnes of money, or not become a lawyer at all because you decided you didn’t like it, or you failed a class or two…..

    Say what you want, nothing’s certain anymore until it happens (other than death of course!)

  37. I diagree with the lying part… I know that it is how you can win a scholarship, however if you just want a job that earn big bucks, would you truly be happy with it? Scholarships should be given to those who actually want to help others and not just to buy a nice sports car etc. I know that it would be hard to know whose lying in the essays but I just don’t think its right…Lying to get a scholarship…is that a scholarship you deserve even if you do win it? I don’t think so….

    Just an opinon….

  38. Mr. Josh or Ash, I am so pleased in my outer face that everybody is telling lie. Huh? Be cool, get stuck with it, I am not doing my homework yet. Shame on you !!!

  39. It’s a bery nice advice for me, since I am abignner for applying ascholarship I have got enough kowlegde for my future application. Thank you very much!!!

  40. I am actually one of those people who gave up the promise of a high-paying job for a lower-paying job that I feel will be more fulfilling because of its service-oriented nature. I gave up pharmacy for education. Although a pharmacist’s salary is absolutely amazing, I would much rather give that up for the joy and satisfaction of administering education to and having a positive impact on the lives of so many young children.

  41. I have read the aritcle BE vague and Selfish about your future.
    It makes reference to explaining how its important to make a point to stand out and share whats different from me to the other thousands/millions of people… One thing that puts me in the smaller catagory is I won’t lie to get money, story stretch or embellious, and this is why I will probably will be put on the bottom of the scholarships list. BUT if thats the case I am ok with that. My intergrity has no price it can’t be bought, and thats why I believe i will make a hell of a nurse someday. I do the right thing to the best of my ability, because its the right thing, and if I get a fat paycheck then thats a bonus..

  42. I must disagree with your suggestion about lying. If I am to recieve a scholarship, I want to know that I am trusted and that I am expected to fulfill the promises that I had made about my future hopes. If I were giving scholarships out to people to students, I would hope to give to the most deserving, to those who were planning on making a positive impact on society. Unfortunately, it is a common occurrence that the liars and cheaters will make their way to thje top with ease. Should we not be trying to combat such things? I do tell the utter unadulterated truth when apply for scholarships. I do actually want to make a difference, help people and change lives. I would like to commend all of those people who have left comments on this page who share my views regarding integrity. We must hold on to our moral scrupels in this decaying society. Perhaps sometimes the consequence iof this is that we miss out on certain oppertunities but I believe that it is worth it-rather than losing and selling yourself with deception and cheating.

  43. Josh,
    First off, I would like to say that your tips are, by far, the best pieces of advice I have ever read on writing to win scholarships. I have spent days reading articles attempting to help the applicants but until now they have been sub-par. You clearly outline every area of how a scholarship applications go dead wrong. I love the way you bluntly describe the mistakes the majority of students make when writing scholarship essays. I greatly appreciate your spot-on advice and say “Keep the Tips Coming!”
    My only area of disagreement comes but with your positive view of the nature of man. Your quote- “I don?t think it?s bad that all people lie. I think it?s part of the human condition and nothing to be ashamed of.” Yes, sin is most certainly part of the human condition but I think that we should be ashamed of misleading people. The problem is we’ve done it so many times that we become so used to it that it doesn’t even feel wrong anymore. While your job is to help students maximize their scholarship award, I do feel that telling them that lying is justified in this area will only hurt them in the future. But you are entitled to your opinion and I appreciate virtually every piece of it!
    Matt Long- Student
    Class of 10

  44. What if someone makes an exaggerated lie and I tell the truth? Is there a chance that they will win over me because they had a better imagination than a dramatic plan that I’m describing? I mean I’d imagine a student saying he wants to earn lots of money to bring about world peace by creating some secret society that confiscates all weapons and destroys them, then covertly brainwashes everyone winning if all I said was that I wanted to build nonprofits and change laws so that capitalism is more equitable and then discuss who I might contact.

    Also sometimes students are vague because they want to get something across to you and still meet the word count. How would you suggest that students decide which descriptions should have more emphasis?

  45. What if someone makes an exaggerated lie and I tell the truth? Is there a chance that they will win over me because they had a better imagination than a dramatic plan that I’m describing? I mean I’d imagine a student saying he wants to earn lots of money to bring about world peace by creating some secret society that confiscates all weapons and destroys them, then covertly brainwashes everyone winning if all I said was that I wanted to build nonprofits and change laws so that capitalism is more equitable and then discuss who I might contact.

    Also sometimes students are vague because they want to get something across to you and still meet the word count. How would you suggest that students decide which descriptions should have more emphasis?

  46. Paige Fletcher

    When you said were going to send you comments to improve your easy, I said sure ok that would help. But your just ignorant donkeys and coming with false information out of your butt. Screw this. stop. with this.

  47. This is horrible. You’re suggesting that we lie about our aspirations – why stop there, why not lie about your Scholarship Screwup #3 and say we came from a horrible background when we actually live in Suburbia? This “suggestion” confirms my suspicions that this advice is immoral and should be avoided at all costs. Now I will go out of my way to avoid applying for your scholarships, as money is not worth selling you my integrity. I hope other students will do the same.

    I’m guessing what’s listed at the bottom of this page is also a lie: that the writer of these bad ideas “subscribes to the Statement of Principles of Good Practice”.

  48. Want fortune, popularity, and power the easy way?

    Sure! …All you have to do is lie, cheat, and steal. Okay, I’ll be honest (no pun intended): Your suggestion is telling people the EASIEST ways to win scholarships. And if that is what people are looking for, by all means, this is what is going to work for the majority of times.

    Unfortunately, for those of us who have a problem with questioning our integrity, we will get the shaft in scholarship money when going against those who make up LIES to make themselves sound like angels, but in reality could care less about helping others.
    Yes, it is CHEATING to lie on a scholarship application so you can get an advantage over the other applicants, and is essentially STEALING from those who actually qualify and deserve the scholarship.

    Let’s face reality, people.
    FACT #1: It is wrong to lie on a scholarship application.
    FACT #2: Yes, everyone has lied sometime in their life. We’re not all perfect.
    FACT #3: Lying about your goals in life, etc. will probably help you win a scholarship more than if you mention you don’t have the best people-loving intentions for your future career.
    Fact #4: Readers, it is up to YOU to decide if you would rather question your morals (if your have any) for extra money from a scholarship, its on your head. You are responsible for your agency.
    Fact #5: For those of us who do not lie on our scholarship applications, my respect goes to you. These days, honest people are becoming more few and far between, which makes life stink for us who earn things the honest way. I commend you for your standards. Don’t worry- you will get your reward for your honesty and high standards, whether through a scholarship or other form of benefit in life. As for now, we must live in a world that does not respect the actions that used to be considered ‘just doing what’s right’. For those people like this, keep strong. You do not stand alone. (:

  49. Hi
    lies is not a wepeon in my life and I know truth will always set me free. Also I know God is not happy when we lie to get favour from someone . GOd is faithful and I know that He will kmake a way for me and win that scholarship because I need it badly to achieve my goals and dreams.

  50. Emmanuel (Jnr) Davids-Amosu

    I want to study economics and finance, So that i can help the
    economy of the country. And also help my generation in managing their business.

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