2014 Common Mistakes

1. Not all the requirements are met

Prior to submitting your application, make sure you have a complete application with all the required documents. Proofread your application, double check all the dates, and ensure all documents are signed properly. If the scholarship provides a checklist, use it! Submitting an incomplete or faulty application will disqualify you before the judges even get a chance to read it. All your hard work putting it together will be put to waste.

2. Answers are too short or too long

The majority of applications have a word count limit. Use all available writing spaces with solid content. When appropriate, provide examples and elaborate on your ideas. Double check before submitting your application to ensure that you have met the word limit requirement.

3. Not paying attention to the question

Be sure to read the question carefully, ensure your answer relates back to the question, and that you are meeting the given guidelines. For example, in our recent Young Scholar Award application, we asked applicants to talk about "a unique achievement". Notice that the question asks for only one achievement. Be sure to pay close attention to the question.

4. Not proofreading your work

Spelling and grammar mistakes can very easily distract the reader from your achievements. You need to articulately convey your ideas. Proofreading your own work and getting others to proofread your work will allow you to catch your own mistakes before submitting your application.

5. Lacking a key theme

When answering a question, think of a theme and stick with it. Your ideas and examples should all relate back to your main theme for a coherent answer.

6. Weak reference letters

Reference letters are very important because they give the scholarship committee a second (or third) person's opinion on your personality and achievements. They help convince the committee that you are the scholarship winner they are looking for. For more tips on reference letters, refer to "The Do's and Don'ts of Reference Letters" and the "3P's".

7. Failed to make your application memorable

Scholarship committee can get hundreds or thousands of applicants. You need to make sure you are memorable and can stand out of the crowd. Brainstorm on what could set you apart from others and incorporate that in your scholarship application.

8. Writing failed to show the extent of your impact

In our Young Scholar Award application, we asked applicants about their impact. One of the most common mistakes applicants made was saying how the organization they worked with "changed their lives for the better". The question is asking about your impact on the organization, and not their impact on you. This also relates back to Common Mistake #3. Be sure to read the question carefully.

9. Inefficient writing style

The available spaces that you can write in are valuable. Use it efficiently. For example, a few applicants spent half a paragraph explaining what they think leadership is. It only shows to the judges the incompetency of these applicants in understanding the question and their writing style. Rather, they should go straight to the point and give solid examples that demonstrate their leadership qualities.

10. Ineffective writing style

Some applicants tried to "fill up" the available spaces with information. For example, they simply listed out all their participated activities in the past. What do you think this unorganized data would mean to the panel of judges? In fact, your writing objective is to impress your judges by organizing your information such that the most impressive and significant activities will be highlighted with details and supported data.

11. Excessive personal feelings

Highlighting significant personal experiences can help you stand out from the other applicants. However, a few applicants added too much personal feelings when answering the questions. Remember, we are not writing a fiction here. A sentence or two of personal feelings is fine for enhancing your answer with emotion elements. However, your answer to these questions should mostly contain facts and supported data.