Monday, October 1, 2012

Scholarships and School

Hey everyone! Exciting announcement! You ready for it? We have another guest blogger coming soon! My friend Jessica is already in Japan studying at Waseda University! She will be giving us a guest post on a yet unknown topic, so stay tuned! She's amazing and has a set of awesome video posts (which I'm going to request permission to post, fingers crossed, please Jess?) about her experience thus far.

Jessica on the far right.

I'm also planning to ask my awesome 友達 Naomi (you remember her, right?) if she can give us a post sometime in November/December. Awesome 友達 Naomi has agreed to write a post for us sometime in November/December! So look forward to the awesomeness.

Awesome 友達 Naomi. Photo totally stolen from Jessica.

Okay now, today I'm going to talk briefly about my scholarship applications. First, though I wanted to mention that school has started again. What that means is I am now officially taking 4th year Japanese (which is actually a spoken class and a reading/writing class) and the ever so beloved finished to my science general education, chemistry 111. It's been a pretty busy first week, but hopefully things will steady out soon.

The start of school means that I also begin volunteering at 友人学園 (Yujin Gakuen) tomorrow! This year I will be with the 1st graders in the morning and the 4 and 5th graders in the afternoon. I'm very excited to be going back, even if it is just one day a week!

Next up, part of the reason this first week of school has been so busy (on top of the mountain of homework) is my scholarship applications are coming due. The three scholarships which I have been steadily (and frantically) working on are the Gilman Scholarship, Freeman Asia Scholarship and the Bridging Scholarship.

The Gilman Scholarship is one of the most well known study abroad scholarship foundations. Anyone looking into applying anywhere in the world should definitely apply here. To be eligible for this scholarship you must be attending a two or four year university and be receiving the Pell Grant. The scholarship awards up to $5000 for an academic year abroad. Bonus? If you're studying a critical need language (like Japanese) you're eligible for an additional $3000 on top of the original scholarship if you are selected.

Most of the Gilman application is a lot of information. Your name, where you'll be studying, transcripts, etc. The part that takes the longest? The two essays. One is a personal statement essay that covers why you want to study abroad, how it affects your goals (academic and professionally), and what you want to achieve abroad. More or less, that's the nutshell. The second essay is a project proposal. As a stipulation of receiving this scholarship you must complete some kind of project in your community to promote college, study abroad and the Gilman scholarship. In this essay you'll talk about your project and answer the 5 W's.

The project essay is straight forward enough. But the personal statement had me stumped. If it's difficult to talk about yourself in an essay (>me<) take a step back from it. Keep a pen and paper handy and talk to your friends and family about it. "Mooooommmmm!!! Why do I want to study abroad???" Works really well for me. It also helps for me to be somewhere familiar. If you have access to somewhere you spent a lot of time growing up it can help to go back there while writing your essay. Works for me, but everyone is different. Also, don't forget to make it your essay. Keep it academically acceptable, but put yourself in there. The people evaluating your essay want to know you, not a textbook version of you.

Photo from Madhulika Speaks

If none of this works for you, do as my scholarship adviser said, "Talk about how awesome you are." The judges want to know about you, what sets you apart and makes you a better choice for the award than say John Smith over in Wyoming. Another piece of advice, drafts are your BEST friend. Write one draft, heck write 7 (guilty). Call in every favor from every academically inclined friend you have (Thanks Joy!) and if you have access to editing help from a tutoring center or scholarship adviser, use it! Also, don't edit when you're tired or just after you've finished writing your essay! You need a break and taking time away will let you look at your work objectively!

The other two scholarships I've been working on are the Freeman Asia (for people studying abroad in Asian countries and awards up to $7000 for an academic year) and Bridging Scholarship (for study abroad in Japan equaling up to $4000 for academic year programs). These two are much shorter than the Gilman application and ask many of the same questions and have very similar essays. Advice? Reuse what you can! If the essay question is the same, or similar to another you've previously completed it's OK to use it again. Make it shorter to fit the requirements, or longer if necessary. Get help with this too! You'll be glad you did! Also, best advice, like EVER. Ready for this? You're still reading right? I'm going to make this very clear.

Don't do this.
Photo from The Executive Coaching Blog.
Check your deadlines early!!!

There's nothing worse than thinking you have a month until the deadline and then finding out it's due in a week and a half. Again, I'm guilty of this. I got so caught up in the Gilman that I didn't check the deadlines for the other ones. Thankfully, I have time to finish my applications (a huge shout-out to Professor Freedman over at the UofO who is writing my letter of recommendation on VERY short notice), however, you don't want to end up with one day to complete your application, or worse miss your deadline entirely. Also, it's good to know ahead of time if your scholarship requires a letter of recommendation. Professors are SUPER busy people, so it's good to ask them as early as possible so they have time to fit you into their schedule. (Again, thank you Freedman先生!) If your professor can help you out, make sure to take the time to get them. I agree with my professor that cards with a hand-written thank you are the best way to do this! So you can be sure Professor Freedman will be receiving one.

Image by Kidliquorice on Deviantart. Click the link!

So, I think that about sums it up. If I didn't cover what you were looking for please ask away in the comment section! Pretty please ask me questions? I'd love to do my best to answer them in the comments or another post! If you have stuck with me this far hoping I would get to something good,  I'm sorry. That's all I have for this go!


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