Scholarship Screwup #9: Bore Me With Irrelevant Crap

I know, I know – that’s an abrasive way of putting it for those of you who are easily wounded. In other words, then, do yourself a favor: exclude any unnecessary information that has nothing to do with your scholarship essay. Everything in your essay should be relevant to the topic at hand.

This is us after we read most scholarship essays.

We receive bad examples of staying on topic every day. They’re the essays that start like this: “My name is Jane Doe, and I was born in Hershey, Pennsylvania on July 3, 1986. My mother is a dental hygienist and my father is a mortgage broker, and I have two brothers and two sisters. I attend Kennedy High School, where I am a senior.”

Unless you’re somehow going to tie that information into some critically important part of your essay, the committee doesn’t care a lick about any of it; instead, it sounds suspiciously like you’re trying to fill up space on the page and nothing more.

Unless you’re bringing up things like your birthplace, parents and siblings in order to shed light on your unique upbringing – let’s say, you were born to crack-addicted parents in Miami who dropped you off in the Everglades as a newborn, but a family of alligators took you in and raised you as one of their own, and that’s the reason you’ve been captain of the varsity swim team since age 11 – then info like this is a waste of space and a waste of the committee’s time. We call it “commodity information.” Everyone has a birth date, a school and a hometown, and unless yours have some sort of special significance, leave them out of your essay.

25 thoughts on “Scholarship Screwup #9: Bore Me With Irrelevant Crap”

  1. Thanks alot for everything you are trying to teach me on how to write an essay.
    Now i`m coming up to know what your trying to tell me.

    Best regards

  2. Although I found these posts a tad bit sarcastic I got it. It doesn’t lessen the anxiety of writing a winning essay. People do differ with there talents. An average person with soso writing ability may miss out on a wonderful oppurtunity because their essay wasn’t so great. I hope future assessments of essays will not only be about entertaining the judges but also about who has shown proof of a personal passion to succeed. Thank you for your advice It was very helpful.

  3. Sarah: Thanks!

    Kim: Yes, sarcasm is definitely my brand. 🙂 You’re right — scholarship apps definitely tip in the favor of strong writers. I would agree with you that a personal passion to succeed is at the top of the list of things that we look for in a good winner. Good luck to you!

  4. Unfortunately, I seem to have inherited a sarcasm gene, too… I’ve been wondering if judges are open to humor and sarcasm within an essay, or if it makes you look like too much of a cocky jerkhole to receive any money towards an education.

  5. Orara Fletcher

    I thought this was one of the more useful tips on getting scholarship money. All of them have real but sense-of-humor bits.

  6. It is not bad at all to give ones own biography if that person is going to publish a book. However to apply for scholarship a person may only do that in some other way such as a short passage about ones childhood or school days to help examination board understand the background of the applicant.

    I was educated and brought up in Hong Kong so I know nothing about education here in North America. Last year I came across the term K12 and I wanted to understand what that can be so I asked the course teacher and he explained to me that was education from kindergarten to grade 12 senior high. I learn a lot of new words as I settle here.

    Now I am trying to apply for scholarship to have fund for my doctoral study as I would like to continue my teaching life in another way. Before I taught in classroom and use simulator to illustate how something can happen if a person does not follow right procedure. Now I would like to use online learning instead. I do hope that I am able to prepare such a platform for teaching from my reseach so that I am able to continue with my career as I cannot walk around for teaching now.

  7. I say bravo on this one! In peer editing sessions in my writing classes, I always have to tell people to take out the useless junk (it is just “trick”/excuse to fill up the page) they just get marked down to 70 out of 100 when they do that and the points keep getting deducted from there. Keep in mind while writing your scholarship essays that the judges are judging you just like your teachers do. Only instead of just a grade hanging on the line, its the possibility of having help paying your way through college that’s hanging there.

  8. Much of people must know about the thing told on the paragraph, of course there are those who know nothing about. On the other hand,it was a probable state that must be realized as havig not known by any persons.But I wanted the committy have wroten something about who to write an assay to get a scholarship.

  9. i studied industrial management and now studing mba
    i want to countine thise studied untile phd in mba and work and research in thise field
    i like researching and writting and i work hard

  10. Scholarships tips are great and are appreciated. What I am tired of is Josh’s rude remarks. Highly unprofessional. As a subscriber I DON’T want to hear you being rude and sarcastic. It shows me as a reader your really tired of your job.
    I am really just disgusted by your choice of words when sharing information with us. If there is someone higher above you in position then you, I hope they speak to you about your unprofessionalism!

  11. It’s all me, Ashley, warts and all. I have no boss, but you are welcome to come around anytime and take all the helpful information you can handle and duck away from the monitor when you see a sign of oncoming sarcasm or coarse language. Thanks!

  12. LOL. I actually was awarded two scholarships before I came to your website looking for other scholarship information.
    What I didn’t sign up for was your unprofessional approach. Derading indiviuals who as we know it, (and you have stated most of these people could never acheive scholarships,) simply because they are unable to articulate a proper essay worthy of your praise!
    It’s almost like making fun of physically or mentally challanged people.
    I am sure you won’t be swayed by any of this. I have unsubscribed, since my first post.
    I appreciate your work and I support what you are meaning to do. But I hope you can see you are being rude and for those who are not able to succeed in many areas, constructive crisitsm is the best way to voice your dismay. Rather then saying their work is crap!
    After all, these are still kids. Both in mind and emotional development.
    Take care,
    Yours truly,
    Ashley W

  13. while the tips are good as a whole, its hard to get past your insensitive remarks as if people cannot have hard lives. The “crack-addicted parents” line im assuming was suppose to be funny but is anything really funny about drug addiction and child abandonment? Not trying to be ultra sensitive but im just noticing a trend in your articles that can easily alienate a population of students who have come a long way to get to college and beat the odds. So when they look at your tips, they just see another person trying to look down on them by poking fun of serious situations that occurred in their lives.

  14. Well,
    While I was browsing internet this webside got my attention.I have been trying to read nearly all comments on scholarship but I think almost everyone misses something so thin…There are people direct the students how to apply a scholarship but nearly noone says so what?
    I disagree to judge applications by just seeking whats written in them.Its really nonsense.I see myself an example.Once I have applied for a scholarship in UK and I was accepted but I did changed my mind to go there .
    I remember I began to write my essay by giving some main information about myself (name,GPA,schools,conferences etc) and they called me even invited me to the Univeristy and appriciated me.

    What I am trying to say is that do write whatever you want to see in your letter.Because it doesnt make any sense to the only SENSIBLE COMMITTE.
    They know how to judge with the idea of not juding people by just looking essays.
    Thanks for everything…

  15. Okey-doky NO Irrelevant information, funny I never though of if as irrelevant till you said it like that. Thank you for putting it into perspective for me.

  16. I think some of you guys take Josh’s posts (and yourselves) too seriously. If I wanted to read some stuffy, boring self-help guide, I’d buy one. I love Josh’s sarcastic/witty delievery. I don’t have to try to figure out what he’s really saying, because he says it plainly.

    If you’re offended by his language and writing style…it’s probably because your essays suck, and you took it personally. Just a point…

  17. ultimatechocoholic

    I never use to read your comments section but I find them hilarious. I, for one, look forward to opening my inbox because I know that your email is in there and will be one of the highlights of my day!
    For those of you who think he’s rude, then well, stuff it because thats how it really is.

  18. Thank you for your comment! But it is better for me if your comment is individually so that I can improve my self.
    see you again!!

  19. I am one who takes criticism with a grain of salt. I was raised by a cop, need I say more?
    I realize many may be displeased with your sarcasm and ways of approaching things.
    In an effort to not sound brutish to others, I want to say the following.
    College is as serious is it will get in life. This is a huge step that costs thousands of dollars to take. As I count myself as being part of the majority of college students who are not in any position to fund my education with large sums of money laying around to my disposal, I must resort to financial aid, dreaded loans and the kindness of scholarship panels to fuel my educational endeavors.
    People get rejected from colleges and scholarship programs all of the time because they lack the delicate skill of weaving words into a fine piece of artistic prose. Some write about things that mean nothing to the approving parties and judges, or don’t write about the things that actually make a difference.
    If being honest and realistic is wrong; then, we are all in trouble.Unfortunately, reality is harsh. It’s a cruel world out there and competition is stiff. If a person wants to win a scholarship they have to STAND OUT among the many thousands of competitors that have applied for the same scholarship. If someone wants to get into a highly competitive graduate program like what MIT or Harvard offers and only accepts 12 students for a particular program of study, they have to, again, STAND OUT among even more competitors than they had for a scholarship.
    If I intend to win any scholarship at all,or be accepted by a great graduate school, I can listen to someone tell me what I am doing wrong so I can fix it, or I can sit on my couch scratching my head and wondering why I continue to receive rejections.
    I enjoy your posts and read them daily. I am sorry that you have some soured readers; but, as they say, you can please all of the people some of the time; but, not some of the people all of the time.
    You provide valuable facts and insight into the minds of the very people we place our educational and financial futures in.I don’t find offense in what you say and find amusement in some of the postings. I prefer to be told the truth not a convoluted version of the truth designed to protect my feelings.
    You are awesome thank you.

  20. I am just putting my input here. This reminds me a lot of resumes. Personally, I will admit to stretching the story a bit and turning into something judges want to listen to more. I have done this several times on essays, simply because I want to win them. However that’s just me, not everybody is comfortable with doing that. Personally, I love the criticism and honesty, mostly because I grew up with sweet talk, and I get bored with people not getting to the point. That’s just me However, I respect the need for people to sweet talk. Some people grow up with it so much that they done know how to handle criticism. It’s just the type of setting they grow up in. They don’t know anything else, so when they see this, they think its really rude because they grew up in a completely different way of thinking. I know that not everybody is ready for criticism, even if we are warned at the beginning that this this is completely honest. How many people would just not read it just because it might be too honest for us? Personally my curiosity gets the best of me.
    As every person is different, every judge is different. What the judges are looking for, what they see, need and everything else is different. These articles are just guides to help you deal with most general judges, it’s our job to see whether it applies to that particular judge or not. Yes, I believe that general judges go by these rules. It is right? Is it wrong? No, it is neither right nor wrong, it is simply what goes on in life. We are the ones writing the essay, we can decide whether to put religion or weird things in it. It all depends on what you want you essay to be like, whether you think the judges will like it or not. I am probably really confusing, I am trying to take a neutral point of view here.

  21. I’ve noticed that some of the applicants are not really good at english,so does that really count in your essay writing??….Does the stuff we need to consider while writing at school matter that much here??…enlighten those of us who are doing this for the first time….and hey,for those of you who find the remarks offensive or somewhat rude,you sure haven’t sampled the world we live in!!….It’s waaaay more than that….I’m in Africa,you should come stay for a while and know what it’s like!!

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