The Probloem with the Current Scholarship System
Every student is different and their talents lie in diverse academic areas. Some pupils are mathematically minded and love working with numbers. Others prefer the sciences and understanding why things work the way that they do. There are those that love history and analyzing past experiences of our world.
Then there are the writers who love using words to illustrate all that they observe in the world around them. The point is that every adolescent who attends Brigham Young University will present their own strengths and deserves a chance to be rewarded for the talents that they possess. With the way that the current general undergraduate scholarship application here at BYU is set up not everyone is able to showcase why they are a gifted student and deserve recognition. This is because, aside from GPA, the only criteria that the judges have to go off of are three personal 300 word essays. Those students whose strengths lie in the areas of mathematics, science, or history do not have any opportunity to display their skills. With the current format of the scholarship application there are many students who go unnoticed and this needs to change.
There is nothing wrong with the use of an essay to assess a student. An essay is an accurate and efficient way of gauging an academic’s knowledge on a certain topic. I also believe that writing is an incredibly important and relevant skill for any college student no matter what their major or planned profession is. I am merely proposing that on the undergraduate scholarship application here at BYU, in addition to writing aptitude the panel could evaluate other criteria as well. If the application also included a complicated math problem, an analysis of a scientific observation, a question on one’s opinion regarding a certain historical event, as well as a personal essay the undergraduate’s ability could be determined more accurately. I also do not think that this form should apply to departmental scholarships since those are catered towards a specific kind of student who should have specific criteria.
Departmental scholarships are competitive though and so when a student is unable to obtain an award from one of these means of funding their college career they turn to the general scholarship application as a second chance. With the new application that I have designed those deciding whom to award money to will have more than a GPA (which is high for the majority of BYU students making it difficult to stand out) and three personal essays to judge. BYU will be able to find talented students whose faculties lie outside the area of creative writing in addition to the gifted essayists that they are currently awarding. This will also better provide an alternative to departmental scholarships, for the students, when looking for ways to fund their education. My newly proposed method of application will be structured in the following manner.
The application will start with a complex math problem. Perhaps the student would be asked to use calculus to integrate or derive a function. I would consider this an accurate assessment of their mathematical skills. Some might complain that they have not yet taken Calculus or that they haven’t taken it in a long time. I understand that this might be frustrating but in the end the increased difficulty of the application will benefit the student rather than harm them.
It is true that the applicants will have to put in a little effort and research how to solve the problem. The possibility of earning a scholarship because of their work is worth it though. For the scientific analysis the student would be asked to observe a common occurrence in nature and analyze what is really happening and why it is happening that way. It is true that the best way to format the answer to this question will be a short essay about the student’s analysis. As opposed to the personal essay however this will not only assess the students writing ability but will also evaluate their research and analysis skills.
Research is also an incredibly important skill and one that should be taken into consideration when awarding the BYU general scholarship. Up next will be the history question. This will ask a student’s opinion on a certain event in history, for example the Vietnam War, and they will have to write a response to the question. The answer to the history question will also be structured in essay form. Similar to the scientific analysis though, in order for their answer to remain strong not only a solid writing ability will be necessary but also a knowledge and understanding of historical events.
Research will be essential, once again providing an opportunity for the scholarship judges to calculate the student’s research ability. The final element of the application will be a personal essay similar to the ones on the current undergraduate scholarship application. This will provide those who have lived extraordinary lives a chance to let BYU know about it. Also for those who are incredibly gifted writers this essay portion will provide a way for them to showcase their talents. The students in addition to the administration will profit from my proposed way of formatting a scholarship application.
First there is the benefit that many of the elements will require some research, a skill that is invaluable while in college and should be weighed when determining who deserves to be awarded money. There is also an advantage in the fact that the application is much longer than the previous one. Students as well as administrators might protest that this is not a benefit but rather a disadvantage. I can understand why they might think this. College life is very busy and there are many things that we as students and faculty are trying to balance. Similar to the problem with the use of math skills that have not been practiced in a long time though, the longer application will benefit the applicants.
If the application is longer it will require more time and effort. If this is the case then there will be fewer students who will choose to apply for the scholarship increasing the chances of those students who do apply to be awarded some money. Also it is likely that since the application will be so time consuming only the hardest working and most dedicated students will take the time to apply allowing the judges to find those hard working individuals among the sea of students. Another likely complaint with the length of the new application will be that it will require more time to judge and therefore cost more money. This is definitely possible and I understand why it is a concern.
The thing is though, if as a result of a longer application the judges are finding more capable students to award money to then the extra cost is worth it. Also if it is true what I said above that because of the longer application fewer students will apply then judging scholarships might not end up costing more. Fewer applicants means less applications to judge, possibly less time spent judging and therefore less money being spent. It is possible that the long application might even result in a decrease in the cost of evaluating the applications. The final benefit from this new application will be that students of many different talents, in addition to those with strong writing skills, will have a chance to stand out against the crowd and showcase their abilities.
The current scholarship system does find talented individuals who deserve recognition but it could do better. Of many different necessary skills in a college student the scholarship is only evaluating one, the individuals writing ability. My new proposed form of application will not only asses a student’s writing ability but also their math, science, history, and research skills. It is true that there will still be many essays required. Being able to write and communicate through words is an important skill to have.
With the format of the questions asked though, students will be provided an opportunity to present their knowledge in other areas as well. This new form of application will be a better valuation of a student’s aptitude and will allow for the scholarship judges to find diligent and accomplished individuals. With my proposed method of assessing applicants the current scholarship system will be able to locate capable students in many different areas, including math, science, history, and English, and reward them for their abilities.