Many major dairy breed organizations, 4-H and FFA recognize youth involvement with prestigious awards given for outstanding project work. Winning these awards may take you on a trip, introduce you to new mentors and friends, and much more. Use these tips below to start preparing for your future.
1. Highlight the area of the award you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a 4-H scholarship, make mention of your FFA involvement or your Junior Holstein work, but be sure most of your form talks about what you do in 4-H. Also, list the most recent or important things first. If you’re filling out a Junior Holstein award, the first section under activities should be Junior Holstein-related. Many times on a scholarship form, judges will look at your GPA and then your activities that relate to that scholarship. They don’t want to hunt for those, so place them in a prominent place.
2. Make an outline that proceeds in a logical order. If you are asked to write a story about your Jersey career including farm duties, activities in the Jersey Association and future plans, break it down into those three sections. Write all about what you do on the farm, then go to the activities and then to future plans. It is very hard to follow a form that jumps back and forth between subjects.
3. Write a “picture.” When writing a story for your Brown Swiss Youth Achievement Award or other breed award, don’t say your job on the farm is “milking,” because this task looks different on every dairy. The reader of your story wants to clearly understand what you do. Say you milk in a double-12 herringbone parlor and your duties include sanitizing the bulk tank and milking units, milking the cows, including prepping udders and post-dipping, and cleaning the parlor when you are done. This is “writing a picture” – the reader of your form can clearly picture you doing this job. The greater the detail, the better you show the reader you know what you are talking about, and that’s a huge bonus.
4. Be sure to share what you do that is unique. While you may not think it is unique to be a class officer or an FFA officer, you’re one of very few people in your school that is a leader in these given areas. Out of a class of 200 students, only a few have taken on this leadership role – be proud of it. Have you done an activity such as promote your school on the radio? That looks great to someone reading a scholarship form.
5. As in any type of communication, don’t leave them guessing. While you may know exactly what an acronym stands for, the reader of your application does not. When listing activities or leadership roles, write a short explanation:
WHY LEAD Planning team – Helped plan the Wisconsin Holstein Youth Leadership weekend for youth ages 14-20.
This simple statement gives the reader an idea of what you did and that you are a leader.
6. Follow the rules and guidelines. It is very important to follow simple guidelines, and it is costly to not follow them. For example, if a scholarship application asks you to use two pages for a résumé, decide your most important accomplishments and put those on the pages – do not add pages, as this is an unnecessary deduction in points. If a breed form asks you to answer personal view questions, and you have one page to do it, be sure to use the entire page. If you don’t, it looks like you didn’t think the question through or do your research. Be sure to follow spacing and margin guidelines as well.
7. Do your own work. Many times I have read a form from a deserving young person who is 13 years old, but the form is written better than any 13-year-old could possibly write. (And I know some pretty smart 13-year-olds.) The best way to write is from the heart. If you write a story that is true to who you are, you’ll win an award. If someone else writes your story, that’s what it reads like, and you may have to re-submit another year or lose a scholarship.
8. Start the process early. I cannot emphasize this enough. You will want to write your form or application, send it to a leader or your English teacher for review, and then you may have to re-write some of it. If you wait until the last minute, you won’t have time to make needed edits.
Now that you have these tips, get prepared. Start looking up applications for the breed you own or manage. Find scholarships – there are a lot out there for agriculture students – let your hard work pay off. This is one time where you can boast about your hard work and accomplishments, so take the opportunity to do so.
PHOTO: There are many awards and scholarships available to youth involved in agriculture. Seek these opportunities, and submit the forms following the tips outlined here. Photo by Katie Coyne.
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