Evaluating thousands of scholarship applications has definitely left an impression on me. I still remember some of them, because the students,who submitted them, managed to get into my head in a personal way. Many books and articles will tell you that "personalization" is good, but they don't tell you how to accomplish that. I saw a photo attached to an app showing the senior student shaking hands with the President of the United States. Another enclosed an audio tape that revealed his talent to play the fiddle in a country band. A girl had her photograph taken with a well-known professional golfer after she had won a state tournament. A boy included a picture of his debating trophies. Another had won a two day fishing tournament and held the trophy in a picture to prove it. Another had built his own computer. Still,another had patented her own invention, a device for counting inventory units. In each case the items were part of the requirements of the scholarship award,not just thrown in for effect. These are super examples of "personalizing" a scholarship application,but it doesn't have to be that noticeable.
There were also attempts at personalization not well received,a picture of a girl in a very tiny bikini. The word thong comes to mind. Another included prize ribbons with a request to return them when the judging was over.We had to send them back at our own expense! Another application had an algebra homework assignment inside, oops! We sent that back, too. Her siblings were probably blamed for its disappearance. One application had a Santa Claus hat inside. It came from Alaska. I'm still trying to figure that one out.
Why is personalization so important? Imagine that you are on the committee, sitting around a table with 247 scholarship forms. It is the committee