Flinn Scholarship Applicants
How to build a great application
The Flinn Scholarship application features many components that all play a role in the selection process.
When the final decisions are made, we only select students we believe we really know. Be yourself.
Objective criteria such as grade-point average, test scores, and class rank play a part in the Flinn Scholarship selection process, but they are not the sole basis for our decisions.
We evaluate a student’s academic achievement, leadership and involvement, service to the community, ability to communicate, and personal characteristics. Each of these factors is an important part of the holistic picture that you present to us.
The sections below will introduce you to the Flinn Scholarship application. Each section briefly describes what is required and offers some insight into how our reviewers will consider your responses. This is not a roadmap for a successful application, but rather a means to assist you in thinking about how best to present yourself to us.
Application at a glance
- Forms that collect biographical and family data; information about current studies, extracurricular activities, honors and awards, and employment;
- Three essay prompts and two short-answer questions; 300-word maximum per essay question;
- Two teacher recommendations;
- A report from your high school’s academic counselor, submitted separately by your counselor (and, optionally, a recommendation—only if the counselor knows you well enough to provide one); and
- A copy of your transcript, uploaded by your counselor in conjunction with your counselor report.
Need to know more after you read what’s below? Browse a selection of FAQs for students.
- Biographical Data and Family Information
You will not be eliminated from the process based on your high school, where your parents work, or where your siblings went to school. We seek to establish some context to understand you as a person before we learn more about you as a student.
- Career and Academic Interests
We do not have a pre-determined expectation of your academic or career path. We require that you apply to at least one Arizona university, but we do not have a preference among them, as ASU, NAU, and UArizona all have world-class programs well matched to students with specific interests. You are treated the same whether or not you have applied to universities outside Arizona. If you have applied to a university outside Arizona under an Early-Decision program, you have pledged to attend that university if accepted. If that is the case for you, we ask that you do not apply for the Flinn Scholarship.
- Academic Profile
We look for students who challenge themselves, so we recommend taking advantage of honors, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and/or Cambridge courses your school offers. We also value students who take a full schedule their senior year, which tells us that they do not wish to miss an opportunity to learn. If you are in high school part-time because you are taking community-college courses, please indicate that in your list of current-year high-school and college courses.
- Activities and Involvement
In part, the Flinn Scholarship exists to encourage student leaders to remain in Arizona and contribute to their university and civic communities. The best way to predict the quality of a student’s future involvement is to examine the quality of their activities during high school. We seek students who pursue their interests, develop their talents, value service, and set an example for their peers through school and community activities. In addition to listing roles you might have held in a particular organization, explain what you achieved, what kind of impact this organization has had on you as well as your impact on the organization. If you have worked while going to school, tell us about your employment and why you pursued a job. Regarding personal hobbies, offer specific examples. “Reading” and “hiking” do not tell a reviewer very much; but “reading Murakami and Pamuk novels” and “hiking the North Kaibab trail” begin to fill in the gaps in our understanding of you.
- Distinctions and Honors
Be sure to spell out or (briefly) explain any unusual terminology or acronyms associated with awards. It may be helpful to also indicate the size or competitiveness of the applicant/nominee pool from which you were chosen. You may invite your counselor or a teacher to discuss a particular honor as part of a letter of recommendation.
The essay responses you write (and to a lesser extent the short-answer questions) are probably the most important part of your application. They provide a crucial opportunity to differentiate yourself in a meaningful way from other applicants. An essay’s distinctiveness comes from your thoughtfulness, an authentic narrative, and a creative and persuasive voice. To be invited for an interview, your written application must compel a reviewer to say, “I have to meet this student in person.” Personalize your essays with your experiences and your beliefs. We seek Scholars who care and think deeply about issues and can express and explain their views with conviction, even to audiences that may disagree with them.
This must be your work—not a teacher’s work and not your parent’s work. Do not let someone, who most assuredly cares about you, rewrite your first draft, borrow your keyboard for a minute to give your essay a new focus, or add the perfect ending. Essays that are written by committee are easier to spot than you might guess.
In this section you may identify any other issues we should know about. You must also agree to the legal terms of submitting your information to the Flinn Scholars Program, and you and your parent or guardian must both (electronically) sign.
Nine tips for writing a great recommendation
The counselor report includes completion of an online form, including an upload of the applicant’s high-school transcript and, optionally, submission of a recommendation—only if the counselor knows you well enough to provide one. We also require two recommendations from high-school teachers. When you register your recommenders in the final section of the application, an email message is sent to each of them with instructions for accessing and completing the recommendation. To ensure that they receive those instructions, please tell them in advance to expect the email and follow up to make sure they receive it. It is courteous to do so and it prevents last-minute scrambling to complete a recommendation. This is particularly important since some schools and districts have aggressive email spam protection and firewalls. The earlier you request a recommendation, the better. Many counselors and teachers will want to discuss your application with you before they write. Students who request recommendations early also avoid the rush of requests for recommendations that inevitably take place later in the year. You might suggest that they consult here for suggestions on how to be effective advocates for you.
Give your recommenders plenty of information. Tell them who else is writing your recommendations, in case they’d like to compare notes. Provide information about your activities and awards. And do not be afraid to invite them to write about something in particular. Recommendations, like essays, are most effective when they are specific and personal. If one of your papers or lab projects particularly impressed a teacher, remind your teacher of the specifics. If you still have an assignment bearing the teacher’s enthusiastic notes, refresh their memory with a copy. If in a particularly difficult time in your life a counselor or teacher helped you, tell them whether it’s okay to write about it. Help your recommenders show us what you’re like in the classrooms and hallways of your school.
The application season is an incredibly demanding time for your teachers and counselors; they deserve advance notice if you would like them to write recommendations. We encourage students to make polite inquiries as the deadline approaches to confirm that the teachers and counselors have been able to submit their recommendations.
- High-school Teacher Recommendations
Teachers who write your recommendations should possess the best understanding of your academic performance and your involvement at the school. If they have also advised your work in an activity, they are welcome to include that information with their assessment, but we want their focus to be on your intellectual acuity and agility. Coaches or community figures cannot give us the same information as a teacher at your school, but they may know you best in other ways. If this is the case, encourage such individuals to present their observations and feedback to your teacher or counselor, who may choose to integrate their statements into his or her recommendation.
- Counselor Recommendation
The counselor recommendation can be a very useful part of your application. If the counselor does not know you well enough to submit a recommendation for you, they will only be required to complete the counselor’s report. Your counselor has the ability to incorporate information or quotes about you from other sources, such as teachers, coaches, or community figures that know you well. Your counselor can also discuss further the honors, awards, or experiences you could only mention briefly in your application. As with teachers, take the time to sit down with your counselor to discuss your application. Bring a copy of your work for him or her to review, and talk about additional information that the counselor could share in the recommendation. This teamwork will result in a much more cohesive and effective application package.