The Personal Qualifications Essay (PQE) was basically three essay questions, which needed to be completed within 90 minutes. I was one of about 15 or so people who showed up to the testing center to take the PQE only. Most of the applicants in attendance were there to take both the multiple-choice written test, as well as the PQE.
Back when I first went to Los Angeles to take the written test, the application process was slightly different. After the written test, there used to be some sort of interview, to be conducted (I believe) by an off-duty LAPD detective. Since the mayor is intent on hiring over a thousand new officers by the end of fiscal year 2007, the city felt that it could not afford to pay those detectives overtime for conducting those interviews. At least that’s what I’ve heard through the grape vine.
I was one of the first ones to arrive at the testing site. A burly LA police officer walked by and spoke to a few of us briefly. He recalled the time when he, too, was an applicant. He told us, “The only advice I can give you is to use common sense.”
Judging from the reactions of many of my fellow test takers, the officer’s advice seemed to go right over their heads. I took his advice to mean, “Use common sense when answering any and all questions they (those affiliated with the LAPD testing procedures) throw your way.”
When it was time to sit down and take the PQE, I did just that. The last essay question was something along the lines of, “Describe something that you have done that you regret. What did you learn from your experience? How have you changed since then?”
While I will not discuss my answer here, suffice it to say that I didn’t discuss the time, as a 19-year-old punk kid, where I consumed a fifth of vodka, beat the crap out of some guy whom I felt “disrespected” me at a nightclub and proceeded to drive into the horizon drunk and a skunk.
It seemed like the common sense thing to do was to not write about such a thing. In any case, we’ll see in about two or three weeks whether my prose was good enough for the City of Los Angeles.
Though writing an essay for a scholarship application can be a daunting task, think of it as an opportunity to showcase your abilities and talents to the scholarship committee. By accentuating your strengths through your writing, you will be able to effectively communicate that you are a deserving candidate for their award.
Strive to illustrate your strengths and experience when writing essays for a scholarship application. Throughout your life, you continually discover your talents and abilities. As you develop these talents, they become your strengths in life. Try to demonstrate multiple strengths in your essays. Possible topics that you could illustrate in a scholarship essay include service, leadership, academics, arts, athletics, entrepreneurship, creative talent, leadership, diversity, challenges overcome, and community involvement. Decision-makers for the scholarship program will see your strengths and abilities as reasons why you are worthy of a scholarship.
Add Variety to Your Strengths
Convince selection committees that your talents and experiences are expansive. Demonstrate the variety of your strengths by dividing them into categories and highlighting each one. Below are examples of how you can emphasize the following strengths:
- Service by describing service projects you performed for your church, community, and school or work
- Leadership by outlining leadership positions in your church, community, and school or work
- Athletics by highlighting the top three sports that you excel in: football, soccer, tennis, cheerleading, track, field, or other
- Academics by specifying your top three academic subjects in school: math, science, history, civics, economics, English, or other
- Creative talent by explaining your talents: visual arts, music, dance, poetry, or other
- Any other talent or ability by identifying three ways you have demonstrated that strength in your life
Give Your Strengths Magnitude
In addition, you should show selection committees that you have developed each of your strengths extensively. Tell them how your accomplishments set you apart from others. Demonstrate the magnitude of your strengths by sharing at least three accomplishments within each category. We call this method of presenting your skills and accomplishments “powerstatements.”
Two important concepts govern the preparation of power statements:
- Highlight the skill you are presenting by using “power words,” such as motivated, organized, responsible, problem-solver, and other words that describe your particular strengths.
- Describe something you accomplished with the skill you are presenting. You may include a challenge you faced, actions you performed to overcome the challenge, and the results of your actions. Try to quantify the results of your accomplishments to show your value to a scholarship committee.
Some Examples of Power Statements:
I can achieve results. For example, I planned, organized, and led a charity project that packaged over 5,000 boxes of humanitarian supplies for victims of Hurricane Irene. The whole project was completed and shipped in one day.
I have organization management skills. For example, I reorganized my company’s manufacturing department, increasing yield by 15 percent.
I am an over-achiever. For example, I maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout college while working full-time, taking honors courses, and serving as the president of the Education Society on campus.
I am dedicated. For example, I won the city and regional championship in the 5K by training four hours daily to improve my running time by 45%.
I am creative. For example, I designed a new product line that increased my company’s revenue by $25,000.
By expressing the variety of your strengths, you will show that you are a skilled and well-rounded individual. By expressing the magnitude of your strengths, you will prove that you are accomplished in those areas of your life. Using power statements to deliver these messages will communicate your value with greater impact to selection committees. These applied techniques will create an essay that is more impressive and persuasive of your qualifications.
For more information about scholarships, see the following:
Letters of Recommendation
Scholarship Master Application
Topics for Scholarship Essays
How to Strengthen a Scholarship Essay
Finding Financial Aid on LDSjobs.org
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