You are the best of Arizona
For Flinn Scholarship applicants, one of the last hurdles is often putting aside self-doubt. It's easy to read about the accomplishments of Flinn Scholars and assume there is no way to match up to them. One of our senior Flinn Scholars, Yichao Wang ('06), urges applicants to recognize how strong their own records actually are, then forget about them, and start concentrating on what's to come:
Dearest Future Flinn Scholar!
I'm guessing this letter finds you in the midst of a deluge of work and general madness. It's your senior year, and college apps, AP tests, homework and projects probably are looming big in your life, and you're probably wondering if you were not somehow delusional when you decided to open up and start an application process for a scholarship that asks you about fictitious documentaries and your shortcomings and has about 12,591,820,983 pages of information to fill out.
If you're anything like I was my senior year, you might be thinking at this point, “Oh my gosh—I don't know how to answer these questions—and I haven't done enough community service—and my school involvement's been crummy—and my GPA's not good enough—and I don't know what really sets me apart—and I don't know what I want to major in—and every other applicant seems so brilliant—and all the Flinn scholars seem to have written symphonies or economic theses for major journals or engineered water supply systems for rural communities in Peru or cured cancer and I haven't done any of that—and my hair is not nearly as gorgeous as that person on the Flinn home page OMG-there's-no-way-they'll-pick-me-in-a-million-years-ARGH”!
First—not everyone can have such cool hair, so don't feel bad. And second—I know when I applied for the Flinn, I thought I was way out of my league. The current scholars are all doing amazing things, and you're facing off against the best students of Arizona for this scholarship.
But that's because you are the best of Arizona. You might be shaking your head in doubt (or maybe nodding with self confidence—if so, hurrah for you!), but believe it, and trust the strength of your application and what you've done. From what I've experienced, the Foundation isn't so much looking for what you have done, but what you are going to do—they're looking for motivated, dedicated and hard-working young people. Your GPA and other “stats” are a factor, but more as indicators of that dedication and ambition than anything else. This process is really self-selecting—so select yourself.
Also, perhaps the best tip I can offer is: have fun. The essay prompts are an opportunity to give the selection committee a way to see you that's not just numbers. Don't try to write what you think they want to hear, write what you want to say—and don't be afraid to say something strange or off the beaten path. Show them that you know how to write, and be yourself, and enjoy the writing!
You don't have to have saved a South American village from drought or be majoring in chemical biological microbial engineering to be a Flinn Scholar. I'm a theatre and English major with a focus on theatre for youth. There are Scholars who are music majors, art majors, political science majors, as well as the “hard” sciences—it's a huge spectrum! So be confident in what you love, and rock that application.
The scholarship is totally worth it; I can say without a doubt it has been one of the biggest blessings in my life, allowing me the resources and opportunity to explore and study what I want. The people I've met, the professional contacts I've made, the places I've gotten to travel, have all made it absolutely priceless. I can't wait to welcome you into that experience.
So buckle in, bake those brownies for your letters of rec writers, and we'll see you at the interviews. ;)
~M. Yichao Wang
Photo by Flickr user jeremywilburn