What it Takes to Earn a Flinn Scholarship
How to Handle Each Part of the Application
Completing applications for college admissions and competitive, prestigious scholarships can be arduous and sometimes intimidating. The process can also prompt reflection and self-discovery. We hope that completing the Flinn Scholarship application proves to be an enriching experience.
Objective criteria such as grade-point average, test scores, and class rank play an essential part in the Flinn Scholarship selection process, but they are not the sole basis for our decisions.
We evaluate a student's academic achievement, leadership and involvement, service to the community, ability to communicate, and personal characteristics. Each of these factors is an important part of the holistic picture that an applicant presents to us.
We'll only select students we believe we really know. So, be yourself.
Don't try to fit into an imagined mold of what a Flinn Scholar should be. We look for individuals to join a vibrant community of Scholars, not a pre-packaged group that matches a particular profile.
Try not to be intimidated by the selection process. You will do best if you can relax and be honest with us. You have achieved great things, and this is your opportunity to tell us about them.
The paragraphs below will introduce you to the scholarship application. Each section briefly describes what is required and offers some insight into how our reviewers will consider your responses. This is not intended to be a roadmap for a successful application, but rather a means to assist you in thinking about how best to present yourself to us.
Biographical Data and Family Information
The only requirement here is to be honest. You will not be eliminated from the process based on your high school, your middle name, where your parents work, or where your siblings went to school. We only seek to establish some context to understand you as a person before we learn more about you as a student.
We ask to which Arizona universities you have applied because we share that information with the universities. We require that you apply to at least one, but we do not have a preference among them. You are treated the same whether or not you have applied to universities outside Arizona.
If you have applied to a university under an early-decision program, you have pledged to attend that university if accepted. If that is the case for you, we ask that you do not apply for the Flinn Scholarship.
Possible Majors and Careers
We ask about your possible areas of study and and career(s) so the universities can share the materials and introduce you to the persons most relevant to your interests. There's no need to guess what we might want you to study, because we have no such pre-determined expectation of your path.
Current Studies and Advanced Education Programs
Courses you take during your senior year do not appear on your transcript, so we need you to tell us what courses you are and will be pursuing. We look for students who challenge themselves, so we recommend taking advantage of advanced, honors, Advanced Placement, or International Baccalaureate courses your school offers.
We also value students who take a full schedule their senior year, which tells us that they do not wish to miss an opportunity to learn. If you are in high school part-time because you are taking community-college courses, or pursuing an internship with the rest of your day, please indicate that in “current studies.” There will be opportunity later in the application to tell us about your employment during the school year.
The Flinn Scholarship review teams look for students who have consistently sought new challenges. Students might find challenges in a university summer institute, additional classes at a community college, or through an online course. You need to tell us whether you earned both college and high-school credit for those courses. If not, then we infer that you took a course purely for the love of it--a desire for learning that goes beyond expectations of the high-school classroom.
Academic Honors and Awards
As you describe any honors and awards you have received for your accomplishments, remember that our reviewers may not be familiar with all of them. So, be sure to spell out or (briefly) explain any unusual terminology or acronyms associated with the awards. You should also indicate the extent of the applicant/nominee pool from which you were chosen (school, local, state, national). You may ask your counselor or a teacher to discuss a particular honor as part of a letter of recommendation.
List your school-year employment, if any, in this section rather than with other community activities. If you have worked while in school, tell us about it and why. You can account for summertime employment elsewhere in the application.
Activities and Involvement
In part, the Flinn Scholarship exists to encourage student leaders to remain in Arizona and contribute to their university and civic communities. The best way to predict the quality of a student's future involvement is to examine the quality of their activities during high school. We seek students who pursue their interests, develop their talents, value service, and set an example for their peers through school and community activities.
We are more interested in the quality of your involvement than the quantity. The application reflects this approach: we ask you to name up to ten school and community activities that are most important to you and to tell us what you have accomplished through your involvement. Use this opportunity well.
In addition to listing offices you might have held in a particular organization, explain what you achieved, what kind of impact this organization has had on you and your impact on the organization. If we offer you space for 50 words explaining each activity, give us 50 words of insight into who you are. Remember to list organizations in order of their importance, beginning with the most meaningful. You will have a chance to elaborate more fully on your most important activity at the end of this section.
Here is where you account for the myriad activities that have filled your last three summers: employment, travel (with whom, where, why; what did you learn), further schooling (what and where?), camps and institutes, unstructured activities. Tell us how you invested your time and energy during these months.
Personal Hobbies and Experiences
Don’t repeat yourself in this optional section. And offer some specific examples. “Reading” and “hiking” don’t tell a reviewer very much; “reading Murakami and Pamuk novels” and “hiking the North Kaibab trail” does.
Here’s where you state that you’ve told the whole truth about your behavior and agree to the legal terms of submitting your information to the Flinn Scholars Program. You and your parent or guardian must both (electronically) sign.
The three essays you write are probably the most important part of your application, providing a crucial opportunity to differentiate yourself in a meaningful way from other applicants with excellent academic records and extensive involvement with school and community activities. An essay’s distinctiveness comes from your individual thoughtfulness about the topics, from an authentic narrative, creative, or persuasive voice, from evidence of complex thought. To be invited for an interview, your written application must compel a reviewer to say, “I have to meet this student in person.”
Personalize your essays with your experiences and your beliefs. We seek Scholars who care and think deeply about issues and can express and explain their views with conviction, even to audiences that may disagree with you. Reviewers will judge you based on whether you can make a cogent case for your beliefs, not what your beliefs are.
In your essays, tell us what no one else could tell us. For example, many students declare that they want to be physicians because they want to help people. Alone, such statements convey little about you. What stimulated your interest in medicine? A phobia you have overcome? An experience in a hospital as a child? Volunteering at a clinic? Watching medical procedures on the Discovery Channel?
Many students tell us they have loved art from an early age. We want to hear about the first time you dipped your hands into paint, or how you saved the money from your summer job for a pottery wheel. Whatever your passion, there are events, people, and experiences that have stoked it. Find a way to use your essays to deliver authentic stories that convey who you are and who you want to become can help earn you an interview.
Allow time to revise your essays--or even start again. Ask people you trust for feedback: they can help you assess, for example, whether your arguments are persuasive and your humor works. It's better to hear from a friend that an essay is confusing than to wait for the selection committee to make that judgment.
With that said, don't be seduced by an offer from someone who cares about you to rewrite your first draft for you, borrow your keyboard for a minute to give your essay a new focus, or add the perfect ending. This is your work, not a teacher's work, not your parent's work. Essays that are written by committee are easier to spot than you might guess.
The stringent word limits for these essays are beneficial; those limits will compel you to organize your thoughts and construct clear responses.
Letters of Recommendation
Your application requires three letters of recommendation!
It's your responsibility to ensure that your recommenders work with you toward your goal of earning a Flinn Scholarship.
One letter comes from your counselor and two from academic teachers. You register your recommenders online, and an email message is sent to each of them within 24 hours. That email includes instructions for them to access and complete the recommendation online.
To ensure that they receive those instructions, tell them in advance to expect the email and follow up to make sure they receive it. It is courteous to do so and prevents last-minute scrambling to complete a letter. This is particularly important since some schools/districts have built firewalls that filter out email from addresses (like that of our application-management company) that end in “.com”.
The earlier you request a letter, the better. Many counselors and teachers will want to discuss your application with you before they write. Students who request letters early also avoid the rush of requests for recommendations that inevitably take place later in the year. Allow your recommenders enough time to write a good letter. You might suggest that they consult our Strategies for Success for Counselors and Teachers for suggestions on how to be effective advocates for you
Give your recommenders plenty of information. Tell them who else is writing your letters, in case they'd like to compare notes. Provide information about your activities and awards. And do not be afraid to ask them to write about something in particular.
Recommendation letters, like essays, are most effective when specific and personal. If one of your papers or lab projects particularly impressed a teacher, remind your teacher of the specifics. If you still have an assignment bearing the teacher’s enthusiastic notes, refresh his or her memory with a copy. If in a particularly difficult time in your life a counselor or teacher helped you, tell him or her whether it's okay to write about it. Help your recommenders show us what you're like in the classrooms and hallways of your school.
Teachers who write your recommendations should have instructed you in an academic subject in high school. They possess the best understanding of your academic performance and your involvement at the school. If they have also advised your work in an activity, they are welcome to include that information with their assessment, but we want their focus to be on your intellectual acuity and agility.
Coaches or community figures cannot give us the same information as a teacher at your school. But they may know you best in other ways; if this is the case, encourage such individuals to present their observations and feedbacks to your counselor, who may choose to integrate their statements into his or her letter.
Your counselor recommendation can be a very useful part of your application, since, unlike you, your counselor does not have to worry about word limits. If certain teachers or other people know you well but are not writing letters for you, your counselor can integrate quotes from them in his or her letter. Your counselor can also discuss further the honors, awards, or experiences you could only mention briefly in your application.
As with teachers, take the time to sit down with your counselor to discuss your application. Bring a copy of your work for him or her to review, and talk about additional information that the counselor could share in the recommendation. This teamwork will result in a much more cohesive and effective application package.