Scholarship "Essay" Questions - Fixed, Choose Your Own, Short, Long?

Hello fellow scholarship providers!

I work for the Pedrozzi Foundation and we provide undergraduate, community college, tech/vocational, and grad scholarships to students in Livermore, CA. We are merit based, but award higher dollar amounts to students with financial need.

We are always looking to improve our application, both for students and our teams of volunteer reviewers, as well as us administrators.

We have a few Q&As in our application - some might call them essay questions, but we've shifted away from that language and are instead using them as "Getting to Know You" questions. We hope this makes it more welcoming to students.

We're finding that our reviewers tend to actually get the most information/feel compelled instead by our "Optional" section - an area where students can write freely about whatever they think is helpful to know about them.

We're considering:

1) Making the optional a required, 4th question, for a total of 4 "long answer" questions.

2) Making the optional a required question, and switching 2 to "short answer", and have 2 "long answer" questions.

3) Getting rid of the idea of fixed questions, and instead allow students to choose a few prompts to answer.

What we hear constantly is that reviewers want to know as much as possible about students, but I often feel adding another question, especially an essay one, may limit the pool of applicants even more. We really want our application to be welcoming to as many post-secondary students as possible.

I'm curious any thoughts on the above and/or if you have any experience with any of that.

Thanks all,

Danielle Fleer


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    We are trying to switch to "getting to know you" essays - a shift to short or long answer questions sounds intriguing. Would you mind sharing what your questions are? Do you use different and/or fewer questions for tech/vocational students than those bound for 4-year colleges? We are being told by guidance counselors to ask very few "written" answers from tech/vocational students as they will be turned off from the application.

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    AshleyRuizAshleyRuiz Posts: 5
    First Comment Photogenic Foundant Team Member
    edited October 2022

    Hi @DanielleFleer!

    You definitely reached out to the right community! One of the things i have seen that are beneficial, are prompt questions. Having the student/applicant answer four short answer questions based on prompts or even two short and two long answer questions. This takes stress off the applicant and invites them to be creative with what they enter.



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    AprilHaynesAprilHaynes Posts: 6 ✭✭
    First Compass Anniversary Summit 2024 5 Likes First Comment

    We have gone back and forth about this very issue. Last year, we gave the students prompts to write about that came from the common application. This year we changed it to one question. "What are your personal career goals and future plans?"

    Some of our scholarship funds require specific essays so we couldn't take those out. We hope by changing the requirement from uploading an essay to just answering the question above, we may get more applicants.

    I'm interested to hear what others are doing.

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    KatieMcConvilleKatieMcConville Posts: 11 ✭✭
    Name Dropper First Compass Anniversary First Comment 5 Likes
    edited October 2022

    We have 1 essay and a few short answer questions. In the past, we have offered multiple prompts for students to choose from (your #3), but found it was difficult to score - our committee uses a rubric to grade the application for consistency and it was too difficult for them to use multiple rubrics. We also found that highly scored essays were those where students performed a particular type of privilege or disadvantage. Our essay question is now: "Tell us about something you love or are passionate about that will shape your future career or goals."

    We have 1 short answer that is required and scored: "Explain why attending college or university is important to you." (We are considering making this optional this year.)

    We also have two pieces that are my favorite (and the committee's favorite!) parts of the application which are not graded which are:

    Short Answer (required): In a short statement, tell us one thing you have done that you are proud of.

    Listing (required): The Five Things About Me (that aren't in this application): Enter a list of 5 things you would like the committee members to know about you.

    These answers have helped us gain more insight into the day-to-day lives of the students and helped with a holistic review. I'm interested to hear how many students will choose to fill out the "optional" pieces of the application - we've made all of these pieces required in the past.

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    FrancescaWisemanFrancescaWiseman Posts: 5
    First Compass Anniversary 5 Likes First Comment
    edited October 2022

    I like April's suggestion of just answering the question instead of uploading a file. I just changed our essays to "text and upload" type answers. That way those who are motivated to write real essays can upload files, and those who really hate having to write essays will still answer the question and keep moving forward and hopefully complete the application. It will be interesting to see which option winds up being more popular.

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