Billions of dollars are donated on an annual basis to graduating secondary school students to ease the financial burden of attending a post-secondary institution. Scholarships are an essential resource for students who wish to achieve their goal of furthering their education. Unfortunately, many students decide that the application process may be a waste of time and effort due to the competitive atmosphere surrounding some of the more substantial scholarships. This is precisely the mindset that famous Canadian ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky was referring to when he said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” In other words, there is absolutely nothing to lose from applying for a scholarship.
Currently studying sciences and philosophy at the University of Alberta, Nikita-Kiran Singh is a rare example of a student who managed to win multiple major scholarships. Her plan is to pursue a career in medicine. What makes her unique from the other student leaders across Canada? After personally interviewing her, The Pro Story is able to share how Nikita achieved success in her application for scholarships.
When Nikita was in grade eight, she was an assistant dance instructor for young children. Five minutes before one particular four year old dancer was scheduled to perform her dance routine, Nikita was informed that this dancer refused to go out on stage. As her performance approached, the four year old refused to be cajoled into performing by the other instructors. Nikita, realizing that something needed to be done, decided to pull the girl aside and simply listen to her, rather than ordering her to perform her dance. The girl calmed down before the start of her performance and was able to perform the dance routine perfectly.
As humans, we are often preoccupied with ourselves and tend to lose focus on others. Nikita realized the importance of listening to people at a young age and now states that empathy is one of the most valuable qualities in a leader.
Despite her busy schedule, Nikita was extremely relaxed and pleasant. With a biochemistry mid-term waiting for her after the interview, she displayed no visible signs of stress. Nikita demonstrated a genuine commitment to making a difference from a young age by volunteering at a local hospital and by being a dance teaching assistant for over four years. Throughout her life, she has constantly pushed herself to achieve excellence not only in the world of academia, but in every aspect of her life.
In her last year of high school, the environmental club that Nikita was leading raised over $26, 000 to purchase a solar panel in order to provide renewable energy for the school. She organized bottle drives and helped run concession stands at sports event. Leadership for Nikita meant that her actions spoke louder than her words.
Scholarship committees receive vast amount of scholarship applications, mainly from students who excel at academics. What distinguishes successful leaders from their peers is their inherent desire to make a positive change in the world. Nikita claims that “Strong leaders lead because they are compassionate, not because they are extrinsically motivated by anything, including scholarships. True leaders will continue to lead even when there is no reward.” Nikita thought of her scholarship applications as a way to show people what she has accomplished. She says that in order “to separate yourself from others, it is necessary to display wholehearted commitment to the causes that mean something to you. If you are passionate about a particular cause, you will naturally be inclined to do everything you can for that cause, and that is a reflection of strong leadership.”
THERE ARE FIVE SPECIFIC WORDS OF ADVICE THAT NIKITA WANTS TO GIVE TO STUDENTS APPLYING FOR SCHOLARSHIPS:
1. MAKE A LIST OF EVERYTHING THAT MAY BE RELEVANT TO YOUR APPLICATION, NO MATTER HOW SEEMINGLY INSIGNIFICANT:
This will not only make writing essays much easier, but it will help you relate various activities that you have been involved in over the years to each scholarship.
2. LOOK FOR THE COMMON THREADS BETWEEN ALL OF YOUR EXPERIENCES:
This will help you to be clear and concise.
3. ASK FOR HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT:
Do not hesitate to visit your teacher, your guidance counselor, your parents, or any other influential figure in your life for assistance.
4. MANAGE YOUR TIME WISELY:
Give yourself at least a week of time and take breaks in between to reflect on your writing. Schedule appointments early and do not procrastinate.
5. READ IT OUT LOUD:
Tone is everything. The essay is your chance to inform the scholarship committees about what you have accomplished, but there is a fine line between arrogance and confidence. Ask yourself, “If I was on the committee, would I want to give myself the scholarship?”
Nikita was able to achieve academic excellence in secondary school despite her busy schedule. The single most important skill in academic courses, according to Nikita, is time-management. Keeping yourself busy forces you to get things done. When asked about any tips on avoiding procrastination, she answered, “Make a plan and stick to it.” Every Sunday, Nikita makes a list of what she needs to do during the upcoming week, and she follows these weekly lists religiously.
Today, there is so much pressure to be competitive, whether it is for scholarships or entrance into academic programs, or many other things. That does not mean you need to be cutthroat or aggressive with other people, but it does mean you need to challenge yourself, because that is the only way to grow. If you need to bring people down to elevate yourself, that is a reflections of weakness in you, not others. Focusing on what other students are doing, and constantly feeling as though you are in competition is a complete waste of energy. Focus on yourself. Be your best. Do what you are doing for the love of it, and you will be a part of something greater than yourself.