Confessions of a Scholarship Chairperson

When I attended college, I had a friend tell me about a scholarship for sophomore students that I qualified for. She was part of the scholarship committee and gave me some insight into what exactly they were looking for in a scholarship applicant, so I had a really good chance at winning. 

I put in the work and applied, but ultimately, was denied. 

I was devastated. Why wouldn’t they choose me? If only a few people had applied and there were multiple winners, why wasn’t my application chosen? It was a really good scholarship application! I felt like they hadn’t even read what I had submitted or cared about the work I put into it. 

Fast forward several years later and I become the scholarship chairperson for Honors Graduation. It was exciting that I could be behind the scenes of a scholarship and have the opportunity to choose the winners! Little did I know what emotions were in store for me. 

Each year I read through so many scholarship applications and in the end I can only choose five. Five winners out of all of the applications we receive. 

What I didn’t realize when I applied for a scholarship of my own several years ago was how emotionally intensive it would be to read through so many hardworking, deserving students’ work and have to deny the majority of them. I’m sure when I applied for my scholarship years ago, I wasn’t actually “just another applicant” that they disregarded. Instead, I think my application was one that they poured over, read and re-read, discussed, and came to the conclusion that the scholarship wasn’t for me. 

Because I’ve been in those shoes now, doing the exact same thing with our scholarship applicants. 

Over the next two weeks, my time will be filled with reading and re-reading applications over and over and over until I nearly have them memorized. It’ll be time spent calling the applicant’s references to verify projects and hear what stellar and incredible students they are. My time will be spent building a bond with each of these students and their projects, just to have to make the hard decision at the end on which applicants are the top five and deserve the scholarship money. 

So when that hard rejection email hits your inbox, just know that it’s hard on our end to choose the winners, too. I’ve been on that end of rejection, and it hurts. But maybe it feels a little better to know that your application wasn’t thrown in the reject pile, but read over and over and appreciated, even if you didn’t win. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *