- What is your greatest strength?
- What types of community service have you performed?
- Why does your background make you an ideal candidate for this award?
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I knew that I would be competing against high school students who, I believed, had better applications. They had time to perform community service and play sports, and many of them had better grades. I, on the other hand, had dropped out of school to support a family and didn't have time to volunteer. I perceived these as weaknesses to be overcome.
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- How did I cope with this experience/weakness?
- What good qualities/traits did this experience bring out in me?
- How has this made me a better person?
For instance, I didn't finish high school because I needed to help support my family. I believed that not having a high school diploma was a drawback. However, I tried to convey to judges how this experience was actually a show of character; it displayed strengths such as responsibility, determination, hard work, family loyalty. Each life experience - positive or negative - is a lesson learned. Those lessons should be the theme in your scholarship essays and applications. Put your best foot forward and make your strengths shine through. You will be surprised at the effect it has on your applications... and your wallet! Jose Vasquez has been awarded 27 scholarships totaling more than $100,000 in aid. He is a public speaker and the author of Free Cash for College: The Everyday Students' Guide to Financial Aid.