I am a GHC’19 scholar and GHC’21 scholarship reviewer. This article represents my own experience and is not an official guideline for writing your GHC Scholarship application.
Please check the guidelines provided by Anitab.org on their official announcement while filling your application. This article only intends to give you a few tips on how to tackle the application.
Also, my views as a GHC Scholarship reviewer do not represent all the GHC application reviewers. Other reviewers might evaluate their applications differently.
Before sharing my experience, I’ll do a brief overview of GHC and the GHC Scholarship.
What is GHC?
Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) is a mega-event for women in tech/computing packed with workshops, panel discussions, networking opportunities, a huge career fair, and much more. A scholarship to GHC is a lifetime opportunity to learn, network, and grow yourself into a leading woman in tech.
What is GHC Scholarship Application?
Grace Hopper Celebration Scholarship is a program that provides sponsorships to full-time students (undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D.) and faculty to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration. Scholars who get selected get a free ticket to the event, plane tickets from your city to the GHC venue, accommodation for 4 days, and a stipend (which if used well easily covers your airport-hotel transportation fare, food, and other necessities).
Experience as a Scholarship Applicant (who got accepted)
I applied to the GHC’19 scholarship as a non-US resident while I was pursuing an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering in Nepal. As an applicant who was from a foreign country and a non-CS major, I was apprehensive about the odds of my application being selected. The application system was notorious for being competitive and I considered myself as an average student who could get easily lost in the pool of thousands of applicants. Despite the odds, I obtained the scholarship in 2019 on my first attempt.
After obtaining the scholarship, I am doing my fair share of work to spread the word about GHC Scholarship in Nepal. While doing so, I find multiple female students are just as doubtful as I was (in 2019) to apply for the scholarship. Therefore, I sincerely hope some of my application experiences shared in this article resonate with you and help you to get through the process.
Here it starts.
If I remember correctly, I had checked the scholarship application as soon as it opened. [Note: If you want to be an early bird like me, please sign up for the GHC Newsletter on their website.]
However, I got overwhelmed and backed out on my first encounter. The application was lengthy and required a lot of details: resume/CV, unofficial transcript, answer to two short essays, a letter of recommendation from faculty, other personal and academic details, interests, etc.
After about a month of procrastination, I started sincerely preparing all the required materials and submitted my application on the day of the deadline.
[Note: The application opened in January and closed in April, so there was plenty of time.]
While other specifics of the application are a blur, I notably remember the effort I put into the essays.
There were two 200-word essays; one asked me about why I was interested in a celebration for women in computing and the other asked me how I would give back to my community after attending GHC.
[Honorable mention: One of my friends, Anmol, helped me a lot to determine the direction of the essays.]
For the first essay, I added a small anecdote of my experience with an HTML project when I was in the 9th grade and how that project influenced my interest in tech, explained the challenges I faced because of the gender disparity (a 10:1 ratio of male to female students) in my college and my motivation to attend GHC. My top motivations were finding role models, networking with other amazing females in tech, and getting a global perspective on opportunities in tech.
For the second essay, I first talked about my personal experience of how I turned from a shy-know-nothing to an active leader in my community with encouragement from my female college seniors (Misan di & Jayshree di). Then, I showed my gratitude towards those role models and expressed my aspiration to become one myself. After that, I showcased how I planned to become a role model to coming generations at my college. I shared my ability to organize events and sessions for the female students in my college.
[Note: I was an active community member who had volunteered, participated in, and organized different tech events in my college.]
Key takeaways from my experience as a GHC scholarship applicant are:
- Start early
The sooner you check the application requirements and the sooner you start the application, the more likely you are to dedicate enough time and hard work to each component of the application.
- Pay special attention to the essays
The essays allow you to convey your unique story. With carefully crafted essays, you can stand out among the other applications.
- Utilize the 200 words wisely
200 words might sound like a lot but once you start writing, you’ll realize how difficult it is to fit in the gazillion things you want to include in the essay.
- Address what AnitaB is looking for in a scholar
“Women who are active in their community, including being involved/supporting with campus computing/STEM clubs and working toward the advancement of women in computing.
Women who understand how attending GHC will impact them and any messages or key learnings they take back to share at their schools and community.
Faculty Scholars who mentor female students.”
[Copied from GHC’21 scholarship application]
- Get your application reviewed
Others will be able to detect the common mistakes and notice the inconsistencies in your application. Also, they can remind you of things you missed to add to the application.
Experience as a Scholarship Reviewer
I reviewed 20 scholarship applications for GHC’21 as one of the hundreds of GHC scholarship reviewers. My experience as one of the reviewers this year forced me to reflect on my own application I wrote in 2019 and ultimately write this article.
Reviewing the applications was extremely difficult as most candidates were just as amazing as the others.
The major components in the application that helped me make decisions are:
- The personality and sincerity reflected in the essays
- The level of impact the candidate can make to her community after attending GHC
- Evidence of excellence in the resume
- Personal touch in the recommendation letter
I was heavily influenced by compelling stories of hardships, sincere motivation to grow through the opportunities at GHC, faculty recommendations that went the extra mile to endorse their students, and impressive projects or community involvements.
Key suggestions from my evaluation as a scholarship reviewer are:
- Research before writing
Research the activities and opportunities at GHC well before starting the application. As a scholarship reviewer, I gave utmost priority to the impact GHC would have on the scholar. If you don’t know GHC well, you’ll never be able to convey what you hope to achieve from GHC.
- Do not make-up stuff in the essays
If you are dishonest in your essays, your lies might easily be caught by the reviewers due to the inconsistencies in your application components.
- Do not get discouraged if you don’t have the best grades
Even though I can’t deny that academic excellence helps your application to shine, a few bad grades on your transcript don’t heavily penalize your application. I never rejected an application specifically because of bad grades.
- Let the application be a mix of your struggles and your achievements
Do not hesitate to show your struggles. Scholarship programs are meant for the needy ones. Privileged folks would not require a scholarship in the first place. So, express why you deserve the scholarship to attend the celebration in the application by showcasing your achievements as well as your struggles.
- Show your community involvement
A huge factor in accepting the application was the ability and readiness of the applicant to influence and uplift other women. If you’re an active leader in your college community or have volunteer hours under your sleeves, you are automatically many steps ahead of an average applicant.
- Ask for a recommendation letter asap
Recommendation letters were often the tie-breakers for me while reviewing the applications.
A thoughtful letter of recommendation is a must for the scholarship and what is required to craft such a letter? Plenty of time! If you and your peers ask for the recommendation letters to your faculty at the same time of the year, your faculty won’t have time to craft a stand-out letter of recommendation for you. So, pick a faculty member who knows you well and contact them early.
Provide plenty of information to your faculty about what GHC is, why you want to attend GHC, and how you wish to impact your college community after attending GHC for an effective letter.
- Check, then recheck
Even small mistakes in your application can cost you the opportunity of being a GHC Scholar. Complete your application early and give it some time to rest. Then, get your application evaluated again — by yourself and by others before making the final submission.
The next round of applications will probably open in Jan 2022.
It is never too early to start preparing. Therefore, I urge you to start right now.