Thursday, August 14, 2008

GHC Scholarships: 3 Reasons Why People Don't Apply, and 3 Reasons Why You Should

Not much new news from me, just my latest installment for the Grace Hopper Blogger's blog:


Recently, I read a pretty surprising statistic: only about 600 people applied for a GHC Google Global Community Scholarship this year! The scholarship provides winners with accommodations and travel funding to help them get to GHC, as well as all their meals and conference fees waived. This is a great program that helps many students, especially undergraduates who have limited time and funds for attending conferences.

Last year, over 900 people applied, so I wondered why the numbers would fall so dramatically this year. I'm worried; I think encouraging students to apply for the scholarship raises their awareness of GHC and increases the likelihood of their participation. Even if they can't attend, it may encourage them to be more involved in their student community, especially women's technical groups. Most importantly, students are really the life-blood of GHC - if we don't encourage young talent to come, the conference may eventually die out.

So, I've done some thinking and have three reasons why people aren't applying. I've also got some counter-reasons why [next year] you should give it your best shot anyway:

  • "There are so many fantastic female students out there, I don't have a chance!"
    If you don't apply, you have zero chance, but if you submit something, there is always some chance, right? Also, it's very likely that you are also fantastic. You don't have to be a superwoman to merit an award; think of all the little things you are doing at school and in your community to help women in technology. Reviewers are looking for what makes you passionate and what you are doing to make a difference, no matter how small you think it might be. It might help to talk to others about your impact; in my previous post a reader commented that they hadn't realized they were doing all the same things that I had been doing, but hearing them from someone else gave her that 'light bulb' moment.

  • "I applied before and was rejected (maybe more than once)."
    First of all, each year the competition changes. This year 300 fewer people applied, so your chances of winning may have increased. Second, with each time you try, you have a chance to improve your application. It's quite likely that you learned something about writing scholarship applications between now and the last time you applied, added some new accolades to your resume, or got some feedback on your unsuccessful applications that have given you some ideas for the next one. Use what you've learned to try again, and don't give up!

  • "It's not worth the time, and I'm extremely busy."
    There are so many reasons why this is worth your time. A free trip never hurt anyone, for starters! But this isn't just any free trip; past attendees have described how GHC made them rethink the direction they were taking their career in, helped them decide to go to graduate school, or inspired them to finish their degree when they were having a tough time. Winning a scholarship could also encourage your peers to get involved and try to attend GHC themselves, or convince your school to support more students.
So now that I've (hopefully) convinced you to apply next year, what can you do to make you application the best it can be?

  • Show Your Passion: Show why you're passionate about technology and the community of women in technology. You can demonstrate that passion in many small ways - maybe you've helped build a website, kept a regular blog, or organized meetings with other female students. Make sure you highlight those contributions!

  • Be Specific: What will you do if you win a scholarship? How will you stretch the award to benefit as many as possible? Think of different ways you can contribute to the conference, the community at large, and your school. You might submit a technical poster or talk, or get involved with a Birds of a Feather session. Maybe you will present your experiences to your peers after the conference has ended. Give concrete plans and specific details.

  • Present Yourself: Even if you're a spelling whiz, it doesn't hurt to have a second pair of eyes look over your application. Find someone to help proof-read your work and don't forget to return the favor! Presentation is important and you wouldn't want your work to be overlooked because of a few typos.
If you can't attend GHC or still don't want to apply for a scholarship, there are still other ways to contribute: encourage people you know to apply and help them with their applications. Remind people of the deadlines, help edit their applications, even write reference letters. Let's do all we can to encourage everyone! Even if those you help aren't successful in winning the scholarship, you will likely have improved their chances, boosted their confidence, and strengthened your network. Which is what the spirit of GHC is all about, right?

No comments: