High School Students

Articles for current high school students.

Committees like it when you’ve helped people.

Maybe it’s just human nature, but it does seem like most scholarships end up going to those students who, whether through school, a job, or work outside the classroom, spend time helping other people. Sure, it’s still possible to win plenty of scholarships if you don’t volunteer, but just take a look at the scholarship …

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Committees like passion about something, anything.

If you’re not passionate about your subject, it’ll show through in your writing. Passion brings the best writing out of you and those competing with you for the scholarship money. Therefore, if you have the choice, it’s best to write about something that you feel strongly about. Your most compelling writing will follow. There are …

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If possible, use a laser printer instead of an inkjet printer.

Ink smudges easily; toner doesn’t. It’s that simple. And the more committee members there are putting their grubby little fingers all over it, the more likely an inkjet-printed essay is to get smudged up and ugly. If you print your essay with a laser printer, it’s got a better shot of staying in pristine condition …

If possible, use a laser printer instead of an inkjet printer. Read More »

Avoid emphasizing commodity accomplishments.

We call things like honor roll and, for college students, the dean’s list, “commodity accomplishments.” We don’t mean to discourage them – we were on them when we were students – but they’re commodities. They’re a dime a dozen. As mentioned earlier in our previous statements about GPA, nearly everyone who applies for our scholarships …

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Use high-quality paper.

OutlawStudent.com 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 …

Use high-quality paper. Read More »

Use boldface and underlining sparingly.

Bolding and underlining are good for the occasional emphasis of certain words, but using them too often is the hallmark of a bad essay. The problem is that boldfacing and italicizing are simply methods of making some text stand out among the other text; if you use them more than a couple of times, then …

Use boldface and underlining sparingly. Read More »

If you decide to show off your foreign language skills, you’d better come prepared.

This is a new tip we created about a few months back after receiving an essay from a young man who was quite confident that he was “completely fluent in Spanish” (those are his words, not mine). He decided to write a couple of introductory sentences in Spanish that were his undoing. Rather than sticking …

If you decide to show off your foreign language skills, you’d better come prepared. Read More »

Don’t scribble something on your typed essay in pen.

We’re surprised at how often some students go to the trouble of laser-printing their essays on high-grade paper and mind every last detail so that the essay’s appearance is near-perfect — but then, at the last minute, ruin it all by scrawling something in pen at the top of the page (usually their name, address, …

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What to write about? Ask friends what’s impressive about you.

How do you know what to write about on a scholarship essay? If you’re the shy type who doesn’t know how to blow your own horn, then you’re going to find the scholarship application process painful, and especially so when you find out you didn’t win any scholarships because you were too timid to tell …

What to write about? Ask friends what’s impressive about you. Read More »

If your essay is longer than one page, put your contact information – and page numbers – on each page.

I’m going to guess that you’ve never thought of this either, because judging by the applications I’ve received in the past, fewer than 1 out of about 500 applicants do this. But you should. Here’s why: When thousands of multi-page essays stack up, it’s inevitable that some are going to get torn apart. Lots of …

If your essay is longer than one page, put your contact information – and page numbers – on each page. Read More »

Incorporate your minority status if appropriate, but don’t make it the crux of your essay.

If you’re a member of a minority group, you’re sure to hear conflicting advice about discussing your minority status in scholarship applications. Some say don’t mention it at all; others say get as much mileage out of it as you can. I tend toward the latter, but the problem is, you don’t always know when …

Incorporate your minority status if appropriate, but don’t make it the crux of your essay. Read More »

The Most Basic and Fundamental Rule

Please, please, please: Just follow the instructions. Many of the tips you’ll read about in this book are very specific, but this one I’d consider more as a very general “rule to live by” – at least as far as scholarship applications go. It’s a cliché that rules are made to be broken, but don’t …

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Example A: The length of your essay.

We’ll start with the length of your essay because it’s commonly abused. While I’ve never met a scholarship judge who actually sat down and counted every word to ensure that an applicant didn’t go over the limit, you still must stick to that limit. If an essay calls for 750 words or less and you …

Example A: The length of your essay. Read More »

Example B: Sending your essay the wrong way, in the wrong format, to the wrong place, to the wrong person, etc.

Back in the days when we required our scholarship applicants to send in paper applications (we now do it all via email), we posted a very clear statement in the instructions: “Please do not send your essay via signature-required delivery.” By signature-required delivery, we simply mean when places like FedEx, UPS, DHL and the U.S …

Example B: Sending your essay the wrong way, in the wrong format, to the wrong place, to the wrong person, etc. Read More »

Example C: Sending information you weren’t asked to send.

This one is less clear to the layperson, so I’m going to lay down the law for you right here and now, so there’s no confusion. If you aren’t asked or invited to include additional information with your application such as transcripts, photos, newspaper clippings, artwork, CDs, letters of recommendation, trinkets you’ve whittled out of …

Example C: Sending information you weren’t asked to send. Read More »

Three rules worth repeating. Over and over and over again.

There are several very important themes in this book, and you’re going to hear me repeat these themes over and over again. And again. You’ll probably get tired of them, but the reason I repeat them so often is because they are constantly overlooked by scholarship applicants every day, and because of that, these applicants …

Three rules worth repeating. Over and over and over again. Read More »

Rule #1: Competitors are everywhere, so put your Best Foot Forward at all times.

You’ve probably heard me talk about this website before, but it bears repeating: Thanks to the Web, you now have access to thousands of scholarships you never would’ve known about prior to the Internet age. That’s the good news. The bad news is this: So does everyone else. The competition for scholarship money is more …

Rule #1: Competitors are everywhere, so put your Best Foot Forward at all times. Read More »

Rule #2: Scholarship judges are normal, busy human beings.

When you think of a scholarship committee, what do you think of? What do you see in your mind? If you’re like most of us, you see somewhere between 5 and 10 middle-aged academic types sitting around a large table, giving each essay a great deal of scrutiny, debating with one another the merits of …

Rule #2: Scholarship judges are normal, busy human beings. Read More »

Scholarship Competition: War of the Worlds

Remember that wonderful equalizer, the Internet? Well, it doesn’t just open doors for American students; it opens doors for students across the globe. There are over 100 million college students worldwide, and many of them can’t get their hands on a Peterson’s Guide to Scholarships. But every single one of them has Internet access, and …

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Why Wasn’t This Site Around Before Now?

Good question. It was only a few short years ago that I made the decision to do all of my company’s philanthropy through scholarship programs for students around the world. Since then, my team has received hundreds of thousands of scholarship essays from students from every corner of the globe. And I do mean every …

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Rule #3: Scholarship judges pay attention to every detail.

The crush of applicants from all over the Internet isn’t only tough on students; it’s also pretty rough on us scholarship judges as well. Not only is it extremely time-consuming to wade through thousands of essays instead of a hundred or even a few dozen, as it used to be, it’s also a lot tougher …

Rule #3: Scholarship judges pay attention to every detail. Read More »

Why are Scholarships so much harder to get now?

Whether you’re a student or a parent, you’ve probably been assuming all along that getting a scholarship today is not much different from getting a scholarship 5, 10, or even 20 years ago. You compete against your classmates, and may the best man/woman win, right? Wrong. The process of giving and receiving scholarships has changed …

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