Last week, I met with my friend’s 12-year-old son to help him prepare his bar mitzvah speech. I interviewed him, asking what he had learned from the experience of becoming a bar mitzvah. Then I asked him what he wanted his friends to know after listening to his speech.
What does this have to do with you and other college-bound high school students?
Whether writing a Torah commentary for a bar mitzvah or an essay for a $250 college scholarship from the local Optimist Club (up to $2,500 for district winners), you need to tell a story about you that will appeal to your audience.
In a few months, my friend’s son will stand in front of his congregation and connect basketball and Torah in a heartfelt speech that is genuine and sounds like him; I can’t wait to hear it.
If you want to secure any amount of scholarship money to help pay for college, you will need to make sure those who dole out the cash can’t wait to hear what you have to say. Your job is to connect with scholarship decision-makers in the same way my friend’s son plans to appeal to his audience of rabbis, teachers, family and friends.
How will you do that?
- Ask yourself what the scholarship committee already knows about you from the application package.
- Ask yourself what you want them to know about you.
- Find a story that answers the specific scholarship question and tells readers what you want them to know about you.
I am sure my young student’s sweet story about Moses and basketball – spoken in his own words and his own voice – will make those of us who love him proud. Similarly, a moving story about you that answers the question on the application might hook a scholarship committee so you get some cash for college.
Kim Lifton is president of Wow Writing Workshop, which teaches high school students how to write college admissions and scholarship essays that stand out; Wow also teaches ACT writing test prep workshops throughout metro Detroit. Check out Wow’s Guide to College Scholarships for a list of opportunities, or send us the essay you’ve already written, and we’ll give you our feedback.