by Bonnie Raskin, Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship Manager
As the Program Manager for the Caroline D. Bradley (CDB) Scholarship program, I’ve been asked by prospective applicants how to “best” prepare their application so that it not only gets read, but stands out. There really are no gimmicks or tricks to this, but there are effective guidelines that I’ve seen throughout my 12 years at IEA that I’m happy to share:
- Take the application instructions and directions seriously.
Allow plenty of time to complete your application, so you have time to review and double-check it. Stay within the maximum word counts for your essays and short answers. This lets our selection committees know that you understand and know how to follow directions. Don’t include extra items if specifically given number limits in certain categories such as recommendations. The CDB Scholarship asks for two recommendations. We know that you’re a spectacular applicant, but, again, this falls under the follow directions rule of thumb.
- Start your preparation early.
Be mindful of the CDB application deadline. To ensure you meet the deadline, start gathering everything you need, begin brainstorming essay ideas and request letters of recommendation months ahead of time as a courtesy to your recommenders who more than likely have a lot in their schedules to take care of aside from your recommendation… and potentially for other program applicants in addition to yours.
Be sure to check the deadlines of upcoming ACT and SAT test dates and register as early as possible to be assured of your requested test date and the location of your test center. It also doesn’t hurt to do a “trial run” to the test site so you know in advance not only where it is but how long it will take to get you there, whether driving or on public transportation. The less stress you can put into test day realities, all the better for you to focus your energy on the test itself… and not on getting there.
- Choose recommenders wisely.
Make sure that your recommenders know you well enough to support a positive letter of recommendation that makes it clear they know you in the context in which they are writing your letter, and that they have the time to write and submit your recommendation in accordance with the deadline. It is YOUR responsibility to give your recommenders all of the necessary details and deadline information, not theirs to research. You do not want to make this process difficult for them, but should focus on presenting yourself in a positive light to any person willing to support your application. You can certainly provide your recommenders with details, as they may think highly of you but not remember your record-setting time in the 100 meter butterfly or the essay you had published in the school’s literary magazine. Many teachers and coaches routinely write multiple letters of recommendation over the course of an academic year. It’s fine if you supply them with appropriate data on YOU—which is not to say that you write your own recommendation for them to sign. Any recommender who asks you to do this is NOT a recommender that would be appropriate for you to utilize.
- Don’t lose focus of the detail.
Make sure that you know and are eligible for the specific requirements of the CDB Scholarship. Overlooking a direction or neglecting any of the submission requirements—i.e. not answering the required number of essay prompts, not submitting a work sample, not completing a parent or recommender statement—can disqualify an otherwise eligible applicant from consideration. Read the directions carefully, and don’t hesitate to reach out to a member of the CDB Scholarship team either by phone or e-mail if you have any questions.
- The seventh grader is the applicant- not your parent.
I’m going to let you in on an insider secret: no one on the CDB team wants to get a phone call from a prospective applicant’s parent that begins, “I’m filling out the application for my son/daughter…” unless their question specifically refers to the Parent Statement or general directions-related queries. The application is the responsibility of the student to complete. Yes—a parent or responsible adult can assist with making sure all elements of the application are in order, but it’s up to the actual applicant to be proactive when it comes to requesting the recommendations, school transcript and all of the essay writing and submission of activities, work sample, etc.
- Stay organized.
Keep track of various deadlines and test days with your planner or a calendar app. It’s also a good idea to keep an online or paper folder with all of the components of the scholarship application as “saved” documents prior to submission, as well as the specific people and dates you’ve gone to for your recommendations and school transcripts. Stay on top of the application components that others are responsible for in a respectful manner which does not mean asking them every week if they’ve completed and submitted your materials. With the CDB application, you can check online under your name to see if and when outside pieces of your application have been submitted.
- Make sure you know the scholarship.
It’s irritating to a reader when an applicant misspells the name of the scholarship or mistakenly lists the incorrect name if they’re applying for multiple scholarships.
- Proof your work and have someone else review your application for errors.
It’s perfectly acceptable to ask another person—parent, teacher, older sibling—to read your work and ask for their input or to check your grammar and spelling. A second pair of eyes can often spot errors that you might have missed in the umpteenth reading of your work. But to be clear– this application should be the work, ideas and creative submission of the applicant who is a 7th grader, not that of an adult. Our readers are well versed in reviewing applications, and the “voice” we expect to be presented with is that of the student applicant, not an over-arching parent.
- Pay attention to presentation.
If you’ve written great essays and have followed all of the scholarship directives and guidelines but submit an application that is sloppy or not what should be considered as a final draft, you could jeopardize your chances of being a stand-out applicant. All things being equal, the student who submits a neat and professional looking application is going to have an advantage over what appears to be a rushed and not well-proofed submission.
- Be original.
Many of our readers say that a great essay opening line or a slice-of-life story captures their attention and makes that applicant memorable. Write about specific aspects, experiences, memories or moments of your life in your responses to the various prompts that are unique to you.
- Share your passions.
As important as your scholastic performance may be, we want to see what you do outside the classroom that has your interest and focus, which is why the CDB application asks for the time commitment and length of time that you’ve put into a particular commitment, as well as any leadership roles you have assumed in your extracurricular life. It’s fine to dabble in a lot of different pursuits, but the limited number of response slots on the CDB application are meant to reveal your passions— the areas that you have seriously devoted your out-of-school time, effort and outreach towards.
The Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship and the annual cohort of selected CDB Scholars takes into account more than an applicant’s numerics—grade point average and test scores. Our team looks at each application as an amalgam of the multiple aspects of what contributes to present you as an accomplished, multi-faceted, high-potential individual, which we hope is indicative of the CDB application in all of its component parts. We want you to be as engaged in the application process as we will be in its reading and getting to know you.
Interested in becoming a CDB Scholar? The 2018 application is now available. Apply by April 10, 2018.
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