As a Jack Kent Cooke scholar, I’ve met some of the most incredible people in the country. This is a privilege I don’t take for granted. Other JKC scholars have taught me how far hard work and perseverance can take you. When I was applying, I didn’t think I was qualified to win. However, I thought I would still give it my best. Once I met other scholars, I realized we all had some common threads, including thinking that we weren’t good candidates. The JKC foundation saw something in us that we hadn’t seen in ourselves. Reflecting back on my time before I was a JKC scholar, I can now see what has led me to be a scholar today. My experience with applying and getting to know fellow scholars has given me insight on what makes someone a JKC Scholarship candidate.
1. Jack Kent Cooke scholars get involved
Getting involved in your education and your community is an important characteristic of a JKC scholar. Scholars take their education into their own hands and make sure they’re getting the most out of their time in college. Involving yourself in your education doesn’t mean just getting good grades. All of us have struggled in our classes, just like everyone else. What sets scholars apart is going that extra mile to better yourself. I was a tutor in the tutoring center, but I was also getting tutored myself. Even though I didn’t initially need it, I knew my classes would get more difficult, so I took the necessary steps to prepare. I formed study groups, met with my professors, used the library and tutoring center, but most importantly I gave it my all. Being a Cooke scholar doesn’t mean you’re automatically great at everything, but it does mean you try the hardest, which always pays off. Community involvement means participating in clubs and organizations that connect you with the people in your surrounding community. There are plenty of on and off-campus groups which accomplish this. For me this involved being a part of Phi Theta Kappa, an honor society that did a lot of community outreach projects such as food drives, fundraisers, and volunteer work. There are skills I inherently learned from getting involved which I still carry with me today.
2. Jack Kent Cooke scholars want to make a difference
I’ve met truly inspiring scholars who work day and night to help others. Making a difference sounds like it can be overwhelming. This doesn’t mean that you’re going to change the world from one day to the next, or that you have to go and invent the next big thing (although it doesn’t hurt). When I first applied for the scholarship I thought I had no chance because I hadn’t been published anywhere or had accumulated enough accolades throughout my collegiate career. From my essays, the foundation could tell that I worked to make a difference each day, even though it was on a small scale. I volunteered at a local clinic and did free tutoring for those who couldn’t afford it. It was something I loved to do, but it also made a difference in the lives of others. Every scholar I’ve met has that same intense desire to change others’ lives and their communities for the better, even if it’s on a small scale.
3. Jack Kent Cooke Scholars are honest
Part of being a scholar is being true to yourself and being the best person you can be. The foundation has read countless applications, so they can see right through it if you aren’t being true to who you are. They know when a scholar has that fire that drives them to succeed no matter what. Being honest and opening up on your application makes a connection with the foundation that they will remember. Every scholar I’ve talked to has something to teach you and they share that with you in the most genuine way. The stories I’ve heard are enough to make you want to go change the world this second. We’re all a family and we help support each other, so being open and honest goes a long way with all of us. We’re not afraid to be different or “weird” because that’s what got us to where we are today, and it’s also the best part about being a member of the JKC community.
Could you be the next Jack Kent Cooke scholar?
It can be difficult to see that you have what it takes to make it. None of us who were lucky enough to be awarded this scholarship could’ve imagined the amazing things ahead. It was by doing what felt right and honest, along with a lot of hard work, that has carried us this far. You don’t have to have fancy awards or a perfect GPA in order to be the perfect candidate. You have to have determination, a desire to do better for yourself and others, and integrity. If you have these important components, then everything else will come naturally. If you’re debating on whether you should apply or not, don’t doubt any longer. Go for it!