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Scholarship Essays: One Student at a Time

By Jasmine Kamiab, College Adviser for James Kenan High in Duplin County

The cost of attending university often is a deterrent for students at the school where I work.

They insist they will not attend college if they have to borrow student loans. Their fear of student debt is understandable, especially considering many of them come from low-income families; however, if students are so afraid to take out loans, why is it so difficult to get them to apply for scholarships?

Many scholarship opportunities never receive any applications. The lack of applications is very disappointing, as many students are qualified to be considered for them. It’s not that our students aren’t motivated; it’s quite the contrary. Most of the students in the senior class are extremely hard-working but when it comes to scholarships, especially ones that require essays, it’s very difficult to convince them to apply.

I have a couple of theories on this dilemma. One theory is that “senioritis” is creeping in and my students are more excited about prom and graduation than filling out scholarship applications. Perhaps it’s a deeper issue. I believe it’s that many of my students lack the confidence to write quality essays. I was beginning to notice this trend earlier in the semester, when the principal walked into the guidance office wanting to address the same problem. We brainstormed together and came up with the idea to have a scholarship essay-writing workshop at our school. This workshop would allow students to gain the necessary skills to write excellent essays for scholarship applications. Throughout the next month, I organized and eventually lead the workshop in conjunction with other faculty. This event resulted in more than twenty students and parents in attendance, all gaining valuable knowledge about how to write scholarship essays.

Although I am unable to pinpoint the exact root of this problem, I hope that I can do my part with new initiatives and ideas to allow students to write high-quality essays for scholarships that will help them alleviate student debt.