Here’s my form LOL JKS! How not to submit an application: Guest post by Dan Harding (Music)

Submitting an application for a Music Scholarship is rather like submitting an application for a job. The manner in which an applicant goes about submitting their application, the tone in which all correspondence is conducted, is absolutely crucial to the process. In the current climate where digital communication is quick, it shouldn’t however be misinterpreted as being therefore also informal.

Between November and August each academic year, we handle a vast swathe of scholarship applications and correspondence; I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve had an application for a Music Scholarship – quite a prestigious award that may involve a bursary, free music lessons, and an active role in public engagements on behalf of the University – that reads

‘Hiya. Here’s my form, hope it’s ok.’

And that’s it. No salutation, just a very informal greeting that wouldn’t look out of place popping up in Facebook Chat, perhaps, and no content pointing to the form to indicate a few salient points and why an applicant is (excitedly) applying for a scholarship.

Everything you write as an applicant – be it for a scholarship or for employment – gives insights as to whom you are; the way you present yourself, your values, what you consider important. Beginning an e-mail with ‘Hiya!’ is akin to turning up to a job interview in trainers. You need to communicate your commitment to the application, in such a manner as to convince the person reading it that you are serious about it. You may have knocked off the form in half an hour sitting in Starbucks with a skinny latte whilst multi-tasking as you talk to your mate on Facebook and post a photo of your coffee-and-cookie on Twitter, but don’t allow this to inform the tone of your application correspondence. The only thing we, as the recipient of an application, have to assess your attitude and commitment is those few lines written in the e-mail; whilst e-mail occupies a grey area between formal correspondence and digital informality, it shouldn’t do so when writing to an employer or an awarding body: it should be formal at this point.

And I do realise that applications don’t always need to be formal – there are job interviews for which it would be wholly inappropriate to turn up in a suit and tie. But for the initial stages of the Application Dance, before either applicant or recipient has had a chance to gauge the level of formality or informality that would be acceptable, it’s better to err on the side of formality to begin with,

So, next time you’re applying for something – anything – make sure you sit down first, before sending your application off, and consider how you want to present yourself in written form. Then go and have a coffee and go online…

Dan Harding is Deputy Director of Music at the University of Kent. He writes about music on the department blog, Music Matters. Follow the department on Twitter.

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