I almost didn’t apply for any of Sigma Tau Delta’s scholarships last year. It’s a scary thing, putting yourself out there. But in the field of English, putting yourself out there and risking rejection is a part of life. Because here’s the thing: you can’t win if you don’t apply.
I hope you’re convinced about applying for Sigma Tau Delta’s amazing scholarships now. But to give you some helpful tips for preparing your application, I interviewed Dr. Kimberly Cox, one of last year’s judges and Sponsor of the Tau Epsilon Chapter at Abilene Christian University. Here are four tips from this pro.
1. “Be an active participant both in your local community and in the Sigma Tau Delta community.”
According to Cox, this applies to all of Sigma Tau Delta’s scholarships, although it’s particularly important when applying for the William C. Johnson Distinguished Scholarship.
Prior to the application deadline, I sought out additional opportunities for school and club involvement and kept track of those activities, so I had the necessary information on hand when I applied. I judged high school writing competitions, took the post of Vice President of my Sigma Tau Delta chapter, and accepted the position of editor for Chadron State College’s literary journal.
It’s hard to be motivated to do more when you’re already a hardworking student chasing good grades and dreaming of another triple-shot latte. But all that extra effort pays off.
2. “I’d recommend that you find out the [scholarship] information early and give yourself as much time as possible to work toward that goal. Start now! Applications are due April 9!”
I admit it. I stalked the Sigma Tau Delta webpage. Create your AwardSpring account early so that you can see everything that you will need to fill out. Find out what the essay prompt is and meditate on the topic—that way you can put yourself into it.
I’m grateful for all the time I spent preparing my application ahead of time. The weekend that the application was due I had strep throat and a fever of 104. Life gets in the way—plan ahead.
3. “Give yourself plenty of time to write, to edit, and to share your work.”
It had been proofread by three different people at that point, so I thought it was good. Perfect, even.
So, imagine my chagrin when I got up at my chapter’s open mic night to read my amazing, perfect, grammatically correct essay to find a big, stinky error right in the middle of all that awesome!
And yes, it was after my application had been submitted. In addition to taking the time to edit—don’t skip the basics. Read your essay aloud for errors.
4. On recommendation letters: “Always, always, just ask. I will always be busy. What I love most about this job is to work with my students and to help them succeed. Sit down with your professors and ask if they feel that they would be able to write you a strong letter of recommendation that speaks to X, Y and Z. The goal behind the letter is to flesh out all the other information that you’ve provided to help give [the judges] information about you.”
A surfeit of professors have donated their time to my academic success. Yet, I still find myself worrying about bothering my professors when I ask for a recommendation. Again, don’t fear the “no”! If they don’t have time they will tell you, because most professors want the best for their students.
Give them the information that they need to write you informative letters of recommendation. I run half-marathons that contribute to charity. That information was in my reference letters because I told my recommenders about it
So, take the chance. Ask for the recommendation. Apply for the scholarship. You never know what might happen!