How one college bound senior won a full scholarship to a top university…

Meet Sam. No, she’s not a unicorn, but a real college bound senior starting college in the fall of 2018. Not only did Sam, a Beaverton High School senior, receive acceptance into the University of Washington, the nation’s top public research institution, according to the Princeton Review, but she received the Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship, which pays for 100% of her undergraduate education.
How did Sam score one of the best scholarships available to college bound students?
1. Sam aligned herself early with her college aspirations. In addition to competing on her high school’s golf team, Sam became a caddie in her sophomore year of high school. She learned of the Evans Scholarship, given to high achieving seniors with two years minimum of golf caddie experience. Why would the scholarship committee want an applicant to show two years of experience as a caddie? Her commitment, combined with a tough school schedule and helping out in her own family, showed the committee grit, or as Angela Duckworth defines, “the power of passion and perseverance.” 

2. Sam studied and achieved at a consistently high level. The scholarship required a competitive student portfolio, and Sam challenged herself throughout high school with advanced courses and health internships, while still earning a 3.98 GPA and 1360 on her SAT. With the University of Washington accepting only 16% of out of state applicants, Sam needed her student profile for the scholarship but also to attend a top university in the healthcare field.

3. Sam matched her scholarship ambitions with universities known for her major. She selected colleges with strong nursing programs, like the University of Washington and the University of Portland. Sam learned which colleges accepted the Chick Evans Scholarship through researching both the scholarship and the schools. However, the University of Portland did not partner with the Evans Foundation and the only school in Oregon to accept the scholarship, the University of Oregon, did not have the nursing program she wanted for her undergraduate. As she pursued her options in the Northwest, UW surfaced as her #1 school.

4. Sam submitted a standout scholarship essay. She wrote an authentic essay by utilizing storytelling techniques to show the relationship between her time on the green and the important values in her life. In other words, she started and ended her essay with the same inspiring story, organizing her main ideas around the message inside of the opening anecdote. She admits that despite her excellent grade point average, she was uncomfortable with writing in general, in addition to writing about her life. However, Sam was not only was able to create a winning essay but also happily adds the time spent writing helped her become a better writer along the way. And because the writing was personal, she received an added bonus: she learned more about herself. For example, Sam connected her responsibilities as a golf caddie to being the oldest and caring for her three younger sisters. Additionally, she highlighted her special relationship with her sister Kate, who lives with autism and an intellectual disability. Sam says writing her scholarship essay helped her truly realize “how important my little sister is to me” and “how much caddying has impacted my life.” 

5. Sam shared her essay with the right team. Sam included experts in her scholarship application. She interviewed friends who’d won the scholarship and started conversations with contacts who understood how the committee selected a winner. Additionally, Sam says receiving writing coaching and later sharing her essay with experts was a tough yet very important part of the process. Like many students, she feared any critiques because she did not have much confidence in her writing. However, Sam’s willingness to overcome her insecurities paid off—as she learned how to tell her story with style and substance, she gained more confidence too. By sharing her essay with experts who understood the scholarship committee, Sam learned to include key information for the selection process, such as financial need and the desire to help her family by paying for college on her own. She even decided to talk more about her future ambitions to become a nurse practitioner, as evidence the scholarship would allow her to continue into graduate school without debt. 


What can we learn from Sam? 

When it’s you, or perhaps your student’s turn, to apply for an important scholarship, start early. Research your scholarship and align your interests and activities with the ideal students who win the scholarship. Talk to people who’ve won the scholarship or understand the selection process—seek their advice. And when it’s time to add your voice to your application in the scholarship essay, adopt the storyteller’s approach in order to both show and tell what makes you a great candidate for this award. Not many scholarships offer a full ride, but all scholarships can benefit from the tools Sam used for success. 



Victoria Payne is a freelance writer and founder of Boxcar Writing Labs. She writes about the heroic little choices individuals and businesses make every day that make the world a better place. A former English professor, Victoria believes stories are the common language we speak to each other. She lives, writes, and works in Portland, Oregon.