Read my scholarship essay? Pretty please?

OK, I’m new at this. Despite being a graduating senior looking towards grad school next year, I’ve never applied for a scholarship with a writing component. I want to make sure I’m striking the right tone here, and am genuinely clueless on whether or not I’m doing this right. Would someone have the heart to give it a quick once-over and give me notes?

I’ve got a second one, but I think it’s a bit much to ask you folks to read all of that. So here’s just the more important one, the statement of intent.

Here are the guidelines, but it’s a bit long. I’ve posted what I think are the most relevant requirements:

There’s also a strong emphasis on public speaking, as the winner has to do a bunch of public speaking events talking about the experience.

Now, my essay:

I firmly believe that I should be placed into consideration for the Academic Year Ambassadorial Scholarship because the goals of Rotary International intersect so perfectly with my values and future plans.

The information for this scholarship couldn’t have come at a better time. Although I have been fortunate enough to have the support of my mother and grandmother for my entire life, times are getting lean with the credit crisis. Combined, they have been in the real estate business for over seventy years and both agree that this is the worst year either of them has ever seen. Our savings have dried up with my mother racking up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills from some undiagnosable illness.

If granted this scholarship, my field of study will be Communications. My principle interest is in changing societal attitudes towards environmental protection. Here in Alabama attitudes are strongly conservative, and the voters give coal mines and power carte blanche to pollute our streams and waterways. Alabama has the greatest amount of biodiversity in the entire country, yet consistently ranks among the worst in the nation for environmental protection.

It’s not just the state of Alabama that needs an attitude adjustment, either.
Environmental awareness is arguably the most international concern. With developing countries quickly progressing to become the worlds’ largest polluters, there is a mounting international pressure to create a sustainable future, and this cannot be done if the message is not communicated effectively. The single greatest failure of communication from the environmental community is the breakdown in the linking of environment and health: according to a 2007 World Health Organization study, 40% of deaths worldwide are caused by pollution, yet most people associate environmental protection with endangered snow owls and cave shrimp.

This is why I want to go to school. This is what I want to change. This is my role in the world.

In my application, I have expressed interest in the Universität Erfurt, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, University of the Philippines Los Baños, Universität Salzburg, and Universität Wien. Each has been selected because it will not only provide me a top-notch education in the field of Communications, but because each culture has something new and unknown to offer. Austria, Germany, and the Philippines are all renowned for their wonderfully pleasant people.

The University of the Philippines Los Baños offers the world’s premier Developmental Communications program. Developmental Communications is the practice of applying the strategies and principles of Communications to bring about positive social change. I have two reasons for wanting to study in the Philippines. As I said, they have an outstanding Communications program. Also, because the majority of Philippinos speak English, I would be able to strike up friendship with residents of Los Baños. One of the most biodiverse countries in the world, the Philippines is an excellent location to continue my studies.

Two German institutions located in Erfurt and Münster are listed as well. I hope to study in Germany not only because I plan to improve my German speaking skills, but also because of its international excellence in environmental protection. I will bring back to America the communication strategies used in Germany to more effectively promote pro-environmental policies.

According to the CHE University ranking found on the DAAD website, Universität Erfurt is one of the top rated universities in the country with an internationally renowned Comunications department. Its strong emphasis in intercultural and political communications is essential to enact real social change and promote Rotary International’s goal of addressing the huanitarian needs of the world. One of the smaller towns in Germany, Erfurt is tourist hot spot, and most of its tourists come from other areas of Europe.

The Westfälische Wilhelms-Univerität Münster has a strong emphasis on technology and political communication. Again, one cannot separate politics from environmental policy, and my work history in IT will mean that I have necessary experience to successfully implent new technologies in spreading the message of international environmental cooperation.

In Austria, the two institutions I would like to study at are the Univerität Wien in Vienna and the Univerität Salzburg in Salzburg.

Vienna is one of the most environmentally conscious cities in the entire world, and in this city specifically I would like to target my volunteer efforts at coordinating with the city government’s „Vienna, Naturally“ environmental awareness program. The Univerität Wien specializes in intercultural communications and boasts an enormous student body, where I would interact with students all over the world.

By European standards, the city of Salzburg is small. Only the fourth-largest city in the country of Austria, Salzburg is primarily known as the birthplace of Mozart. Salzburg certainly gets ist share of American tourists, but I would hate for the city’s impression of Americans to be only from our tourists. With a small student body of only 11,000, there aren’t many Americans residing in Salzburg. Were I to study at the University of Salzburg, I could use the University’s Center for Advanced Studies and Research in Information and Communication Technologies & Society, a research center dedicated to enacing positive social change, to further my goal of understanding the communication techniques needed to communicate across across cultures the link between environmental degradation and health risks.

One way I plan to bring American culture abroad is through my cooking. Having worked in restaurants most of my adult life, I’ve developed a passion for cooking, and hope to bring real Southern food wherever I go. I already hold regular dinner parties in my apartment now, and will continue to do so wherever I go.

Another way I will make sure my friendships endure with the people I meet abroad is to encourage them to come back to America and stay with me, and keep them connected with friends of mine scattered across. As a native English speaker, I will be happy to help my fellow students with their English language studies and hope for them to do the same for me.

After graduation, I will start my search for graduate schools, where I can continue my studies in International, Intercultural, and Environmental Communication. The short list for where I hope to be accepted right now are the University of Denver, Cornell, George Washington University, and Oregon University.

Ultimately, I hope for my career to bring me to a job as Director of Communications for an international environmental advocacy group such as the World Wildlife Fund or even to serve as a campaign lobbyist for groups like the Center for Climate Strategies, which is focused on helping the United States, Canada, and Mexico confront problems such as global warming and the need for clean energy and a safe environment.

Too many people around the world are dying from our increasingly polluted environment, and part of the problem is an unfocused communications strategy by movement that has been poisoned by a negative public image.

If you see fit to grant me this scholarship, I offer my promise to do everything in my power to promote Rotary International’s goal of bringing about positive change for everyone on this planet. I will not only to reach out to the culture of the city I am placed, but to bring some of it with to me, and use my education to put myself in a position where I can bring about positive social change, and encourage responsible use of the environment not just in Alabama but everywhere I go.

Thank you for taking the time to consider me as a candidate for the Ambassadorial Scholarship.

Well, whattya think?

I would move the part about your family’s finances and your mother’s illness toward the end. I also would reconsider the dressing down you give Alabama. What if the person who reads your essay is from Alabama?

Isn’t it “Filipinos,” not “Philippinos”? Or has that changed?

I agree with Gus; dissing Alabama doesn’t really address Program Objective #3: "improving the quality of life for the people of [your] home communit[y]. It’s bad about the pollution, but what is your study abroad going to do to help that? I would continue your sentence ending “clean energy and a safe environment” with how that will ultimately help your home and neighbors back in Alabama. Your achieving your goal of being a lobbyist or director of communications will complete the circle that began in your economically challenged home state.

I would change “real Southern food” to “real Southern hospitality.” There’s more to it than food.

You want to change “worlds’ largest polluters” to “world’s largest polluters,” add an “m” to ‘communications’ in the sentence beginning “According,” add an “a” before “tourist hot spot,” add a “t” in “enacting” after “Communication Technologies & Society,” and lower-case “communications” where it stands alone.

I don’t understand the sentence “With a small student body of only 11,000, there aren’t many Americans residing in Salzburg”; do you mean there are 11,000 American students and no other Americans, or 11,000 Americans and most of them are students, or what? The meaning is just not clear to me.

I’d also drop or change the line about Alabaman’s being conservatives who vote for polluting the enviroment. Besides being Alabamans, you have a good probability that the people who dole out these funds are conservatives. It might be better to talk about how things have improved in Alabama enviromentally, and how you’d like to expand that globally.


Thanks for the tips, guys. I can see where my meaning got skewed and I got off-topic. I’ll try to keep things a bit more obviously positive. If I get this, everybody’s got a free place to stay.

On the whole, I thought it was pretty good. My comments are below. Feel free to take them with a grain of salt - I didn’t read the full requirements page you linked to.

I would make it more concise - shorter, definite writing makes for more powerful prose. Also, don’t use passive writing wherever you can avoid it - it undermines your point. Your first sentence is a good example: “I firmly believe that I should be considered…” It’s a given that you believe you should be considered, or you wouldn’t be applying; also, saying “I should be considered” makes the entity doing the action (considering) ambiguous. Try, “The Rotary International should consider me because…”

Also, when writing a professional or academic essay, it’s best not to use colloquialisms. Statements like “Times are getting lean,” that your family is “racking up” bills, that your savings are “drying up” etc. could be rephrased. For example,

The following paragraph:

The information for this scholarship couldn’t have come at a better time. Although I have been fortunate enough to have the support of my mother and grandmother for my entire life, times are getting lean with the credit crisis. Combined, they have been in the real estate business for over seventy years and both agree that this is the worst year either of them has ever seen. Our savings have dried up with my mother racking up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills from some undiagnosable illness.

Could read:
The opportunity to apply for this scholarship couldn’t have come at a better time. While I have been fortunate enough to have my mother and grandmother’s support, the credit crisis and housing bubble have severely affected my family’s finances. Combined, my mother and grandmother have been in real estate for more than seventy years. Both agree that this is the worst year they have ever seen. Additionally, my mother has accumulated a significant amount of medical bills thanks to an undiagnosable illness.

Also, I agree with those who have recommended that you not dis Alabama - using the term “attitude adjustment” sounds kind of condescending.

And, what do you mean by this sentence: Environmental awareness is arguably the most international concern. The most inernational concern of what? Then the next sentence includes “progressing to become.” Again, keep it short as possible and direct - developing countries become or are becoming if you must, but progressing to become is redundant.

Plus, the next paragraph says that “In my application I’ve expressed interest.” Can you say, “I’m interested in…”? Also, “wonderfully pleasant” is redundant. And you might want to consider rephrasing that - the people of Barbados are renowned for their hospitality, or something else that gets your point across without making the people there sound like an anthropologlical curiosity.

Also, is the point of the grant to “bring American culture abroad?” Is that your community service project - cooking? I think that’s cool, but you don’t clearly spell that out in the essay. If that’s not your community service project, you might consider elaborating on that more.

Oh, and your short list of grad schools includes or is, not are.

And at the end, don’t “offer your promise,” instead “promise.”

A simple search of a few key words in your essay might bring prospective colleges to this site, and your identity. So be careful what you say under your screen name. :slight_smile:

(Or they might suspect that you stole it from the OPer.)

Good advice, OverlyVerbose. :stuck_out_tongue:

The rest of the suggestions are spot on. Hindsight is 20/20, and I feel kinda dumb for not having seen everything mentioned. But I guess that’s what a second (and third, and fourth, and eleventh) pair of eyes are for.

Don’t feel dumb at all. It’s just hard to edit your own work. Most people I know in real life who proclaim themselves writers don’t write as coherently as you have in your essay.

The good people at the rotary club, who are beautiful and kind and wise, are free to google what they will. I just hope they don’t find out that I think they’re all handsome, with intelligent and successful children. That would be embarassing.

In the third paragraph, I believe the correct word is “principal” not “principle” and in the ninth paragraph, you’ve misspelled “humanitarian.” That’s all I’ve got! :slight_smile: I wish you luck!

Okay, I lied! :smiley: I’ve got just a *bit *more: in the 10th paragraph, “implement” is misspelled, in the 12th paragraph, there’s something weird goin’ on (I think) with the quotation marks around “Vienna, Naturally,” in the 13th you’ve typed “ist” instead of “its” and finally, in the 2nd to last paragraph, the following doesn’t grok quite right: “but to bring some of it with to me.” I’ll leave the punctuation to someone far better at this than I (paging Twiks!) I’ll shut up now. :o

I caught most of the spelling errors. MS Word thought I was writing in German, and I was too frustrated to figure out how to change that, so just left it as is, planning on changing it later. Thanks for the reminder.

Say something about being on the brink of a global shift in attitudes about the environment and sustainability.

[Strongbad] Also, give yourself a cool nickname like “The Yellow Dart” [/SB]

Overall it’s pretty good. I agree with what the others have said about more positive wording - rather than fixing bad things done by bad people, phrase to it’s more about educating about the importance of environmental issues, and improving the environment.

The paragraph about your financial situation should be moved towards the end, and be more about you doing your part to help your family than about how bad your family has it.

And I would try and talk about what project or volunteering you would work on in the Philippines.

I don’t see anything in the guidelines about establishing your financial need for a scholarship. Unless I misseed it, you should just eliminate the stuff about the realy business being bad and you family being unable to support you as they would like.

And your very first sentence – you are already placing your name for consideration for the scholarship by submitting the application. I would start off with something along thelines of, “I was so pleased to learn of your Scholarship fund because it intersects so perfectly with my own goals blah blah blah…”

Do not use the phrase “undiagnosable illness”. If you must refer to her illness at all, and I don’t think you do. refer to it as “yet to be diagnosed”, or just plain “illness”.

Avoid any references to conservative and liberal, and I agree with others, don’t trash Alabama.

Germany isn’t well known for it’s wonderfully pleasant people. It’s known for Nazis and bondage porn!

I think your essay is just okay. It’s well-written and entirely serviceable, but it doesn’t make me want to pick you because it doesn’t give me a sense of who you are.

The weakest point to me is when you talk about the different universities you are interested in. Something feels off. Like there are too many options, and there isn’t really a coherent thread running through it. I don’t “get” it. Which sucks, because this part takes up the biggest part of the essay. I’d tighten and consolidate this part. It’s okay to lump things together. You need to look like you have a plan and each of the schools would fit into that plan. Make this part more focused and less random.

The opening is also weak. I’d start with some short heart-tugging story about the day you learned you wanted to devote your life to the environment. Or at least some alarming statistics. Whoever is reading this is going to be reading thousands of essays. You’ll need to work to keep their attention. The opening paragraph is where you need to start painting a picture in their mind. And tie up that image in the closing paragraph. You need these readers to fall in love with you and your vision. It’s more than just checking off the requirements they give you.

I also noticed a lot of passive voice and poorly constructed sentences. Keep things short and to the point. Be clear and forceful. And watch out for stupid mistakes- like where you imply that you’d appreciate it if the good citizens of your host country could help you with your English.

Anyway, remember, show don’t tell. Keep things as simple and forceful as possible. Let them see the real you.

Good luck!

Sentence level stuff…my general belief is that those who have to read these appreciate conciseness and clarity above all else. If you don’t need a word, leave it out and by all means, shorten and tighten where you can.

I don’t have a style book around, but I learned that the only time you capitalize a subject is when it’s a language. “French, Spanish, English, algebra, history, science…communication.” The term shows up many times in here, and in variations via the subtypes. Double check me and get it right every time so you don’t get it wrong every time.

Now you know what I think. :smiley:

The English needs to be significantly tidied up. Just at a glance:

Add bolds, delete parentheticals.

This entire paragraph needs rewriting. The first sentence I don’t really understand. The third has no clear subject; what is combined, your mother and grandmother, or times and the credit crisis?

Your first sentence literally states that your field of study will be granted a scholarship, which is amusing but obviously not true. You mean “If I am granted this scholarship…” Getting away from style and into content, might I suggest you not slag your home state.

I’d suggest ending “…environment and health.” as a full sentence and continuing with a new sentence concerning the WHO study. The colon just looks clumsy. Also, same comment about slagging Alabama. The environment, and attitude adjustments related to it, are important issues everywhere.

This just strikes me as being lame. (I’ve also never heard this said of Austria.) If the best thing you can say about wanting to study in Germany as “I heard they’re nice” you need to find a better reason.

There’s something about that second sentence that strikes me as wrong but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Can this be better phrased?

Second sentence; you didn’t say it at all. You wrote it. And you shouldn’t use this anyway; don’t tell someone what you just told them. Find a more elegant way to repeat it.

The word for a resident of the Philippines is “Filipino.”

Delete parentheticals, add bolds.

  1. I don’t understand why anyone should care, and 2. It cannot possibly be true. There are 200,000 people in Erfurt. Even in a heavily populated country, I think I could find many smaller towns.

Again, the relevance is unclear.

Too long a sentence.

I like the first sentence, not the second.

Anyway, you see where I’m going. It needs some editing. It’s not bad, just reads like a first draft.

Alright guys, enough pickin’ on the “wonderfully pleasant” line. I was tired and my BS-ometer was already overloaded to maximum :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks for the specific recommendations, everyone. While a lot of places it may seem that I put in a lot of useless information, which I sort of did, I did it primarily to show that I’ve researched this application quite thoroughly and take it seriously. I’ll post the final draft tomorrow afternoon, to see what everyone thinks.

I sure am glad about bringing the application here, though: I’ve shown that essay to a couple of friends and all they could say was “looks good!”, which I knew was crap. I came here because I wasn’t proud of it, and appreciate everyone’s honesty and time.