- Are you a junior or senior attending high school in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, or Vermont?
- Is your high school a member of NEACAC, the New England Association of College Admission Counseling? (Ask your school counselor if you’re not sure!)
- Would you like the chance to earn $1,000 for college?
Identifying college scholarships isn’t always easy. Some require a minimum GPA, unusual talents or affiliations, or demonstrated financial need. But if you answered yes to the three questions above, you’re well on your way to entering an essay contest that could land you $1,000 for college.
The New England Association of College Admission Counseling is offering six $1,000 scholarships to the six students – one from each of the New England states – who can best answer the question: Describe a counselor, teacher, or coach who has had the greatest influence on your decision to attend college. How has this individual impacted your future? What will you do in college or beyond that will make a difference in your community?
What’s tricky about this particular essay is that it can only be 500 words in length, which is likely shorter than the main personal statement you submitted, or will submit, with your college applications. And considering that this particular prompt contains three separate components, it will be that much more challenging to fully answer the question in such a short amount of space.
Before we share one of our favorite ways to answer essay questions like these, allow us first to show you how not to write the first sentence of this essay. If you were one of the judges reading hundreds of entries for this scholarship, how would you feel if you read: “The teacher who has had the greatest influence on my decision to attend college is X”? No, thank you. How predictable and unoriginal! While the questions themselves may be straightforward, there’s no reason why you can’t approach this topic with a little more pizazz and creativity.
Picture in your mind an individual from your high school who has helped you along your journey as you plan to apply to or enter college. What is it about that person that made them so influential? Were they always supportive of your goals? Did they inspire you to pursue a specific career or academic major? Did you turn to them for help, academically or otherwise, during a rough patch last year? Imagine that moment in your head, and try to remember as many details as possible. When did your relationship first develop? When and where would you most often interact? How did this individual make you feel, and what did they say to encourage you?
Now, sit down in front of your computer and tell that story. Write down whatever comes into your mind as you think about this special individual and how they’ve inspired you to attend college. In one well-developed paragraph, your goal is to describe for your reader who this person is and why they’ve made such an impact on your decision to attend college. Showing is far more powerful than telling, so remember to include colorful details and sparkly verbs as you share your story.
For the second half of this essay, you need to think deeply and reflect on what you hope to achieve in college. For most students, college is simply the necessary step to securing a job with a good salary. But try looking beyond the obvious and consider how your college education can help you make a positive impact in your community. The scholarship committee isn’t looking for one “right” answer here; there is no one perfect way to make a difference in the lives of others. Everyone has their own unique talents and gifts to share. What’s yours? Do you dream of going to college and spending your spring breaks building homes with Habitat for Humanity? Do you aspire to travel abroad in order to promote global understanding? Or perhaps your goal is to conduct research that will find a solution to global warming. The strongest response will be one that is specific and personal to you and your interests. Be authentic and genuine as you craft your response.
In the end, remember that this essay – like all good essays – should carry your voice. Even though the counselor, teacher, or coach you’re writing about has come into contact with dozens or even hundreds of other students, your relationship and perspective is unique to you. Have fun writing this essay, and best of luck with the scholarship! After you’ve submitted your application, consider sharing the essay with the individual who inspired you. They will be touched to know they’ve made such a difference in your life.
Scholarship: NEACAC Essay Contest
Awarding Organization: New England Association for College Admission Counseling
Number of Scholarships Awarded: Six
Eligible Students: High school juniors and seniors from NEACAC-member high schools in CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, and VT
How to Apply: Fill out the application and upload a 500-word essay response
Deadline: April 5