high school

Learning how to sell yourself successfully: The art of a good scholarship application

by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

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Scholarships are a great way to help you to achieve your academic goals.

It is easy to sell yourself short and think you aren’t smart enough, hard working enough, or overall good enough to receive a scholarship, but that is 100% not true. If you have an academic goal in mind and work hard towards it, it is highly likely that there are plenty of scholarships, grants, and bursaries out there suited to you. You just need to know what you want, be creative and resourceful looking for funds, and learn how to sell yourself well.

Figuring out what you want:

One of the hardest things about applying for scholarships, and in life, is deciding who you are and what you want. It’s unlikely that you will find a scholarship/grant/bursary that is suitable for you, if you don’t know what you are looking for in the first place. So, how do you figure this out?

The best place to start is with what they call your “signature skills“. Your signature skills are the things that you are naturally good at, that you feel accomplished, happy, and respected whenever you apply these skills. For example, even since I’ve been a young kid, I was a decent writer. I liked to imagine things, making up crazy stories, and learn new words. It was difficult at times, and my dad put my assignments through several arduous edits. I was a terrible speller and I hated reading. But, somehow, I knew I was good at and I enjoyed it, especially when I did things like write articles for the local newspaper. People would compliment me on my humor and prose. It made me feel good. Of course, at the time, I didn’t really think I could make a career out of writing, but here I am. So, what kinds of skills do you have that you have always done pretty well, even when you were a young child? What do you people often compliment you about? Those are probably your signature skills.

Knowing your signature skills, can help you to think critically about what you want in life. What do you want to study at school? What do you think would be an interesting job? For example, being the genius that I am (*cough*), I received a scholarship for Engineering in Undergrad that was larger than any of my other scholarships, but I wasn’t interested in Engineering. I was interested in Politics, so I went into an Arts degree. In the beginning I didn’t get as larger a scholarship, as I would have if I’d enrolled in Engineering. But, in the end, I received several scholarships throughout my Undergrad, Graduate, and post-Grad years because I followed my interests and skills set, and developed those skills over time. It’s highly likely that had I enrolled in Engineering I wouldn’t have done that well, and I would’ve lost my scholarship after the first year, and just be miserable, penniless, and beating myself up. Knowing what you are good at and what you enjoy, can help you to choose a path that exemplifies those skills and passions. Then, you can start to look for scholarships related to your own specific gifts and goals, and be more likely to receive them as you continue to build up your qualifications and experiences.

Finding the right scholarship/grant for you:

As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, it is important to know what you are looking for in a scholarship. There are gazillions of scholarships out there, once you start looking, so don’t waste your time applying for all of them. Instead, focus on the ones that you think are best suited to your own unique skills set and long-term goals.

For example, I studied Chinese Politics in Undergrad long before it was cool to be interested in China. In fact, most people thought I was crazy…but now, who’s laughing?! Anyway, I knew that I wanted to go to China, and hopefully learn Chinese, so I asked my Chinese Professors for advice. She was and still is an excellent networker, and she let me know about several scholarship programs through the Chinese government, Taiwanese government, Canadian government, and even a special program with a grant for teaching English in China. This process would be a lot easier today with Google because I could do a quick search of “Chinese Language Scholarships for Canadians” and find a bunch of these links. However, it is also extremely useful to have a mentor to point you to opportunities because they can also give you advice on what the scholarship committees might be looking for. Since it was still a bit unusual for a Ukranian-Canadian from rural Alberta to want to go to China to study Chinese, and I had passionately pursued a degree in Chinese Politics and History, when I applied for all of these scholarships, I got EVERY one of them, and had to chose where I wanted to go. Knowing your own special niche and searching for specific opportunities in that area, no matter how crazy everyone else thinks you are, can really pay off because you are putting your energy into applications that are best suited for your long-term goals, and can really highlights your own unique skills set.

Fine-tuning your personal sales pitch:

Once you know what you want and you’ve found it, the last important step is knowing how to sell yourself so that the selection committee believes they are giving the scholarship to the best person. Instead of thinking about all the ways in which you are going to impress them with a long list of high grades and extra-curricular activities, try to think about the selection process from their perspective. They will be sifting through piles of applications and reading about all kinds of people with lots of accomplishments. So, how can you make yourself stand out?

Well, in my case, I used my strength in writing and added some creativity to my application. I wanted to tell a story about myself. Now, this doesn’t mean that I made up any information or embellished reality. But, it does mean that I thought about what parts of my own academic and professional life would help me to succeed in a Chinese Language program, and how I could present those qualities in a manner that was interesting and relatable to the audience. Thus, I started with a quote from a famous Chinese story, and used that story as a basis to explain why I wanted to study in China, in what ways I was prepared, and how I was going to use my new language skills to achieve my long-term goals. By using this quote and story, I was able to show indirectly that I had an in-depth knowledge of China, and a passion for its history and culture. It also helped me to stay on track and focus only on the skills that were related to the application criteria. In the end, it seemed to work. Therefore, I recommend taking a risk and being a little creative in your next scholarship application. After all, what do you have to lose? They’re the ones giving you free money!

Scholarships can be intimidating. You may feel that you aren’t smart enough or hard working enough to qualify. But, I guarantee that if you are passionate and dedicated to something, there is someone out there willing to give you money to pursue your dreams, so give it a shot! Start thinking about what you want, where you can find it, and how to tell the best story about yourself. If you need some help getting started on this journey, please reach out to us for a free 30 minute consultation and find out what PFAU can do to help you to reach your full potential on the page, and in life.

All content in this post is created by Lisa Pfau and Patricia Huang. Feel free to share it widely; however, please do not replicate any of the text or graphics without our prior permission. Doing so is violating copyright law. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property rights.

Healthy Relationships Start with Healthy Communication by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

Healthy and constructive communication skills are not innate. If we are fortunate, we grow up in an environment with confident parents and clear non-judgmental communication. Unfortunately, that is not the case for most of us. We usually end up learning we need to work on our communication and relationship skills later in life. So, what can you do to help yourself now?

HealthyRelationshipsComic 1024x205 Healthy Relationships Start with Healthy Communication by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang
Healthy relationships start with healthy communication.

Think before you react: It is common to want to spit back a reply or act out when we are feeling hurt, upset, or uncomfortable. However, it is in these moments of intense emotion that I find it is most useful for me to step back, take a breath, and think about what I need from the situation. Once I know what I need, it is easier for me to articulate what I want to say without blame and judgement. Count to 10! It’s not an emergency. The person will still be there to hear your response in most cases.

Learn to listen: We all love to talk, but listening takes work. It means that we need to quiet the thoughts in our mind for long enough to let someone else’s in. It also means that we need to step out of ourselves and focus on someone else. It takes time, effort, and patience to try to understand another person’s perspective, especially when it is in direct contrast to our own. But, you can’t really craft a constructive response to a situation, if you don’t understand it first. So, listen before you speak next time and see what happens.

Lead with “I” statements: The biggest issue in communication is blame, shame, and defensiveness. It is impossible to get anywhere in a conversation once you or the other person becomes defensive. Defensiveness is destructive, whilst openness is constructive. So, instead of focusing on being right and assigning blame, you could try focusing on what you are feeling, what do you need, what do you hope to get out of the conversation. Then, lead with “I” statements, instead of “you” statements. That is as simple as saying: “I really felt hurt and betrayed when you suddenly dropped out of the group assignments and didn’t do the work you’d previous agreed upon. I don’t feel comfortable letting you back into the group unless we can do things differently in the future.” That is much better than: “OMG! How dare you ask to rejoin our group! You’re so lazy and totally let us down last time. Forget it!!” Hmmm…which one do you think is going to escalate a situation?!

Be open to feedback? Personal growth is a process. There is no finish line in that process until you cross over to the other side (ie. death). Communication is a part of personal growth, so don’t beat yourself up when you make a mistake or could do better. Instead, stay open to how your communication style impacts others. Can you do something different in the future? Maybe? Maybe not? But, at least you opened your ears and took the feedback as constructive, instead of closing yourself off from some potentially valuable information.

Remember that communication is a skill, not a in-born trait. It takes practice and lots of blunders, so don’t get discouraged. And remember, if you need some advice on how to improve you communication skills at school or work, you can book a free 30 minute consultation with one of our coaches. You can also check out our upcoming talk with qualifying psychotherapist, Jill Gillbert, on Tuesday, February 26th at 6:00pm. Check out the blog post and EventBrite for more details.

All content in this post is created by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang. Please feel free to share widely, but also please do remember to give us credit. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property rights.

Student Speaker Series 2: Maximize your Academic Experience without Breaking the Bank

PFAU: Academic writing, editing, & coaching and the Bank of Montreal (Bedford & Bloor Branch)

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Pfau-pfau is overwhelmed by money issues.

Pfau: Academic writing, editing, & coaching experts and the Bank of Montreal (Bedford & Bloor Branch) will be collaborating in 2019 to bring students a personalized speaker series geared towards increasing financial literacy, awareness, and planning towards meeting specific academic or career goals. Each session will begin with a brief overview of academic themes/questions relevant to the semester timetable, followed by a speaker in the financial sector who will link those academic goals to financial awareness and planning.

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Pfau-pfau learns to use a credit card.

Come Join Us!

Tuesday, February 13th

6:00pm to 7:30pm

Bloor & Bedford Bank of Montreal (242 Bloor Street West)

Our first speaking event will focus on teaching the basics of understanding financial resources both on campus and within financial institutions. Lisa Pfau (CEO & Senior Coach at PFAU) will provide an overview of how to access cost-saving students services and maximize your tuition fees. Meng Sun (Financial Services Manager at BMO) will discuss the basics of banking products and services and how to decide what is best for you. She will outline the differences between Savings & Chequing Accounts, how to use a Credit Card wisely, how to obtain and utilized a Line of Credit or Personal Loan. The goal of this event is to teach students how to best us their time on campus to gain professional and academic skills without breaking their budget.


OUR SPEAKERS

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Lisa Pfau & Pfau-pfau

Lisa Pfau is an academic life coach with over 10 years experience helping students and young professionals to reach their full potential on the page, and in life. She focuses on developing not only exceptional communication and analytical skills through teaching essay writing and editing academic papers, but also coaches her clients in self-awareness, understanding professional environments, and how to create and implement realistic strategies that will help them to reach their academic and professional goals. She has a combination of strong academic skills and a kind and supportive mentoring style. Lisa has a Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) in Political Science and History from the University of Alberta, Chinese Language & Culture Certificate from Peking University, and Master of Arts in Political Science & Asian Studies from the University of Toronto. Lisa has worked in government, academic, and entrepreneurial settings throughout Canada, the US, and China. She loves helping students to succeed and is very excited to be able to partner with BMO to make this speaker series happen.

Meng professional shot Student Speaker Series 2: Maximize your Academic Experience without Breaking the Bank
Meng Sun, Financial Services Manager at BMO

Meng Sun is an experienced Financial Services Manager at the Bank of Montreal with a Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com.) in Finance and Economics from the University of Toronto – Rotman School of Management. Meng is originally from China, and enjoys using her unique language and cultural experience in both China and Canada to help international students to understand the Canadian financial environment. She believes that teaching financial literacy and understanding how to choose the right products for her customers is essential to being a competent and conscientious financial manager.

4 Tips on how to Maximize your Holiday Break

It is easy to promise yourself that you will get caught up or get ahead during the holiday break, but once family come over, the parties start, and all the distractions begin it becomes almost impossible. Then, before you know it, you are back to work and even further behind that before. Here are four simple things you can do to try to make the most of your time off, while still enjoying the festivities. Check out our YouTube video 

Sleep-Study Balance by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

PFAU 20 edited 01 Sleep Study Balance by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

 

It’s the day before your exam. You sit down to review those final 10 chapters. By lunch time, you’ve only managed to get through two. You start reviewing Chapter 5 while eating your dinner. It’s 9:00 p.m. and you’re only halfway through Chapter 7. Midnight creeps up and you still have two more chapters to go. Your exam is at 9:00am. Do you still up late and keep studying or go to bed and get at least 7 hours of sleep? Studies show that a good night’s sleep has a positive impact on your memory and recall compared to cramming in those last two chapters before your exam late at night.

 

Great, you say, but what if I go to bed early and miss important concepts that are then on the exam! Yeah, that’s a problem too. The key is to create a balance between study and sleep. Here are a three tips to help you out:

 

Start studying 1-2 weeks in advance: Of course, the most obvious and repeated advice is to start things early so that you aren’t stuck at the last minute. “Easier said than done”, said one procrastinator to another. As a rule of thumb, I would not study any new material the night before the exam, but leave that night for review only. That way if I don’t get through all of my review notes, I am confident that I have the materials somewhere locked in my brain. “Easier said than done,” said the other procrastinator to the first one. Right, so how to put this into action?

 

First, mark a reminder in your calendar at the beginner of the semester that notifies you three weeks before each exam to sit down and make a study plan. This will force you start thinking about the exam earlier than usual.

 

Second, during that week, sit down and review all the units that you need to cover before the exam. Figure out how many days you have to study. So, if you are starting two weeks in advance, realistically you 9 days to study (14 days – 1 day for review + 2 weekends where you’ll probably goof off = 9 days).

 

Third, figure out how many chapters you need to cover each day in order to finish up in 8-9 days. Make sure to account for the other exams you also need to prepare for.

 

Fourth, write these goals down in your calendar or a notebook, and make sure to start studying on the first day no matter what. Even if you don’t get far, at least you started and are beginning to building up momentum and get your brain set on studying.

 

Fifth, keep track of your progress, so that you know if you need to put in an extra day or late night. It is easier to catch up over a couple days than it is over a couple hours. Then, if the night before your exam you are focused on review, you can stick to a reasonable bedtime even if you don’t finish everything, knowing that you covered it all at least once.

 

Only study what you need to know: So often as students we get carried away with wanting to cover absolutely EVERYTHING. That’s not realistic. You need to study smart. There are a few things that can do to help you to identify what to study and what to leave out.

 

First, attend the review session at the end of term. The TA or Professor will often provide you with a study guide or at least drop some hints. Don’t hesitate to ask what will be covered in the exam a class or two before the end of term, if they don’t explicitly lay in out for you. You’re doing yourself and your classmates a huge favor.

 

Second, attend lectures and tutorials regularly. The Professor is usually only going to test what he/she covered in class, not the whole textbook. Reading the whole textbook may provide you with useful supplementary information, but it likely will not be necessary for doing well on the exam. Instead, focus on understanding the key concepts, definitions, and examples that the TA and Professor bring forth in tutorials and class. You can also check for bold text or sections in the textbook. These are usually important key terms/concepts. The end of chapter review pages also help you to identify key concepts/terms. Knowing what you’re heading into, can help you to get what you need done before the exam and sleep easier the night before.

 

Ask for help sooner, rather than later: If you don’t understand something, don’t wait until the day before the exam to ask for help. Ask a friend, your TA, or Professor, if there is a concept in class that you really don’t understand after going to the lecture and reading the appropriate chapter in the textbook. The Professor’s office hours are there for a reasons, so please use them. Moreover, showing that you are engaged and attempting to understand the materials helps you to build a positive relationship with the Professor and TA. This relationship will be important in the future should you require reference letters or want to discuss a grade appeal. Trying to understand a difficult concept while under exam preparation pressure is an almost impossible task, so give yourself a leg up by asking questions early.

 

Being realistic about your study plan means that you definitely will be able to head to bed early before your exam, and possibly feel more rested during the whole exam period so that your brain is fresh and ready to go on exam day.

 

**All blog content is original created by Lisa Pfau and Patricia Huang. Please respect our intellectual property rights and do not copy any of this content without our prior permission.  However, please do feel free to share widely.

 

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Avoid Plagiarism & Maintain your Academic Integrity by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

PFAU 11 comic book thick edited final 01 Avoid Plagiarism & Maintain your Academic Integrity by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

 

Recently a well-known and prize winning American poet was accused of plagiarism by her contemporaries and her reputation completely sullied. Plagiarism is a major academic offense, and a very common mistake made by 1st Year Undergraduate students. In order to avoid a failed assignment or scary encounter with your Professor, there a few things that you can do to protect your academic integrity:

 

When in doubt, cite: Although you can be penalized for citing too much (ongoing debate among Law students), that is a far better offense than citing too little or not at all. You will not be kicked out for being honest about your unoriginality. Thus, if you think that the ideas that you are using in your essay are based upon someone else’s, make sure to cite the article or book that you got them from. Citations are not just for quotations, but paraphrasing as well. Paraphrasing means taking someone else’s words or ideas and putting them into your own. It is often taught in lower grades that paraphrasing can be presented as your original thoughts, but once you get into university and college paraphrasing without a reference is a serious offense. The main idea of a book, the argument/theory in an academic article, or a discussion by your Professor in class needs to referenced. Generally any evidence you are using to prove your point needs to be cited. If you are still unsure about whether or not your are plagiarizing, Turnitin.com has an interesting quiz where you can test yourself. Your analysis of the data is where you have a chance to be creative and present some original work of your own. In other words, you take other’s information and thoughts and provide your own opinion about them. If you are really creative, maybe someone else will cite you one day!

 

Consult a Style Guide: Another thing to watch out for when referencing material in your essay is the referencing style. Different faculties and departments use different referencing guidelines. The Social Sciences, for example, tend to use APA/ASA style, while Historians prefer Chicago Style and the English department sticks to MLA. If you are confused about the difference between these different referencing guidelines, it is best to consult a style guide and confirm with your TA/Professor. You can usually find reputable style guides in your university or college bookstore, or else online with a quick Google search. Look for one’s that have been published by or reviewed by academic institutions to determine their accuracy and relevance. One of my favorites is OWL Purdue. I find it easy to follow and comprehensive. I also really like how they give you the citation format for both in-text and bibliography, as well as a real example of what the citation would look like when input into your essay.  it is a resources I suggest to all of my First-Year students.

 

Take detailed research notes from the start: Many students avoid putting in citations because they find it tedious, or have lost their references. They read books and articles and know the main ideas, but haven’t noted exact page numbers or even the source while doing their research. Then, when it’s time to write the paper, they remember the content, but not where they have gotten it from. At this point, citing sources seems like a big pain in the butt.

 

The best way to make citing easy is to take detailed research notes that include the authors name, date, text (if you are using the same author more than once), and page number in one notebook/document that is solely dedicated to your research essay. Every time I write down a quote or paraphrase an idea while reading a text, I write down a simple citation in brackets after each note, even if it’s from the same author and on the same page. It is unlikely that I will remember those details later when I’m writing up the paper.

 

It is also a good idea to add any materials that you are think relevant to your bibliography immediately. Many university/college libraries have software, such as RefWorks, to help you to organize your research materials and automatically generate bibliographies. Most libraries also provide free courses on how to use the library system and citation software throughout the year.  You can usually find this out by consulting your university library information desk.

 

Don’t risk your academic integrity! Cite any and all ideas that you believe not to be your own. Referencing others work gives credit where credit is due, as well as, helps you to engage in the ongoing academic conversation in a respectful and professional manner.