Student Reflection: Applying Yourself to Applying

Must start writing.

Read the first prompt. No wait, there are two separate questions.

Too hard. On to the second prompt. Which also consists of two separate questions.

Third prompt? Three questions.

Oh good, the fourth prompt is only 100 words. “What informal and informal efforts do you plan to undertake…”

Okay, do the big 500-word essay first. That’ll give some insight for the previous questions!

“Please address the following questions in your statement of purpose essay…”

My brow furrows. I inhale deeply. I sigh heavily.

As a freshman and sophomore in college, I struggled to imagine how I was going to take everything that I had gone through for the past 18 years and make something out of it. Unfortunately, that was what every single study abroad application essay question would ask me.

Why should I be invested in? What makes me the most worthy? How would I leave my mark?

I was able to win awards such as the Critical Language Scholarship, Houston Scholars Fellowship, and Boren Scholarship because I was not afraid to be myself.

When CLS asked me “Why is it important that this program invest specifically in you,” I wrote about my intention to use the Korean language and culture to launch an international dance studio business.

전남대 후문 Chonnam National University Backgate

When Houston Scholars asked me for “specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing your goal,” I wrote about the potential to research the spread of b-boying culture to Communist China despite government censorship.

When Boren asked me how the “overseas program you selected will help you achieve your career goals and federal service requirement,” I wrote about my desire to spread the peaceful ideals of hip-hop and b-boying culture worldwide as a Foreign Service Officer.

By staying true to myself and my personal story, I ensured that I stood out among the thousands of other applicants. I understand that it can be very hard for young undergraduates to be confident enough to express themselves in a sincere way when filling out these applications. We often feel that we have nothing of value to contribute, so we resort to “giving them what they want to hear.”

The problem with this approach is that everyone is already doing the same thing. By catering to the needs of The Man and selling ourselves as his humble servant, we merely become another number, another face in the crowd.

That is the last thing we want to happen.

It’s true. When you put your genuine self out in the open, not everyone is going to accept you with open arms. I applied to 25 different scholarships, study abroad programs, and internships over the past two years. I successfully received and completed only six. I would be told how in over my head I was and how I should grow up a little and then come back.

But I’ve also learned that being yourself also means not being afraid to lose. That’s why I’ve already started working on my next application.

—Victor Yau

Honors College Sophomore

If you’re interested in International Competitive Scholarships, come meet with our team in the Honors College about the programs, deadlines and options.


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