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Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
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Landing that Dream Scholarship: The Do’s and Don’ts of the Perfect Application

Written by Dana Iskoldski

The girl whose university application earned her a $5,000 scholarship is here to tell you exactly what you need for a standout application. Whether it’s for a school you’re dying to attend or an internship you’re hungry for, this is your starting guide to application writing.

Do’s and Don’ts of Application Writing

DO your research. Know the company’s mission statement. Know what the ideal student is in the eyes of your future university. Learn everything you can about the position or program you’re applying for. Everything. You’ll come off as more of an expert in a sea of ignorant applicants.

DON’T use $5 words. Studies show that using them needlessly makes you sound dumber. It’s more important to use the words you know correctly than take a gamble on fancy-pants jargon.

DO be direct. No recruiter or admissions officer has time to waste on filler words, unessential thoughts or anything else that isn’t getting your point across. Give every word you write a purpose.

DON’T be humble. It’s the sin of application-writing. You’re doing yourself and your potential institution a disservice if you omit information on your pertinent skills and experiences. No one ever sold anything saying it was “alright.” Be confident.

DO ask around. You’re missing out if you don’t ask your friend’s mom what her experience was like at Company X. The more you know, the better. Plus, if you make a good impression, someone may put in a good word for you. Never close a door.

DON’T rush. Accept that application writing is a process which requires time and care. Giving yourself room to readjust is one of the secrets to compelling writing. Walk away from the paper when you’re done. Come back later with a clear head for final edits.

Common Questions You’ll Be AskedAnd How to Reply

Be prepared. These will be asked. Here’s a good place to start.

“Why are you interested in attending our school/applying for this scholarship?”

What they’re really asking is why they should be interested in you. Make yourself an attractive candidate by describing what you bring to the table, and how you’re the right fit for the organization. What are you going to do with the opportunity you’re given? Why is it that you belong at that institution? How will you represent the organization beyond your time with them? These are questions you should answer through your response.

Example (student applying for an internship in the sustainability industry): I refuse to believe that profitability and sustainability are mutually exclusive. This opportunity will enable me to put my leadership skills towards our shared goal of a sustainable economy. Joining this company will place me among passionate professionals, who, like myself, believe in a highly resource-efficient economy.

“Tell us about an obstacle that you have overcome, how you surpassed it and what you have learned about yourself through the process.”

To ace this one you have to tell a story. Make it sound like you were David up against Goliath, and that you managed to overcome your obstacle in a way that most could not. It is your chance to highlight your greatest skills in detail. Like how your critical thinking saved the day or how you stayed calm in a stressful situation. Conclude your response with a statement that summarizes the skill(s) you demonstrated, and explain how it is an asset for the organization you are applying to.

Example: I worked two part-time jobs during high school. I was running my school’s student council group as well, so it was especially difficult for me to find a work-school balance. Despite that, I found freedom in self-sufficiency. I learned practical lessons in time-management, leadership and productivity. I developed a hands-on understanding of budgeting and financial management and, despite my charged schedule, finished school with an A+ average.

“What are you involved in? Extra curricular activities, part-time jobs, sports, etc.”

This one is a straightforward freebie. List everything that demonstrates your aptitudes and competence. Make sure to not downplay anything. If you helped train new hires at your part-time job, highlight it. If you did some filing work for a teacher, add it. Each and every one of your experiences shows that you have a valuable skill.

Example: I was heavily involved with my school’s student government group. As both President and Marketing Coordinator, I was fortunate to gain hands-on experience with event co-ordination, budgeting, communications, leadership, advertising and graphic design. I also worked part-time at a retail store, which allowed me to better exercise my communication and sales skills, which will be an asset to your company.

Landed a scholarship? What are your tips for applications?

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.