It has been an exciting couple of weeks here at Smart.Study, as we’ve been reviewing all the wonderful essays we received for our Summer 2016 Essay Writing Scholarship. Thank you to all participants for your interesting, funny, thought-provoking, and insightful essays!
At the risk of sounding cliché, we must admit: it was a tough choice. The top entries were separated by only one point, and we even named two winners for 3rd place. We have decided to split the 3rd place award between the two winners, since both essays were of equally good quality.
All winners will receive personal emails with instructions on how to claim their award.
Here are some statistics about our essay contest:
- We received a total of 279 essays, of which 211 were considered by our professional editors.
- We were unable to accept 68 essays because they violated one of the mandatory entry requirements: they were above or below the word count, did not discuss any of the proposed topics, or did not include a screenshot to prove that the entrant is part of our social media community.
- In total, our editors reviewed 131,099 words—or approximately 477 double-spaced pages!
- The average score breakdown is as follows: 14.7 points for grammar, 17.2 points for punctuation and spelling, 14.9 points for organization, 14.2 points for style, and 12.2 points for referencing.
- The average score is 73.2/100 points, and the average number of extra points received is 7.6. Thus, the average total score is 80.8.
That’s some fierce competition! But don’t despair—in case you didn’t make the cut this year, we’re planning to make this student contest a tradition. Stay tuned for the next essay scholarship!
So, without further ado, we now present to you the winning works of our Essay Writing Scholarship, starting from 3rd place. All essays have been published in their original form. Enjoy!
3rd place, $125. Brian Su: What are the habits of successful students?
The Path to Success
High school and college students nationwide are alike in their universal clamor for knowledge, knowing that it opens the door for success. However, for all of us, school wasn’t always like this. Sometime between the carefree play of kindergarten to the rigorous coursework of college, many students undergo a remarkable transformation. Their school experience transitions from youthful exploration driven by their own curiosity to hours upon hours of sitting at desks with no sound but the drone of a teacher and the scratching of pens (Robinson). Teachers, once delegated the job of keeping their students’ excitement in check, now are relegated with the task of keeping students motivated. Most students are aware that education is a crucial step on the road to success (Miyako 1). Unfortunately, many students find school mind numbingly uninteresting.
Learning shouldn’t be this way. Learning shouldn’t be an endless slog of memorizing terms, taking tests, and regurgitating details. If memorization and good study habits were all it took to be a successful student, then why do elementary schools offer so much opportunity for play? Why not seat these kids at desks and ask them to recite The Cat in the Hat? “Let kids have their fun,” we say.
Just like that, we’ve uncovered the most important feature of successful students: they are having fun. Let that sink for a moment.
The central characteristic of successful students, a “secret to success” so to speak, is the possession of a true passion for academics. Good study habits and effective research skills, often touted as means to achieve academic success, are just as much tools developed by successful students as means to achieve their other goals and are less important to success than belief in oneself (Young-Jones 11).
To be successful, students must relish education. We mustn’t lose our childhood creativity to the increasingly standardized education system. We must realize that material taught in lectures ranging from cell biology to economics, from world history to calculus, is not just important for future tests, but also because each and every fact we learn is a tiny piece of the enormous puzzle that explains how world as we know it came to be.
I’m not suggesting that each and every student explores every subject deeply, as every student has differing interests. However, it is precisely these differing interests that provide the first step to success. No two individuals achieve success through identical paths. However, all those who achieve success pave their paths by pursuing their passions.
As far as tips go, “follow your passions” is quite vague and difficult to internalize. By the time I entered high school I had heard the “follow your passions” spiel, and although I thought I understood it, I didn’t truly internalize the wisdom until sophomore year. Until then, I had been walking on the path my older brother had paved with math and volleyball. He had found his way to success, and I was determined to follow. But I am not my brother. In sophomore year I hit a plateau. My math was consistently weaker than my brother’s and I was cut from the team he had excelled in. I fell off his path. However, this wasn’t the end of my search for success. Rather, it gave me the opportunity to realize that I had been following his path for so long, I had never stopped too look around me. I had been too buried in his passions to realize mine. Since sophomore year, I’ve been forging my own path of bioengineering and martial arts. As difficult as course material can be, I choose what I want to learn. As long as I study that which actively feeds my passions, learning will always be easy because it will be fun.
Miyako, Ikeda. “What Do Students Think About School?” PISA in Focus (2013): 1-4. Jan. 2013. Web. 26 July 2016.
Robinson, Ken. “Do schools kill creativity?” TED. February 2006. Lecture.
Young-Jones, Adena D., Tracie D. Burt, Stephanie Dixon, and Melissa J. Hawthorne. “Academic Advising: Does It Really Impact Student Success?” Quality Assurance in Education 21.1 (2013): 7-19. Proquest Databases. Web. 26 July 2016.
3rd place, $125. Nivedhitha Selvaraj: Is study abroad a worthwhile investment?
When in Rome, Study Abroad
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” Augustine of Hippo expressed that sentiment nearly two millennia ago, but its fundamental message rings true even today. Travelling offers innumerable benefits. Want to build confidence and communication skills? Want to capture the attention of potential employers? Want to gain invaluable insights and new cultural perspectives? The key to all three lies in studying abroad, making it a powerful investment.
First and foremost, study abroad programs teach skills in a manner unparalleled by any other education techniques. For instance, the best way to learn a foreign language is through complete immersion, and no better method of immersion exists than interacting with native speakers. Study abroad programs present less obvious benefits as well. In a decade-long study comparing over 35,000 students, researchers at the University of Georgia found that study abroad students achieved higher GPAs and graduation rates upon returning home. This increased academic performance was especially pronounced in students who had historically struggled in school. In other words, study abroad programs continue to inspire students even after they return home, enriching their college education.
Equally important, study abroad helps students succeed when they enter the workforce because unique experience in foreign environments fosters vital job skills such as independence, empathy, and leadership. The Institute for the International Education of Students suggests that every penny spent studying abroad more than redeems itself; in their survey, study abroad alumni earned starting salaries averaging $7,000 higher than most U.S. college graduates. Furthermore, 90% of their study abroad alumni secured their first jobs within six months of graduation. By contrast, only 49% of other college graduates found jobs in twice as long. Essentially, study abroad enables students to pursue their passions and serves as a valuable investment throughout their careers.
Additionally, travel contributes to cultural awareness and character growth. In today’s increasingly global world, it is crucial for students to possess both sensitivity and adaptability. Taking a course in a different country exposes a student to new cultural identities, increasing appreciation for diversity. Likewise, travelling allows students to view their own heritage from an outside perspective. Most study abroad students acquire a greater interest in education and current world affairs. They learn independence and sophistication all while having an incredible time. According to the Institute for the International Education of Students, who surveyed over 3,400 study abroad students, 96% responded that studying abroad increased their self-confidence, and 97% said that their experience improved maturity levels. These percentages may seem staggering until one considers the radical changes in environment as students leave behind familiarity and the safety net of their own homes. Consequently, the ability to resolve problems in these stressful circumstances boosts communication skills, self-esteem, and even emotional stability.
They say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” but instead, do more. Instead, seek out knowledge and adventure. Instead, uncover new activities, intriguing people, breathtaking culture. And finally, after the experience of a lifetime, know that a study abroad trip will remain a worthwhile investment with long-lasting impacts on education, employability, and character.
Dwyer, Mary M., and Courtney K. Peters. “The Benefits of Study Abroad.” Transitions Abroad. Transitions Abroad, n.d. Web. 23 July 2016.
Johnson, Andrea. “Studying Abroad Promotes Cultural Awareness at Home.” The Arkansas Traveler. The Arkansas Traveler, 6 Apr. 2016. Web. 26 July 2016.
McMillan, Amy R. “New Survey Shows College Graduates Who Study Abroad Land Career-Related Jobs Sooner, with Higher Starting Salaries.” PRWeb. Vocus PRW Holdings, 24 May 2012. Web. 25 July 2016.
Redden, Elizabeth. “Study abroad may lead to better GPA, graduation rates.” USA Today. USA Today, 14 July 2010. Web. 24 July 2016.
“Saint Augustine.” BrainyQuote.com. Xplore Inc, 2016. Web. 16 July 2016.
Williams, Tracy R. “Impact of Study Abroad on Students’ Intercultural Communication Skills: Adaptability and Sensitivity.” AAPLAC. Association of Academic Programs in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2002. Web. 26 July 2016.
Zimmerman, Julia, and Franz J. Neyer. “Do We Become a Different Person When Hitting the Road? Personality Development of Sojourners.” Abstract. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2013): 515-30. Web. 25 July 2016.
2nd place, $550. Deja J. Monroe: Career vs family: which would you choose?
Career vs Family is Overrated
A couple living in Orlando, Florida named Jonathan and Alex are seen as a power couple. Both Jonathan and Alex are both really great at handling the responsibilities of a parent. Alex is a hardworking professor at the University of Central Florida and has been doing research about the integration of music with mathematics. Recently, Alex has been offered a position to teach at a nationally recognized school of music outside of the state of Florida. Jonathan is a homemaker. Jonathan spends time at home with their three-year-old Paula. Jonathan takes care of the household finances, dirties the house and cleans the house with Paula, and spends every hour catering to her needs. Which parent would you say has the most important responsibility? With it being the year 2016, I sure hope that you answered, neither.
Why should a career and family be the only options to choose from? The standards for our definition of what a family should be and should look like has developed tremendously. As women who have fought so hard for the same rights as men, why should we have to make that choice any longer? For men who have worked so hard to support women’s rights and shred themselves of the ideas of what masculinity is and is not, why shouldn’t there be a third option? As a woman, I should be able to progress further in my career, experience motherhood, and not feel forced to choose one lifestyle over the other. When asked to choose between a career and family, I would choose to break societal boundaries and answer with both. We are living in the 21st century and it is very much possible to have an outstanding career and positive family dynamic.
Our current situation is not the same as it was fifty years ago. We need more colors to choose from other than black and white. Women earn 48% of all medical degrees and hold almost 52% of all professional-level careers (Warner, 1). Yet, women hold only 14.6% of executive office positions and 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEO’s (Warner, 1). So, why are there so many women with the education to be a leader, but less than 15% actually are? According to the Pew Research Center, 63% of millennial women believe that having children will make it harder for them to advance their career and 56% of working moms find it very or somewhat difficult to balance career and family responsibilities (Pew Research Center, 1). This is my age group; these responses are according to women who are our next generation of female leaders. If women feel like they can’t do both, have a family and a career, there will continue to be a shortage of female leaders in the U.S.
Women have already chosen to have both a career and family. This is no longer a secret since women have continuously been accounted for as half the population of U.S. workers or more, outnumber men at colleges and universities, and graduate at a higher rate. According to a Gallup survey, 58% of women would like to start a family at the age of 25 or younger (Saad, 2). The bigger question is “executive vs. family”?
The American College of Healthcare Executives organized a study comparing the career attainments of men and women healthcare executives. The study discussed how women proved to be more qualified than men, having more previous experience in the healthcare industry. However, women were less likely to hold a leadership position within the company (ACHE, 2). In the work and family conflicts section, women who have children, typically serve as the primary caregiver 31% to 1% (ACHE, 2). Why is the percentage of women who are caregivers double the percentage of women who are executives? The study also found that 40% of women compared to 16% of men feel that domestic obligations fall disproportionately on them (ACHE, 2). In the U.S., we should value developing women as leaders, rather than just what our society is comfortable with. Women have come a long way from choosing between career and family. It is time for us to challenge others to think of women as leaders.
American College of Healthcare Executives. A Comparison of the Career Attainments of Men and Women Healthcare Executives. [American College of Healthcare Executives], 2006. Print.
Pew Research Center. Modern Parenthood. [Pew Research Center], 2013. Web.
Saad, Lydia. Americans See 25 as Ideal Age for Women to Have First Child. Gallup News Service, 2013. Print.
Warner, Judith. Fact Sheet: The Women’s Leadership Gap. Center for American Progress, 2014. Print.
1st place, $700. Sarah Daniels: What are the habits of successful students?
The Habits of Successful Students
According to John Dewey, the first researcher to investigate the efficacy of educational systems, “the process and the goal of education are one and the same thing” (77). The goal of education is to “[receive] scholastic instruction” (“Education, n.”), meaning to learn about academic subjects; the process of education is the exact same. In the rapidly globalizing world, almost every child attends school to gain an education and becomes a “student;” however, all of these students accomplish their learning differently. In order to be successful, students must understand themselves to the extent that they can organize their life to promote optimal learning.
Generalizing about all “successful students” creates issues, partially because each student defines their success individually. While one student may strive for an overall A+, another might prefer to dig deeper into the material outside of assignments, and yet another might not care about a grade because their partner compromised their work, but feels successful if they understand the concepts. A successful student always has goals; without attempting anything specific, one cannot have success, due to its definition as “[t]he prosperous achievement of something attempted” (“Success, n.”). However, most reasonably challenging academic goals require learning through studying, a process of completing assigned work and committing facts and concepts to memory. After setting specific goals, a student must prepare to have a productive session of studying, so that they can successfully complete their objectives.
Many different variables affect how a student studies, and one combination exists for every student that optimizes their productivity. A successful student, upon completing a study session, can evaluate the factors that positively or negatively affected their efficiency. They can assess: (1) did the location promote focus or provide distractions; (2) was the length of time appropriate, could it have been longer, or did the studying become too monotonous; (3) would more or fewer breaks have been beneficial; (4) did any people cause distractions, and could they be avoided; (5) were electronics distracting or a good study tool; (6) was any background noise or music useful or a setback; (7) could the actual process of completing the assignment have been easier or faster; (8) did any other factors affected the studying. None of these variables can be prescribed for a student except by themself. Successful students choose habits based on self-awareness of their studying capabilities; the only established study habit of all successful students is a post-studying reflection to help them better understand themselves.
After establishing academic goals, a student must create an environment and a state of mind where they can truly focus on learning. By understanding themself as a learner, a student can give themself the tools and situation to optimally learn. This even extends outside of study sessions, to choosing classes, forming relationships with teachers, taking notes in class, or joining a study group. With a continual process of noticing what helps them learn, students can apply their self-knowledge to maximize every step of their learning. If a student understands and caters to their learning preferences and has reasonable objectives, they can create the ideal habits to accomplish their goals, denoting them a “successful student.”
Dewey, John. “My Pedagogic Creed.” School Journal. Jan. 1897: 77. Web. 31 Jul. 2016.
“Education, n..” Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University press, n.d. 2016. Web. 31 Jul. 2016.
“Success, n..” Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University press, n.d. 2016. Web. 24 Jul. 2016.
Once again—thank you to all the student scholarship applicants! We’re looking forward to receiving your essays next time.
Make sure to check our Essay Writing Scholarship page to get the latest updates about the contest.