2015 Common Mistakes

Message from the Young Scholar Award Selection Committee

It is very nice to see so many amazing students devoting their time and effort into building a better and stronger community. It has been a great pleasure reading all their inspiring stories. However, we notice many avoidable mistakes that can affect the overall impression of their applications.

A very crucial mistake is the inability to follow the application instructions. If you have any questions regarding the scholarship application, such as reference letter requirements and scholarship essay directions, you should have your uncertainties clarified prior to submitting the application. Inability to follow the application instructions may cost you the award. These mistakes can hinder your success with a scholarship application, and put you at a disadvantage. We highly recommend all applicants to review the 2014 Common Mistakes again at: http://www.young-scholar.com/?component=commonmistakes

The following summarizes common mistakes to each specific question:

Question 1 (Maximum 250 words)
A. Please outline up to 3 significant school or community activities you have participated in and why you chose to participate in them.
B. Please outline one initiative you have completed that showcases your commitment to your school or community. Explain how your initiative addresses an issue important to you and of public concern.

  • Answer in point form
  • Although the question asked for a listing of 3 significant activities, a proper essay format is essential to impress the judges of your writing skills. It is also important to notice that the application sub-heading states "Short Answer Question". This implies that your response should be in short paragraph form.

  • Lack of elaboration and "magic numbers"
  • Consider this example "I joined the student council because I enjoy helping my fellow students" What kind of program did you help out in? How was it beneficial to the students? How many students were involved? Did your initiative really address the issues? In order to make your essay memorable, it is essential to provide examples with supporting figures such as the number of students involved, amount of funds raised, and the number of years of involvement.

  • Not hitting the word count
  • In general, if the application asks for a specific word count, you need to hit the word count exactly. This is important to show that you are capable of paying attention to details and satisfying specific requirements.

  • Only partially answering the question
  • Most questions in the 2015 Young Scholar Award application contain two parts and they are cohesive to each other. Answering only one part will cost you the marks for the entire section.

    Question 2 (Maximum 250 words)
    A. What is a unique accomplishment that demonstrates your leadership qualities?
    B. Define what makes a leader. How do you exemplify the qualities of a leader?

  • Falling off the topic
  • When explaining the unique accomplishment that demonstrates your leadership, you should keep in mind that judges are mostly interested to learn about the impact because of your leadership. Too much strategic and technical detail on how you have helped your team to win the football game will detour you from the main theme of the question.

    When defining a leader, applicants tend to explain many different types of leader; many of which are not even applicable to them. Ensure that you are aware of the type of leader you are, based on your achievements and the impact you have on others. Amplify your unique set of experiences that qualifies you as a specific type of leader.

    Question 3 (Maximum 250 words)
    A. How have your contributions enhanced the well-being of your school and/or community?
    B. What have you learned through your school and/or community involvements? Explain how your community has affected you.
    (Maximum 250 words)

  • Bragging
  • Consider the following examples:

    "Due to my great contribution..."
    "I invested my own valuable time...."
    "Because of me, the students got high marks that they were never able to achieve before..."

    When writing a scholarship application, it is best to remain humble by not over-complimenting yourself. Patronizing leaves a bad impression to the judges. Instead, focus on why and what you did, especially if the question asks about how your contribution enhanced the well-being of your school and community. It is important to highlight your achievements in a positive way.

  • Vague Context
  • When discussing your contributions, you should keep in mind that judges would like to know how your involvements and initiatives have impacted the community for the better. Do not simply rephrase all your extra-curricular activities that you have already mentioned in Question 1. Rather, write about your most significant activities more in-depth, and show the judges how your contribution made a noticeable difference.

    When discussing how the community has affected you, a common mistake was the use of vague statements. The ability to write more impactful and specific sentences will make your essay standout and be memorable. Consider the following examples:

    No "...through volunteering, I become more considerate and mature..."
    Yes "...through volunteering, I learned more about the needs of my community, which allowed me to develop empathy and self-efficacy.
    The invaluable experiences I gained fostered my personal growth and self-esteem..."

    Question 4 (Maximum 250 words)
    A. Discuss your most meaningful achievement and how it relates to your field of study and future goals.
    B. Describe your role model and how he/she had influenced your future goals.
    (Maximum 250 words)

  • Lack coherency
  • If a question consists of two parts, both parts will be weighed equally as important because they are closely related to each other in a cause and effect mechanism. However, applicants tend to concentrate the most effort on only one half of the question. This leaves the second part either unanswered, or abruptly answered.

  • Lost focus
  • Although you are writing about your role model, your essay must still be about you. The main theme of your answer should focus on how your role model has influenced you and how they have shaped you to a better person. The positive impact that you adapted from your role model speaks volumes about your interpersonal skills, strengths, and potential to become a future leader.

  • Uncreative writing
  • The opening sentence was often cliche and repetitive amongst applicants. The first sentence to your answer should engage the reader and spark their curiosity. Why do you choose this person? What has he or she done? Many applicants began their answer with "My role model is my...". Imagery can liven up the essay.

  • Dull closing sentence
  • Your closing sentence should leave a memorable impression to the judges. Consider this example, "That is why I choose him to be my role model." This sentence surely did not leave a memorable effect. Again, imagery can liven up the essay.