Don’t Fear the “No”: Applying for Scholarships

ScholarshipsI 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 won the Runner Up E. Nelson James Junior Scholarship. If I hadn’t applied, if I had given in to the fear of the “no,” then it’s certain: I wouldn’t have won that $1,500 scholarship!

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.”

SGardener in KY

Gardener in Louisville, KY, for the Sigma Tau Delta 2017 International Convention.

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.”

Bonus Scholarship TipI forgot to read my essay aloud.

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.”

SGardener-Deadwood Half

Gardener after completing the 2017 Deadwood Half Marathon.

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!

sgardenerStephanie Gardener
Student Representative, High Plains Region, 2017-2018
Sigma Beta Chapter, Vice President
Chadron State College, Chadron, NE

Spring 2018 Round Scholarships Due April 9

Scholarships and Academic Awards
AwardSpring Application Page
Application Essay Prompts
Tips for Winning Applications

4 Ways Writing Unlocks the World

Writing opens the door to infinite opportunities. Keep reading to see how my experience with writing as a creative writing student, English instructor, and Sigma Tau Delta member has unlocked the world for me.

Shannon Nakai-Writing1. Sharing Cultural Perspectives

From a writer’s perspective, I cherish both the labor and fruits of writing for the stories they reap. As a current English instructor, I read journal entries and essays by dozens of students each semester and learn that nearly everyone has something to add to the human narrative. (That’s one reason I love reading the Humans of New York and spinoff Humans of Sigma Tau Delta articles.) The human population is diverse and teeming with ideas and different ways to interpret life, through culture and communication. The literature and poetry they produce serves as a threshold between cultures and time periods; from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Salman Rushdie or Marilynne Robinson (personal favorites), the stories reflect thoughts, experiences, traditions (and the challenges of).

2. Building Relationships

Writing also serves as a means of connection. In an age when we are exposed to information constantly through social media and news, from the microcosmic level of our friends’ lives and community events to a broader exchange through globalization, writing channels this dissemination of ideas. We can join an international discourse of literature, politics, medicine, technology, and so forth. As a teacher, I help develop the voices of the next generation of young professionals. Whether they pursue academics or not, they are equipped to articulate their ideas, formulate projects, request funding, document research, and problem solve.

3. Accelerating Careers

Library of Celsus in Ephesus, Turkey-Writing

Library of Celsus in Ephesus, Turkey

After graduation, I had the fantastic opportunity to be a Fulbright Scholar in Turkey. To achieve this high accomplishment, I had to communicate both my abilities and my reasons for obtaining government funds to live and work abroad for a year. Having honed an articulate and representative voice on paper, I could explain my interest in working with people from particular regions of the world, the skills I had to offer, and future goals. When I returned to the States, I faced the harsh reality of an anemic job market. In an age when everything is going digital, I knew I would not get a phone call or an initial interview with companies; the only way potential employers would “meet” me was through my writing. I had to give a virtual “introduction” of myself through e-mails and cover letters, as will many future graduates. I had to find a way to adhere to structure and simultaneously be unique and memorable. While the world of job-hunting can be hit-or-miss, I was able to attain an incredible internship with an independent publishing company, whose editor was in Berlin at the time. Through writing, we forged a relationship that led to a wonderful and marketable experience.

4. Engendering Multi-Modal Creativity

Charles Baxter and Shannon Nakai-Writing

Charles Baxter and Shannon Nakai

While not everyone feels compelled to write the next great American novel, I see a growing trend in writing as the vessel for self-expression and -exploration: the number of blogs chronicling life events, the articles people write—whether free-lance or professional—innovative forms of poetry, creative screenplays or teleplays, songwriting, journaling, as well as the publication of short stories and novels, give rise to a burgeoning market for independent and self-publishing companies. Getting one’s ideas “out there” can lead to change, as well as exciting opportunities for the writer! Sigma Tau Delta’s international convention, for one, is a storehouse of ideas and creativity, where writers across the globe converge with essays, stories, poems, and roundtable discussions on various topics, as well as meet other famous writers! (I had the privilege of meeting Charles Baxter at the 2016 Convention in Minneapolis.)

Writing is a legacy we’ve inherited from a vast canon of culture and narratives; in this generation we will each find a way to add our voice and story using the constantly changing but time-old medium of writing.

SNakaiShannon Nakai
Student Representative, High Plains Region, 2015-2016
Alpha Theta Omicron Chapter
Wichita State University, Wichita, KS

7 Reasons You Should Apply for Sigma Tau Delta’s Journal Internship

I worked as one of two interns on Sigma Tau Delta’s journals, The Sigma Tau Delta Review and The Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle from May 2016 through January 2017. It was an amazing opportunity that allowed me to practice the skills I want to develop as an editor: reading submissions, copy editing, proofreading, and designing layout. I enjoyed this internship and I think you will too! Here’s why you should apply for the journal internship.

1) Gain Experience Working and Editing Remotely

journal internship work remotelyMany freelance editors and writers must learn how to work remotely and communicate through email, text messages, and Skype. This can take some adjusting if you’re used to working in an office or on a campus where you can talk face-to-face with people. This internship provides over six months of experience to develop your telecommunication skills.

2) Learn Multiple Stages of the Editorial Process

Maybe you’ve edited articles for your campus literary magazine, but you haven’t designed an entire project using InDesign. Maybe you’ve worked with InDesign before, but you’ve never read submissions and helped with the selection process. This internship gives you experience in all of those things, which means you’re learning how to do new things, or you’re practicing things you already have some experience in. Real-world experience is something you can’t gain in the classroom, but an internship like this allows you to practice these skills in a friendly and helpful environment—if you have questions, the managing editor is ready to help, and you’ll learn helpful tips from your fellow intern as well!

3) Learn to Pace Yourself and Meet Deadlines

journal workshop to doThis internship is spread out from April through December, but each stage of the publishing process has deadlines you must meet. The work comes in chunks—reading submissions for a few weeks, copy editing selections, fixing citations and quotes on critical essays, and designing layout. You must be able to prioritize the internship work to meet deadlines. It’s hard, especially when you’re balancing other internships, jobs, schoolwork, and extracurricular activities. However, learning to manage deadlines and possible setbacks during various stages of the publishing process is worth it!

4) Broaden your Sigma Tau Delta Network

Although I’m involved in our campus activities, I hadn’t been involved in anything Sigma Tau Delta-related beyond my campus. This internship gave me the opportunity to work with others in the Sigma Tau Delta network, like the other intern and our managing editor. I also read submissions from Sigma Tau Delta members from across the Society. Connecting with members outside my own campus and participating in Sigma Tau Delta’s journals both were such beneficial experiences.

5) Beef up your Résumé

This internship looks amazing on your résumé! It spans more months than a typical semester- or summer-long internship, which looks impressive because it shows you were able to commit to a long-term project. It also indicates you gained experience in several aspects of editing, which means you’re versatile, flexible, and willing to learn new things.

6) Money, Money, Money!

It pays $1,500. That’s right, it’s a paid internship in the publishing industry! That’s incredible. What’s more incredible is that the pay is more than most paid internships in the publishing industry, and you don’t even have to go into an office every day—you can do this internship in your pajamas. The generous payment for this internship makes it one of the most worthwhile experiences I’ve had so far as I begin my career in editing.

7) The Journal Internship Is Fun

I loved reading all of the creative non-fiction essays, fiction, poetry, and yes, even critical essays from Sigma Tau Delta members. Some of it was really good and some of it wasn’t great, but it was enjoyable. I also loved copy editing and proofreading the selected pieces, and working on layout was challenging but enjoyable. If you like reading creative and academic writing, if finding a misplaced comma excites you, if perfecting the formatting of a poem leaves you satisfied, you’ll love this internship.Journal Internship Is Fun

So, what are you waiting for? Start drafting your cover letter and tighten up your résumé because applications are due March 20.


Sigma Tau Delta Journals
Journal Internship Description and How to Apply

Carolina VonKampen
Sigma Tau Delta Journal Internship Recipient, 2016
Rho Omicron Chapter, Chapter President
Concordia University, Nebraska, Seward, NE