By Rena Sera, Esq.
Rena is a 2016 GGU Law alumna who just passed the bar and is joining a probate law firm in Walnut Creek. During law school, Rena was awarded competitive scholarships during her third year of law school from the FBANC, AABA, APABA-SV and California Bar Foundation. Rena also received several scholarships from GGU School of Law.
What Should You Do When Applying for a Scholarship or Writing Contest?
· Don’t procrastinate!
It is sometimes very tempting to wait until the last minute to start on that application. You have way too much reading to do in law school already. But much like how you should not procrastinate on that appellate brief for your appellate advocacy class, you should resist the urge to procrastinate on that scholarship application. Why? Because your procrastination will likely lead you to have a weaker application.
· Reach out to someone who has won the scholarship or contest.
See if anyone from GGU has won the scholarship or contest before. Previous winners can provide you with insight on what the interview was like or what they wrote about. If you don’t personally know the winner, see if a career counselor can connect you.
· Have someone review your application and personal statement before submitting it.
Too often, we think proofreading our own work is enough. However, the reality is that sometimes we are not as critical of our own work as an outsider would be. Thus, if you have a friend, professor, or someone else you trust review your application and personal statement, it is more likely that they will catch a spelling or grammatical error. Additionally, they will give you feedback on the impact of your personal statement on the reader.
· Submit your application in a timely manner!
I cannot stress this point enough. Treat it like a motion or pleading that needs to be submitted to the court. If your application is submitted late, it is very likely that it will not be reviewed by the scholarship committee. In order to avoid late submissions, pay attention to deadlines and DON’T PROCRASTINATE!
How Can You Increase Your Chances of Winning a Scholarship?
· Be yourself.
During my 3L year, I won four different scholarships. Many of my friends asked me what I did to win these scholarships when there were so many others who applied. I think the key is to be yourself and stick to your own personal brand. Highlight what makes you unique. When I was a new law student, I didn’t know what it meant to build my own personal brand. However, as I progressed through law school, I learned that building your own personal brand meant learning about who you are, what makes you unique, and what it is you want to do with your law degree. Your own personal experiences are different from the law student next to you and likely impacted your decision to go to law school. Highlight a few of those experiences in your application and explain how those experiences affected you and made you the way you are. This will make your application more personal and the scholarship committee will gain a better understanding of who you are.
· Get to know the members of the organization.
Just as it is important for the scholarship committee to get to know you through your application and personal statement, it is also important for the committee to put a face to your name. Many local bar associations award scholarships to students who are active in their organizations. Becoming active in the organization means joining the organization as a student member, attending the organization’s events, and networking with their members. Mingle with their members at their events and build friendships. The more members who can vouch for you, the more likely you are to get the scholarship.
What If You Didn’t Win the Scholarship You Applied For?
If you end up not winning the scholarship you applied for, don’t fret. By taking the time to put yourself out there and by networking with members of the local bar associations, you have built up your professional network. Reach out to those whom you’ve met and ask them if they’re willing to be your mentor. Lawyers are more than happy to mentor law students and young lawyers and show you the ropes as you navigate through law school, bar preparation, and the first few years of practice.
If You Did Win the Scholarship You Applied For, What’s Next?
If you were fortunate enough to win a scholarship, congratulations! However, after you win the scholarship, don’t stop what you were doing before. Keep up with the relationships that you have built. Keep attending those bar association events. Keep meeting with the lawyers you have met. Continue building and nurturing your professional network. Continue making a name for yourself. Don’t make the members of the organization that awarded you the scholarship feel like you were only active when you needed the scholarship. Additionally, when you begin seeking a post-bar position or even an attorney position, check to see if anyone you met during your quest for a scholarship can connect you to someone who is seeking a post-bar clerk or an attorney. Since they already know who you are, they are more likely to help you out and vouch for you in your job search.
I hope that these tips help you as you apply for scholarships. Don’t forget to use all of the resources available to you, including GGU’s law career services or financial aid office. Good luck!
See Funding Your Legal Education, Part I.