What We Look For In A Scholarship Application

Our annual scholarship is due in a few short months, so we can only hope that scholarship applicants are gathering everything they need to submit their final project. 

Do you know what goes into choosing scholarship winners? A lot more than you think! Hours and hours of reading, re-reading, crowdsourcing from everyone in our company, and even late-night chats with family members discussing each individual applicant and what their project entails. Oh, and more re-reading of applications. Yes, that’s right. Every single application gets picked over, analyzed, and discussed, we take each application very seriously and everyone is considered, it’s not just a skim read of all of the information and picking and choosing what sounds good. When I say that we pour hours into this, I am very serious about it. 

So what exactly is it that we are looking for in your scholarship application? You can read an overview on our scholarship page, but here’s a deeper dive to help you see our thought process. 


1) The quality & quantity of work already completed

We want to see a quality project that has been given time and effort, meaning there is a large quantity of information we can see and read. Your project is your baby, you’ve put so much time and effort into it, but we know nothing about it! Paint us a picture of exactly what you’ve been working on, how you’ve achieved it, and your why behind starting the project in the first place. If it’s written well, we can hear the passion behind what you’re doing. And spoiler alert: we also pay attention to correct grammar and punctuation. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but it is something you should be mindful of when submitting. 

2) The potential for future long-term impact

Unless you are selected as the top winner winning the $5,000 grant toward your project to continue funding it, you are not required to continue your project after you have received your scholarship. However, we are more likely to choose the winners based on the likelihood of a continuing project that will keep impacting the community in a positive way. 

3) General community relevance of the project

Your project can be just for your school, your school district, or even more widespread in your community in some way. However, it needs to directly impact those in your neighborhood. Meaning, if you’re creating materials or resources for a third-world country, you will need to find a way to tie it back into your community. That can be by them volunteering to help with your project or having it impact them in some way, too. 


Finalists may also be asked for proposals on how they would use the $5,000 grant if selected as the top recipient, and the more specific those plans, the better (especially if they involve plans to seek additional funding or perpetuate the fund toward your project in the long term).

Once we’ve narrowed it down to our top projects, one final question to help us pick apart the final winners is based on how you answer our question about the $5,000 grant. It also helps us choose the grant winner as well. If asked this question by our team, take it very seriously! 

Other things we are looking for while choosing the winners: 

Completion of the project- If we have to track down your project information, pictures, videos, etc., it can be a red flag. Make sure all of your information is completed and in the final submission. 

Organization of project- If it’s jumbled and hard to pick out the information, it can be easy for us to overlook the project and not spend the time picking through all of the minute details. 

The passion- Again, we can tell in your submission how passionate you are about the subject based on how you present it to us. Show us your passion! Tell us what got you started with the project you are working on and what’s driving you to continue working on it. 

Take these tips and put them into your final project. I promise by doing so will help your application shine above the rest.

Scholarship Interview: Swetha, Ben, and Johnathan

This is part of a series of interviews with our scholarship recipients for our 2021 Build A Better Future scholarship sponsored by Honors Graduation. We hope you will find their stories as inspiring as we do! For information on our 2022 program, click here”. 

Introducing our next scholarship winners: a group of three working together on the same project and splitting the scholarship winnings. Swetha Palakur, Johnathan Polucha, and Ben Kim. These three high school students worked together on a project for their engineering class, where they specifically needed to come up with a solution to a problem. 

They chose to create a keyboard specifically for persons with Parkinson’s Disease and other similar, neurodegenerative diseases. The reason for choosing this group of people specifically was for two different reasons, first that they realize what vital importance of using a computer is in this day and age and they recognized the struggles those with PD have using a typical keyboard. And second, they had close family members with Parkinson’s Disease, meaning this project hit close to home for them. 

After creating their first humble prototype made of cardboard, they were able to meet with the head neurologist at the University of California Irvine. She gave them great insight into how the minds and bodies of those with PD work, as well as some feedback on their prototype. One worry Ben, Swetha, and Johnathan had was that the keyboard would be too complicated to figure out, but she reassured them that it would be a great cognitive and problem-solving practice for the PD patients. 

After more teacher and peer feedback, more prototypes, and working out some wiring issues, they were able to create a functioning keyboard! Ben, Swetha, and Johnathon hope to someday patent their keyboards and spread them to Parkinson’s Disease patients all over. 

Ben is attending Princeton University, Swetha is attending the University of California, and Johnathan is attending Oregon State University. 

#TeacherMom Thoughts on Underestimating Our Kids

underestimating our kids

A month before my daughter’s 2nd birthday I researched the best gift to give her. I didn’t want more pointless toys to fill her room and never be played with, so I set out to give her the perfect gift. Through all of my research and talking with friends, I finally found the perfect gift! A balance bike. If you’re not familiar with a balance bike, it’s a two wheeler bike that kids pump with their feet instead of pedals. The idea behind a balance bike is that it teaches kids how to balance on a bike instead of relying on training wheels, making the transition to a standard two wheel pedal bike that much easier. 

The first day we got the bike my daughter was so excited! However, upon attempting to ride the bike, she quickly became frustrated because she couldn’t do it. So naturally, I became frustrated with myself that I tried to pick out the BEST gift, but it seemed to have flopped, because she didn’t like it and couldn’t do it. 

However, day after day, we practiced and practiced the bike. We had many walks around the neighborhood and bike rides with friends and eventually it was starting to click. It absolutely did not happen overnight, but it did happen! She then continued to ride the balance bike for a year and a half after that original day of her looking at it reluctantly, and I was proud of the progress she had made. 

Eventually, she became very adept on her balance bike and started noticing that other, older kids were riding pedal bikes. Naturally, she started asking for one. I was hesitant to agree, because of her age. She was only 3.5 years old! I continued to say no to her day after day, all the while, she kept asking. 

Finally, I found a second-hand pedal bike equipped with training wheels within our budget and caved, mostly because it had the training wheels. I figured it would give her a chance to learn how to pedal on a bike, since she had not learned that yet. 

When I came home with the bike, she immediately grabbed her helmet and took off. It only took a second of fumbling with the pedals before she figured it out, and off she went. She rode two houses down, turned around, and came right back. I was BAFFLED. It almost felt like my eyes and brain weren’t working. Was I really watching my daughter effortlessly ride a pedal bike? Granted, with training wheels, but I was still thoroughly impressed. 

The next day when we got the bike out again to ride again, I noticed that the training wheels weren’t actually hitting the ground much, she was mostly riding the bike herself, and when I addressed it with her, she told me she needed them and couldn’t ride without them on. It took a lot of talking and convincing and discussion, but eventually she let us take the training wheels off. Then, I did what a lot of parents do with their kids. I stooped over and I held the back of her seat and one handlebar while she slowly gained her balance, straightened the bike out, and continued to ride as my hands loosened grip and eventually let go. The moment I let go I knew it was a ride or die moment. She would either continue pedaling and fly, or realize what was happening and crash. I held my breath to see what would happen…. 

And she did it! She continued to pump her feet and steer the bike with the perfection that any 3.5 year old could have. I was so proud of her! And again, I honestly could not believe my eyes. 

That night I was reflecting on the situation and absolutely in awe that my 3 year old could ride a two-wheeler pedal bike by herself. I distinctly remember when I learned to ride a bike, I was in first grade and boasted to all of my 6 year old friends about it the next day at school. How did my child learn to ride a bike at half that age? 

When it boils down to it- I underestimated her. In my mind, I believed that kids learn to ride a bike around kindergarten to first grade, and even though I set up my child for success by providing her with a balance bike at a young age, I still could not wrap my mind around the fact that she had the ability to do this on her own. From the very first time I shut down her idea of a pedal bike, I was shutting down the idea that she was capable. 

What else was I underestimating my kids on? Definitely their ability to climb a ladder. Or anytime I called out “be careful” while they were on a playground. Why was I forcing them to live in this idealistic box of how old they had to be to climb a ladder or ride a bike? Because it was for my own comfort. I wasn’t prepared to see them fail, but we all know that we can’t find success without a little failure. 

In a classroom setting, are we underestimating our kids? Are we sticking to our curriculum, and robbing them of the opportunity to see how far their learning can take them? What discussions are we having with them to think deeper and continue beyond the test? 

In the end, we need to stop underestimating our kids. We need to give them the benefit of the doubt and see how far their minds and bodies can take them, because they may just soar. Or take off steadily on a pedal bike! You never know until you give them the opportunity to show you. 

Teaching Perceivers: Using MBTI In The Classroom

This post is part of a series of posts on teaching to different personality type indicators as found in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. To see more, head here.

In the Myers-Briggs world, Judging vs Perceiving is how we interact with the outside world. Between the two, we will use both of them, but our natural instincts are to move toward one versus the other. This post is focusing on the Perceiving types in the classroom. 

Traits that can define a Perceiver: 

Flexible and spontaneous. 

Ready to adapt to whatever the world brings. 

Can seem messy, unorganized, or sporadic. 

They wait until the last minute to do their school work. Nearing deadlines are the best motivation for them! 

Perceiving types do not like to organize the world, they want the world to organize them. They are going to be your students with messy desks, typically turning in their assignments late, and paying little attention to the clock. They like to feel the room, watch their surroundings, and make decisions as they go, instead of lining it all out ahead of time. 

Ways to support a Perceiving type in the classroom- First and foremost, respect them! Perceiving types can get a bad rap because they do not follow social norms. However, this is their preferred way to interact with the world and will thrive if allowed to be themselves. Try to give them gentle reminders about deadlines, important dates, and events, if possible. 

Ways you can help a Perceiving type grow in the classroom- Give them hard, fast deadlines and hold them to it! Line out the daily schedule and be consistent with it so they can stay on track, but be respectful of their need to adapt to changing situations. 

A common misconception is that Perceiving types are not organized or do not have a plan. To Judging types, this seems sensible! However, they do have an organization system and they do have a plan, it only looks different from what you are expecting it to be. 

In my personal opinion, the Judging/Perceiving types are two opposite types that I believe can be the hardest types to understand each other when we are the opposite types. I am very much a Judging type, but I have many close friends and family that are Perceiving types. It’s frustrating for me that they will not create a plan and stick with it in our day to day interactions. While on the other hand, they become frustrated with me because I am constantly pushing them to make a plan, but they function with a go-with-the-flow attitude. 

That’s why I believe understanding these types in the classroom is essential for success! It can be helpful as a teacher to understand the opposite types so that when you inevitably end up with kids in your classroom that do not interact with the world the way you do, you can understand why and appreciate them for what they do. 

Senior’s Corner

Making the transition of graduating high school to starting college can be overwhelming and scary and full of long to-dos. Where do you turn for help?!

We’ve made a page just for you!

Click the link above to check it out! Here’s a sneak peak:

Lots of tips on interviews, in-person, on the phone, and on a video chat.

A post on handling senioritis (it hits everyone!)

And a link to our 2021 Scholarship.

This page will be growing as we work to write up more posts for you that will be useful to you seniors. Share with a friend that may need it too!

What else do you hope to see on our Senior’s Corner page?

A Season For Voting Is A Season For Books

The election is *almost* over. I don’t think any of us were ready for election week instead of election day, but it’s 2020, what else can you expect?

Have you been talking to your students about the election? Explain electoral votes? Show them the red and blue maps across the country? Talk about what policies are and what each candidate is promising?

What better way to teach about a big, historical event with some picture books! Here are a few of my favorite.

Grace For President

Vote For Our Future!

Equality’s Call

The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents

What have you been doing with your students during this election week? What other books have you read to them?

Check Out Our 2020 Scholarship Winners!

Did you know that every year our company, Honors Graduation, gives away $50,000 in scholarship money to graduating high school seniors to use towards college tuition? They are able to fund this by cord sales each year.

If you are a graduating 2021 high school senior you can qualify for this scholarship as well! Read all about our scholarship here.

Also, if you’re looking for some uplifting stories to read about, check out our past scholarship winners. You can see work from when this scholarship originally started up until this year’s 2020 winners. From providing masks to low income students, to a safe platform for special needs students to connect online, these high school seniors have set the bar high! It is an honor that we can help them in a way to continue their education into college and watch as they continue to do more for our communities by building a better future.

How have you personally designed a better future for your community? Is there a high school senior you can share this scholarship with?