What Applicants Should Not Do
In Spanish, mal means “bad.” In the list of scholarship application don'ts, it still means bad—and a whole lot more. That's right, it's time for another acronym—MAL. The letters MAL stand for the three “big, bad things” that any and all scholarship applicants should avoid doing, at all costs—”Misrepresentation, Assuming, and Lying.” These three little sins can be seriously tough temptations sometimes, but they will do more harm than good—so be strong.
Miss Representation—She's Not a Beauty Queen
Do not misrepresent yourself on scholarship or college admissions essays. When applicants do this, it can often be very obvious to the reader of their applications. (Yes, that includes the person who decides whether to award you any financial aid.) Before you start listing every activity you can think of, ask yourself honestly whether you are genuinely involved and even interested in the things that you plan to write about. You might find that you're just trying to make an impression or fill up space on the application. For example, if you write that you are a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, then you should have been involved regularly. If you gave up one Saturday morning way back in your freshman year, you probably shouldn't list this as one of your volunteer/community service activities.
Many universities and scholarship committees encourage you to include a video or other multimedia materials with your application. Remember, admissions and scholarship administrators sometimes go through thousands of applications each year. A video resume could help them to remember a student they might have otherwise inadvertently overlooked.
Don't Assume You Know What They Want
You should be an active participant in different kinds of activities because you enjoy them or (more importantly) because they give you a sense of fulfillment or personal satisfaction—not because you think it will make you look good on your college admission or scholarship applications. There are no secret clubs or activities that all (or even most) college administrators or scholarship donors look for on applications. Don't assume that there is any one thing that you must be involved with in order to receive a scholarship.
Remember that activities are not restricted to the high school campus. Applicants should be sure to include anything they participate in outside of school. A part-time job, church or charity activities, or any other form of community involvement should be included on your list of activities and interests.
Lying—Save It for April Fool's Day!
The one thing you absolutely want to avoid doing is making up information. For example, do not write on your application that you spent the last two years as the captain of the local chess team when, in all actuality, there is no local chess team. You may figure that since there was no team, it would be impossible for the administrators or donors to be sure you are telling the truth. True, your lie may slip by. But what will you do when, two years later, it is discovered that you lied on your application? When they expel you from school, yank your scholarship, and demand to be paid back what you have been awarded already, what are you going to do? Maybe you should rethink inventing that chess team before it's too late.