Growing Up Shy Essay Scholarships

National Essay Contest Winner Seeks Catholic College Centered on God

The Cardinal Newman Society is proud to announce that Jace Griffith of Idaho Falls High School in Idaho is the winner  of the Society’s first annual Essay Scholarship Contest for Catholic college-bound students and will receive a $5,000 scholarship toward her education at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan.

“I’ve decided I want God to be the center of my life,” writes Griffith in her winning essay, titled “Fullness.” “In the end, it only makes sense to choose a college that wants the same thing.”

The contest was open to high school seniors in the United States who participated in the Newman Society’s Recruit Me program and used The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College and My Future, My Faith magazine in their college search. The winning scholarship must be used for education at one of the 29 Catholic colleges and higher education programs recommended in The Newman Guide for their strong fidelity and Catholic identity.

With the innovative Recruit Me program, high school students can invite Newman Guide colleges to compete for them and provide information about their programs. Rising high school seniors who wish to compete in next year’s essay contest can sign up for Recruit Me online at

The topic for this year’s contest was to reflect, in 500-700 words, on the following questions: “In general, why should someone choose a faithful Catholic college? And what do you, personally, hope to gain from a faithful Catholic education?”

Essays were judged by how well they demonstrated appreciation for faithful Catholic education, as well as the quality of the writing.

“Jace Griffith impressed us with her inspirational storytelling and her eagerness for the curriculum and community at a faithful Catholic college,” said Kelly Salomon, editor of The Newman Guide and director of membership for The Cardinal Newman Society.

Growing up in a community and schools with mostly non-Catholics, Griffith learned to explain and defend her Catholic faith, but she yearns for a Catholic college that forms “ethical and virtuous men and women with their eyes set on the great fullness that only God can give.”

“After all,” Griffith continues in her essay, “I’ve spent enough time struggling to explain why I’m skipping school for ‘a good Friday’ and fending off tissues from well-meaning classmates who noticed the ash smudge on my forehead.”

She looks forward to a liberal arts curriculum, studying psychology in the “context of human dignity” and being surrounded by young adults with “similar goals and morals.”

“Impressed by the unique academics and enamored with communities full of the vibrant, persistent, delighted love of Christ, I trust that faithful Catholic colleges will continue to teach their students the fullness that is real truth and real joy,” she writes.

Griffith’s entire essay can be read here.

Her $5,000 scholarship is made possible thanks to the generosity of Joe and Ann Guiffre, supporters of the Newman Society and faithful Catholic education.

“We are grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Guiffre for enabling this scholarship,” said Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly. “They understand the unique value of a truly Catholic education, and they are thrilled to help a student experience all that a Newman Guide-recommended college can provide.”

Essays were submitted from students in 29 states. Most attend Catholic schools, but many others attend public schools or are homeschooled.

All of the participants have applied to colleges recommended in The Newman Guide, including colleges across the United States and as far away as the University of Navarra in Spain and Catholic Pacific College in Canada.

Although only one student was named as the winner, many students submitted outstanding essays.

The essay from Anthony Jones of Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, Va., reflects on Catholic colleges’ commitment to truth. He quotes from Ex corde Ecclesiae, the Vatican’s constitution on Catholic higher education: “A Catholic University is distinguished by its free search for the whole truth about nature, man and God.”

“Unfortunately, many colleges that claim to be Catholic shy away from teachings they deem hard to accept,” Jones writes. “Such disregard demonstrates a lack of both respect and understanding of God’s word, inevitably resulting in an education that is seriously flawed.”

Adam Boyle from Mother of Divine Grace School in Ojai, Calif., writes in his essay that his “decision to attend a faithful Catholic college is essentially the same as Peter’s response to Jesus: where else would I go?”

“Faithfully Catholic colleges provide this ‘fixed definition of truth’ for all of their students, and that creates a culture centered around Christ and His bride, the Church, which we know is the ultimate truth,” Boyle writes, quoting from Archbishop Charles Chaput’s Strangers in a Strange Land.

Julia Kloess, a homeschooled student from Mount Horeb, Wisc., described faithful Catholic colleges in the context of truth, beauty and goodness.

“I have not yet discerned where God wants me to go after college, but this education will serve me well no matter where God leads me for the rest of my life,” Kloess writes. “Whether I become a mother, enter the consecrated life, or start a career, I fully intend to seek the Truth, the Ultimate Good, and Beauty Itself, namely God.”

Cardinal Newman Society All Posts / Newman Guide

Read more about Benedictine College

When Scholarship Junkies visited DO-IT during Summer Study 2012, the topic of scholarship scams came up in our discussion of all things scholarships. What a great topic to discuss!

With so many students, parents, and families searching for scholarships, there are inevitably a small handful of people who want to exploit their needs by stealing personal information and money. It's important to understand how to identify "scholarship opportunities" that might actually be scams.

During the presentation, we discussed a few general rules of thumb:

  • If a scholarship application asks for an "application fee" of any amount (it could be as little as $2 or as much as $25), skip it. No legitimate scholarship should be charging an application fee.
  • If you're contacted out of the blue and awarded a scholarship for which you did not apply (or do not remember applying to), do not submit any personal information they request. You rarely win scholarships for not doing anything. Unless you applied for it directly or indirectly (e.g. through a scholarship application or as part of a college application), it's probably a scam.
  • If a scholarship website you're using to find scholarship opportunities (we call these "scholarship clearinghouses") asks for sensitive personal information such as your Social Security number, a credit card number, or your mother's maiden name, do not use it. Scholarship clearinghouses should not be requesting this information.

Once you've found legitimate scholarship opportunities, the hard work is to make your application stand out competitively and personably. A scholarship is an organization's financial investment in their recipients' academic ability, potential to succeed, and best embody the organization's core values. Keeping this definition of scholarships in mind, it's important then for students to make themselves stand out. Here are a few ways to make an application stand out. 

  • Develop a strong track record. Track records can include academic achievements, community and extracurricular activities, or jobs/work responsibilities you might have. Why you did something is as important—if not more so—than what you did.
  • Gather insightful support. If letters of recommendation and references are required, ask teachers, counselors, coaches, etc. who know you very well to write you strong letters of support. Their titles and positions are important, but even more important is their relationship to you. They have to be able to talk about you in more ways than just what's on your transcript or resume.
  • Share your personal story. Essays are arguably the most critical component of a competitive scholarship application. It's your only chance to really make yourself stand out from all the other applicants that will also have grades, test scores, activities, and track records. Your essay is your voice. Do not be afraid to use "I" and to share your personal story.

In the same manner that I found ways to share about my neurological movement disorder in many of my essays, so too should you find ways to talk about the personal experiences that have shaped you. For me, growing up with dystonia forced me to mature faster than my friends. It required me to very responsible at a young age, but the medical treatment I received inspired me to use my "second chance" to achieve ambitious goals. My personal life story and experiences drive me to do what I do.

As you think about how to shape your application, think about the theme you want the judges to see clearly in all of your components. Is it a theme of leadership? Intellectual curiosity coupled with action? Perseverance in the face of any adversity? The ways in which you share your story and experiences dictate how others see you too.

Now, I completely empathize with students who shy away from writing. It's hard stuff! But practice makes perfect, and without all the mentors and teachers who so graciously provided me constructive criticism, I would never have experienced the scholarship success I did.

You have just as many—if not more—wonderful resources around you to help you through your scholarship journey. The DO-IT program, Scholarship Junkies, and your educational environment are just some of these. Never be afraid to ask for help. It takes courage to ask for help, but if you do, I guarantee you will be better off for it.

Scholarship Junkies pledges to be there with you every step of the way. Our team of dedicated volunteers and mentors who genuinely care about your success are willing to work with you as you craft, write, and edit your scholarship essays. We instituted a three-draft policy on any given scholarship essay, so we can serve as many students possible. But the key is that you have free help waiting to work with you.

In closing, I hope you'll pursue your scholarship journey rigorously and ambitiously. The news around us tells us that college tuition is skyrocketing and that student debt is exploding exponentially. There's no doubt they are, but thankfully, there are opportunities like scholarships to help ease the costs of obtaining a college degree—and organizations like Scholarship Junkies ready to work with you to meet your goals.

If you're concerned or have questions, you are welcome to email our Scholarship Junkies team at

Samson Lim is the Founder and Executive Director of Scholarship Junkies, LLC. Driven by his experiences of applying for over 75 scholarships and winning 18, Sam founded the Seattle-based scholarship resource program to connect scholarship applicants with recent scholarship recipients in an effort to help students find ways to afford higher education. Every year since 2008, Scholarship Junkies has facilitated a scholarship workshop at DO-IT's Summer Study.

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