Scholarships – Worth applying again

Last week I got some good news. A scholarship application I had submitted had been accepted. I was stunned when I found out. I have applied for this scholarship every year. This past year was my 5th time applying. You read that right, 5th time!

After four years of rejections, I was expecting another one this year. It has been a long and frustrating road to get to this point. I was sick of applying and ready to give up. This past year it was a relief when the application was finally submitted because it was the last year I would be eligible to apply.

I would say that my application didn’t change much over the years, but as I look back, I suppose it changed more than I realized. A lot of the changes just come from having been a grad student for longer.

  • Each year that went by I usually had more grades to include (first those from my undergrad, then undergrad + Masters, and finally undergrad + Masters + PhD).
  • I have been fortunate to have been awarded some scholarships from my university over the last few years. One trick about scholarships, is that the more you have, the more you get.
  • My proposed research changed slightly between my Masters and PhD. However my last two applications had very similar proposals.
  • My reference letters changed in a couple of ways. First, my references had known me longer each year I applied. And this past year I changed one of my references.
  • The first couple of times I applied, I didn’t have any publications and hadn’t been to any conferences. As the years went by this changed.

Every years as I started filling out the forms, and asking people to be references, I’d hear the same lines over and over again. “Everyone who applies gets it.” “As long as your GPA is above x, you’ll get it.” And every year I’d prove them wrong when I’d get my rejection. The most honest piece of advice I’ve ever heard about scholarships came from a professor I know. He told me that he’s seen people who don’t deserve them get them, and people who do deserve them not get them.

Applying for scholarships can be as stressful and depressing as submitting papers for publication. But I can say that I’m proof that you should apply every year you’re eligible. You never know if this year is your year. And, like hockey great Wayne Gretzky said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” (Or, in this case, 100% of the scholarships you don’t apply for.)


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