Monthly Archives: May 2009

The Top 7 Ways to Write a Winning Scholarship Application

images-3I was judging scholarship applications over the weekend for the Hispanic College Fund and I thought it might be useful to pass along these observations and tips.

1.  Write for your audience.  This is basic advice for most business writers, but for some reason it is lost on many applicants.  Think about your audience and what will move them to give you a good score.

2.  Spelling and grammar count.  I was amazed at how many spelling and grammar errors I found in the applications I was judging.   I try not to judge others harshly for their errors (I’m not perfect either) but this is a highly competitive scholarship process and spelling counts.

3.  Answer the questions.  Community service was a big part of the application but several people didn’t address this in their essay.  They might have had a great record in community service, but I couldn’t tell from their application.

4.  Sell yourself.  There’s a fine line between selling yourself and bragging, but successful applicants will walk that line and sell the attributes that make them stand out from the rest.

5.  Tell me a story.  Everyone loves a good story.  Everyone hates reading “dry” applications.  Make it a good read.  Tell me your story, evoke some emotion, make me identify with you.

6.  Use the letter of recommendation to add to and amplify your application.  It seemed that a lot of applicants asked someone to write a letter and were happy to include anything they received.  Make sure your recommender reads your application before they write their letter and ask them to amplify and confirm what you’re telling me.  If you’ve done a good job in the application, this will be easy for them.

7.  Ask several people who are knowledgeable about scholarship applications to read your application and make suggestions on how you can make it better.  Expect to write several drafts until you feel it is perfect.  

Good luck to all scholarship applicants and I wish you the best in all of your endeavors.

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S&K’s End Game

images-3S&K Menswear took another step toward extinction this week when it inked a deal with liquidation firm Hilco Merchant Resources to sell the firm for at least $7.9 million.  Hilco has the option to keep S&K running, but I think that is unlikely.  If you’re going to keep the company going, you don’t sell to Hilco, who is best known for liquidating the likes of The Sharper Image and The Bombay Company.

While Hilco has the option of continuing to operate any or all of the approximately 100 stores that are left in the chain, Hilco hasn’t elected to continue operating any of the 30 stores they were handed in February and are in the process of liquidating.  To keep S&K running as a going concern, the company must file a new sales plan with the court by this Friday, 5/15.

As I wrote in my last post about S&K, I think S&K Menswear is done and these latest developments only help to confirm that conclusion.

Here’s an image that I can’t get out of my head:  I’m in the gym watching the local news on the big TV, and on the screen appears a gaunt and pale Joe Oliver.  He is wearing a bizarre looking shirt and vest combination that I wouldn’t wear on a dare.  I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but I was thinking, here is the president of a company that built its brand on business suits, modeling an outfit that is totally out of sync with its core customer.  I thought,  “What is he wearing?!”

In my opinion, S&K got crushed by a perfect storm of a horrible economy, changing workplace fashion and an inability to reinvent itself.  Being unwilling or unable to change a failing business model will never end well.

UPDATE: During a hearing on Tuesday in bankruptcy court, S&K indicated it could run out of money by the middle of June, as it has less than $1 million in cash on hand.  The company’s chief restructuring officer, Jonathan Tibus, says the stores are also running out of inventory.  Look for a liquidation sale to start by Memorial Day.


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Newspapers Fight for Survival

The New

The New

I was lunching today with Dave Saunders, the mastermind behind the new ad campaign.

While wolfing down Fish and Chips at Penny Lane, the topic of conversation turned in a familiar direction.  The discussion of the future viability of newspapers raised its hand, asking to be recognized yet again.  This subject matter is far from academic in a market where the fate of a venerable 150 year old newspaper is far from certain.

The conversation reminded me of a recent article I had read about The Bakersfield Californian, which continues to lead in the nascent field of newspaper innovation.  The Californian is experimenting with web-based niche publications.  The paper launched, a local social media network designed to reach non-readers.  The network has launched Bakotopia-The Magazine, published twice monthly and distributed to 20,000.  The Californian has also launched, which allows locals to publish their own on-line magazines.  Other media companies are aggregating local content from a variety of sources and selling ads against that content.

Whether or not these efforts succeed is not the point.  The fact that newspapers are trying to find new business models speaks volumes to their struggle to survive.  Newspapers have been the poster child for how arrogance and inertia can kill a pillar of the community. There is a window of opportunity for change and innovation, but that window is closing.

I’ve blogged on this topic before and I believe that like the strategy adopted by The Californian, newspapers are in the best possible position to create social networks based on geography and they should attack this opportunity with gusto.  There is a ton of local content available from websites and bloggers, just waiting to be aggregated and monetized.

I think that daily newsprint is short-lived and that dailies will go web-only, publishing and distributing paper versions a couple of times a week to accommodate advertisers who need physical delivery of their ads.  Web-based papers should morph into news and social networking sites, creating conversations between the paper, advertisers and readers.

Conversations create relationships and building relationships is what media does best.

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