If you are or have been in college, there’s a decent chance that you owe a lot of money to the U.S government, or whichever magical entity has loaned you the funds needed to pay your wildly expensive tuition. There is a simple solution to the I’m amassing debt up to my eyeballs every semester and I’m not even guaranteed a job after this anxiety that seizes me every time I look at my online bill statement, and that is scholarship. Free money. Getting paid for good grades or being left-handed or being a first-generation college student or writing some kickass application essay.
Sure, my parents bugged me to apply for one occasionally. Just fill out some forms, they said. Write a few essays, they said. But before I left, I still lived in a youthfully simple wonderland where financial stresses were this distant enigma that only parents dealt with. I hadn’t a clue how mortgages or insurance worked, (I still don’t know how those things work) and college bills seemed the intangible part of the experience. I couldn’t bring myself to worry about them.
Well, now I’m a sophomore and taking out loans with unspeakable interest rates, and financial woes have become all too real. In the midst of copious applications, I’ve come to one conclusion. This is the worst.
The very nature of scholarship applications breed discontent with oneself. They start off benign: What’s your name? Your birthday? Where do you go to school? Then they get demanding. What was your high school GPA? What clubs and sports were you involved in? Are you a leader, ARE YOU A LEADER?? SHOW US ALL OF YOUR AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS.
Sometimes I think I’m a fairly cool person. Then I’m forced to list everything that’s cool about me in the format of a 3-by-5 table on a Word document, and I feel significantly less impressive. Is that really all I do? Why aren’t I president of more things? I could’ve sworn I was a member of more things.
Now, let me tell you a little story. Once upon this January, I was in the middle of an intense application for a scholarship to study in London for 5 weeks and write. If the reward hadn’t been so fantastic, I never would have thrown myself into the intensive process that was this application. I downloaded a word document filled with endless things to be signed and boxes to be filled in, along with two page-long spaces in which to put my uniquely inspirational and beautifully-crafted essays. This was going to be a stretch. When I decided to apply, I was directed to a woman who worked in the International Fellowships office and she graciously helped me revise the junk that I sent to her in an attempt to make my application more competitive. She had a kind smile and never seemed to tire of my disorganized drafts.
Things were going well, until one night at about 2 in the morning when I realized I forgot to write an entire essay. My heart sank and my mind immediately wandered to thoughts of giving up. I mean, what are the chances I’ll actually get this? Two essays? That’s flirting with inhumanity. But romantic thoughts of penning my fabulous endeavors in London, (probably sipping tea with crumpets, maybe sporting a monocle, who knows) pushed me continue. I made the somber vow not to sleep until I finished the second essay. I hunched over my laptop, glared enviously at my sleeping roommates, and set to work.
Either 45 minutes or 3 hours later I had a pretty decent draft on the page. What started as confused ramblings somehow organized themselves into a semi-coherent piece with a point and everything. Exhausted but triumphant, I hit save and sent an email to my mentor. I fell asleep blissfully unaware of a grave mistake.
Like many great writers, (this is something I tell myself) I struggle with beginning things. I feel the need to wait until the most perfectly ingenious sentence comes to me straight from the mouth of God, and seeing as this never happens, I become irate with frustration when the words elude me. In a fit of 2-a.m-writer’s-block-irritation, I typed the first thing that came to mind to serve as a temporary introduction. I punched the caps lock key and wrote, “JESUS FUCKING CHRIST I CAN NEVER START THESE THINGS.” I giggled as my fingers tapped the keys. Aren’t I amusing, I’ll change this later. Since, apparently, I can be a massive freaking idiot, I never edited out my little joke of an introduction. I didn’t notice until I received an edited version from my mentor the next day. The profanity was highlighted and the attached comment read “Consider an alternative intro”. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry, so I rolled around on the floor for a bit emitting strange noises. I didn’t get that scholarship, but I think it was just because I’m not president of enough things.