Fellow Dopers: I’m having trouble with some things and would like your advice. Tomorrow I am submitting a package to my university’s financial aid department for all the privately funded scholarships administered by my school. All I really need to do is fill out this simple application and stick it in an envelope with my transcript. Cool. However, on the application there is this: “We encourage you to attach a student resume and any additional information you wish the committee to review.” My financial aid “advisor” tells me a “student resume” is just “a regular old resume” and that my “additional information” should be a “letter.” Thus ends all guidance from that quarter. Really. When I pressed for further information or advice she acted like she didn’t want to take the time to deal with me, and then I saw that the woman was actually getting confused (yes, I may complain some day, but it would be imprudent to risk upsetting this woman today). And, as a non-traditional student, I have no access to any high school advisors. My parents can’t help me, either. So, I’m turning to you-–I believe there are Dopers who have been on both sides of this issue (going for scholarships and evaluating students for scholarships). Some of my questions are specific. Some general. Please forgive my ignorance on this stuff, but I’ve never had to do it before. Well, anyway:
What tone should my letter take? All business? “My name is Mephisto. I think you should consider helping me because I’m a fulltime student with a 4.0 GPA and am a member of the English Club, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Phi Eta Honors Society, and Society for Creative Anachronism, and because I tutor adults at the local Literacy League” (all this stuff is true, BTW). Or should the tone be more biographical in nature–-I was born on a dark and stormy night in northern Illinois . . . The more I think about it, the more I’m leaning for the “strictly business” angle, since I’m not really asked to write an essay. I mean, they don’t need to know why Highlander changed my life or the fact that mint chip ice cream is one of my favorite things. But still . . . I’m really uncertain here.
Maybe I shouldn’t mention the SCA, what with it being a kind of “nerdy” thing in the minds of some people?
Should I even mention that I want money? I mean, that’s the whole point, right? Still, it seems kind of–-I dunno-–crass. Right now I have something in there like “[my goals] and I hope that, as you evaluate students for scholarships, you will choose to help me with my goals.” That I have real financial need is between the lines but pretty obvious in my longer, biographical essay (the big job layoff, my lovely and incredibly expensive kid and so forth). It’s harder to broach this subject tactfully in the “strictly business” letter.
Length? The way my more college essay-like draft is looking, it will be one or two typed pages. Is that enough? Too much? The strictly business version, of course, is quite a bit shorter.
As I said, there are four items I wish to submit: the application, the letter, the resume, and the transcript. I wonder what is the best way to package these? My transcript came in a sealed 4" X 9 ½" envelope. Should I fold up my resume and put it in its own envelope, and if so, should my letter accompany it in that envelope? Or should I just put my letter, my application, my resume, and my transcript neatly in a big typing-paper-sized envelope and hand it in that way? Or . . . ?
I’m putting my resume on resume paper. I wonder if I should do the same for my letter?
To whom do you think I should address the letter? To Whom It May Concern or Dear Scholarship Committee or something else entirely? I don’t know the actual individuals who will be looking at this, so there will be no “Dear Dr. Smith” or anything.
Okay, I have various models for resumes from which to work. I kinda-sorta know how to make a resume look good for certain kinds of industries. But for school? I’ve never seen an “educational resume.” I’m thinking of just doing what that so-called advisor told me and printing out a “regular” resume with my educational stuff, clubs, and volunteer work on top. Also, I guess, my military background (I was a Guardsman for many years). And then all my past fulltime jobs, at least as far back as I have accurate information for (I could only approximate info from my teens–-I’ve got a pretty good adult, fulltime work, “real job” resume, though). Or do they really even want to see all that? My adult work history is almost as old as the very lives of some of my classmates. Maybe I should just put my last three jobs or something. For the record, my work history has little to do with education or my future.
Also, regarding resumes and work history in general: how do you usually handle it when you worked in one place for more than one employer. Say, working at the Cecil Adams Widget Factory through a temp agency, and then working for the Cecil Adams Widget directly? Two separate resume entries, or both of them together?
Um, I thought about this for my current resume and for job resumes: my military decorations. Do you think I should put those in that award/honors block of my resume or not? Would most employers know the difference between an Army Achievement and Army Commendation Medal? Would they care? Would a human resources or scholarship committee military veteran think I was just padding my resume or trying to look more impressive than I really am if I listed all the “give-away” ribbons and decorations that most soldiers accumulate (I have a couple ribbons on my old uniform that almost everybody gets, no matter what).
Any other advice or suggestions? I’m sure I’ve forgotten something. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are things I’ve not even considered. So by all means, give me advice on things I have not mentioned!
Also, sorry for such a long post. It wasn’t my intention to write a novel or anything when I started out. In any case, thanks for taking the time to read all this, and thanks in advance for any suggestions you may offer. Finally, I hope this doesn’t seem too much like a “do my homework for me” or “tell me the right way to do my job” post. It’s just that my past has not prepared me for this and I don’t have many good informational resources regarding my current dilemma. Of course, I could just wing it, but I prefer not to.
Someday when I’m rich I will start the quick-and-easy Straight Dope Scholarship and all your kids will go to college for free.
Thanks again. Have a great day!