Sycophantism 101

So, I was thinking back to when I got rejected for a Spring/Summer scholarship, way back in February.  The letter I sent to the financial aid office rather firmly asked them to reconsider their decision, that my recent grades should speak more loudly than my grades from prodigal years. They did reply, saying their decision is final, and that they can’t ignore any grades.

It makes sense that they didn’t give me a Spring/Summer scholarship, since those are strictly grades-based. But I also dismissed my chances of receiving a Fall/Winter scholarship; I was ready to apply for federal financial aid and finish off my undergraduate career, business as usual. I’d already resigned to commit to more debt because I was commited to earning a degree. What’s one more year, anyway?

Maybe you can understand my surprise when I received notification about the scholarship. While it’s true that Fall/Winter scholarships are need-based as well as academic, if you fill out the comprehensive application, you also get to submit three essays in some sort of last-ditch effort to prove your eligibility for a happy philanthropist’s money. I guess the financial aid office also considers the FAFSA, but not nearly as heavily as one’s character and intellect.

Those three essays really had to capture my character and intellect. Before I returned to BYU, I applied for a scholarship, and they seemed to regretfully inform me I wasn’t going to receive one. I understood that as well: it had been seven years, and my academic record before the hyperextended hiatus (called New York City)  was pretty shameful. But this time around, while I didn’t quite earn 4.0s, it did look like I was trying to redeem myself. The grades reflected my determination, which spoke for my character; and they also somewhat indicated that I have the smarts.

I couldn’t count on grades being enough, because BYU doesn’t look solely at grades with semester scholarships. Near the beginning of this year, I remembered the application deadline coming quickly, and I didn’t know how I could write three dazzling essays. Nevertheless, I took a deep breath, told myself they were only three three-hundred word essays, and that I had nothing to lose. I typed away.

The three essays are the same topics each time: 1. Tell us about yourself; 2. What do you want to accomplish at BYU; 3. What have you accomplished in the last five years. While I agree to advise people to be honest and sell themselves while writing these essays, I must also have to say it’s sort of a balancing act with saying a few things the scholarship committee wants to hear. It’s part of the business and art of writing in world: of course you have your craft, but if your work doesn’t affect someone, somewhere, then why bother?

The essays follow, behind the cut. I tried treating them as one long essay split into three parts with a few overlapping ideas. Truth be told, they’re not my best work, but I believe they made a difference in the committee’s decision. I’m glad someone decided to share a bit of their fortune with me. That someone reading what I had to say turned something relatively low-risk into a great blessing.

#1

I always feel taller than I am.
Of course, I have a keen awareness of my height.
It’s not hard to notice tall people.
But they’re not that tall.
Self-consciousness has never been a problem.
I make it a point to distinguish myself so no one overlooks me.
Personality, grades; stellar humanness.
A typhoon in the Philippines welcomes me into this world.
I thrive on the transience of my military family.
I surround myself with extraordinary friends.
Their tallness of character matches mine.
This feels absolutely normal.

I always feel younger than I am.
The age increases although the outlook stays the same.
Or gets better.
Right now, at BYU, my age is a passive distinction.
But it correlates to my life experience.
A broader perspective.
So many students surround me, just having graduated from high school.
I taught a few of them early-morning seminary in New York City.
Quite a few of them are my friends.
We study together and help each other.
We share the same optimism and love for life.
They’re not that young.

My height is not my stature.
My attitude defies my age.

#2

Words swirl around me. They buoy me up. They seem to whisper almost desperately for something to be, something to do. I draw them into my lungs. The particles tickle my brain. I exhale, and the words as perfect bubbles – products of a process – thank me, and ascend to another mission.
I write.
In 1996, I declare a BYU undergraduate microbiology major. I intend to do research, participate in medical marvels. It’s highly demanding. I cram, craze; frazzle my synapses until I no longer want the labcoat life.
I take an extended hiatus. I rethink my goals. I start crafting emails, drafting essays and stories for fun. Friends suggest blogging, which I begin in June 2003, in New York City. From seven years of posts – tweaking, refining, revising, rising to the challenge words present me to give them purpose – my career path appears.
I want to keep writing.
I change my major to English and will use the microbiology credits for a minor. BYU can push me to a higher plane, secularly and spiritually. BYU’s academic-religious environment sharpens and expands my talents; campus is a ready audience that understands and discusses gospel insights that motivate much of my work.
My writing empowers; it reflects invaluable life experience. My pieces motivate. They teach. I desire to maintain this objective by contributing wherever I can. BYU’s writing networks encourage imagination, share ideas, and associate with other successful writers who also inspire and instruct.
BYU and I are partners.  Our excellence submerges, inhales me. I, like the words I nurture, have direction. I can always write better. I can be better, do better. It’s all I want.

Indebted, I soar to greater heights, ever taller.

#3

As the author of my own life, my achievements and service have chronicled a certain passage of time, but do not reflect a specific age.  They add substance without burden. The past few years have truly blessed me. I would have never thought to reach many of these goals as someone leaving adolescence and entering adulthood. I’m grateful to have a second chance at that stage of life; I have retained my youth.

-September – December 2006: Writing a publishable scene from my life through Gotham Writing Workshops in NYC
-January 22, 2007: Winning a stake singles spelling bee with the word ZUCCHETTO
-February 2007 – June 2009: Teaching early-morning seminary to NYC youth
-October 4, 2008: Completing my first sprint triathlon
-December 5, 2008: Debuting a collaborative, winning documentary at a stake singles short-film festival
-February 20, 2009: Swearing in as an American citizen as my dear friends watch and support me
-April 25, 2009: Photographing for a hometown ward American Red Cross hurricane preparedness activity
-May 2, 2009: Leading a successful blogging seminar at a Stake Arts Festival
-August 18-22, 2009: Leading daily scripture study at NYC Stake Girls Camp, a byproduct of seminary teaching
-September 15, 2009: Voting in my very first city primary election
-May 6, 2010 – Submitting a manuscript to the EXPLICATOR for possible publication
-December 2010 – Thanking BYU’s INSCAPE for publishing one of my short fiction pieces for their fall 2010 issue

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