5 Unbelievable Mistakes that Failed Scholarship Contest (and Good Lessons on Them)

Our first Homework Lab Scholarship Contest brought $1000 to the ultimate winner, but it is not the only takeaway. Our contest jury of the most experienced geeks collected the most significant, repetitive and iconic mistakes made by participants.

Some mistakes are glaring, some are fun, and all of them you are better to avoid if you want to take part in our new contest season. They often appear in academic writing as well, so make sure that none of these errors are in the essay that you are going to submit to your tutor.

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Back to Medieval England: Paragraph Mistakes

Making mistakes with paragraphs was a long history. When the English language was just making its first steps in the world as Old English in the Middle Ages, it did not know what the paragraph is. As far as being able to write and read was already a high-level skill, structuring text was seen as something completely unnecessary. As far as literacy rates were low, no one could object.

In contemporary English, using clearly structured paragraphs is a must for everyone — especially for those who want to win a contest 🙂 Paragraphs make reading easier, help to structure your ideas and also enhances the visual appeal of your text.

However, it seems that some contest participants time-traveled from medieval England 🙂


Takeaway: Always use clear and separate paragraphs for every new idea in your essay. In academic writing, the standard length is 4-6 sentences. Don’t let ancient Englishmen constraining your creativity!

Brevity Is a Soul of Wit (But not Always): Sentence Errors

In fiction literature, cinema and theatre, the most dramatic moments have few words. The main character steps on the stage, looks into the camera with the brooding eyes, and says their words, which turn the plot around out of the blue. Naturally, contest participants attempted to use dramaticism for their own good — it’s a shame that this does not work with academic writing!

Michael Fassbender did not submit a scholarship essay but looks like a participant.

That’s how one-sentence paragraph author wants to look like.

The first category of mistakes was using sentences instead of paragraphs. While they may look good, the rule of the thumb is that one paragraph should describe or prove one idea completely. In the examples below, however, these lonely sentences were used as hooks for following paragraphs — and hooked their authors in writing fail.

The second cohort acted a contario — and decided to make one sentence as long as the entire paragraph to achieve ultimate narrative effectiveness. Indeed, why to spend dots if one sentence fits all?

Takeaway: The best length of the sentence is 10-35 words, it’s an academic standard. Remember about paragraphs length — no sentence should be left alone!

Listening to Muse, Never to Contest Requirements: Wrong Topic

Our geeks estimate that in approximately one-third of F-grade cases in the U.S. colleges, students get failed because of misinterpreting the topic. The relevance of the essay to initial requirements is a key milestone of every grading rubric, which is pretty logical. When we order Margherita pizza and get Calzone, it is still pizza — but definitely not the one we paid for.

Faces of tutors when you submit an essay on the wrong topic

My geek friends and I look on those who submit essays with the wrong topic.

In our scholarship contest, the topic was pretty straightforward — ”The jobs you will have one day may not even exist yet: what kinds of skills do you think you might need to succeed?” Braking this down, it focused on the skills that may be needed in future to fit hardly predictable labor market of tomorrow, which was quite obvious.

It was not obvious, however, for those participants who selected the following topics instead.

  • Leadership Qualities
  • Skills for the future
  • A Valuable Employee
  • The future of our jobs
  • World of Addiction and Ways to Overcome it in Future
  • Feed Yourself First to Feed Babies Fruitful

If you think that these are just very creative titles, you are very mistaken. From geeks’ experience, flawed title easily leads students into the bushes of their thought. However, these bushes are both far from the topic of the contest and the academic success too 🙁

Takeaway: Always be attentive to the essay topic, which is equally crucial for academic tasks and contests. Misinterpreting the topic leads you in the completely wrong direction.

Introductions, Adverbial Phrases, Conjunctions, and Lip-Service: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Everyone wants to add aesthetics to their writing, but the secrets of literate beauty seem to be hidden deeply from many people. We keep in touch with thousands of students and hundreds of tutors, so we are pretty sure that unnecessary complex and baroque intros do not help to obtain all the essays.

Real nerds never abuse intros, but people who do sometimes look nerdy.

However, unnecessary sophistication plagues scholarship contest so deeply so we picked up the most intricate examples to avoid.

  • Sincerely (at the beginning of the paragraph, not the letter!).
  • Obviously with no doubt.
  • With the advancement of technology (this exact phrase was present in the majority of essays).
  • But also.
  • And also.
  • Logistically (it should have been about logic, not logistics, I guess).

 Takeaway: Be very careful with transitions, conjunctions and complex structures in your essay. Even we, native speakers, sometimes need to use the dictionary and check the meaning and appropriateness of the word.

Take a Good Rest Before Starting your Essay

According to the American Sleep Association, 33.5% of adults in the US have not enough night sleep. At the same time, it is very crucial for writing — sleep-deprived mind lacks critical assessment skills, productivity, and creative efficiency. Moreover, chronical sleep disorders may further aggravate creative abilities, leading to writer’s block or unleashed imagination with no constraints.

Why are we worried about sleep quality in the article about top essay mistakes? Take a look at one paragraph from our participant’s essay. Quoted as is.

“My systems was able to track suspicious use of waves in every place across the planet, including that coming from cosmic stations installed in space. My body needed constant work to improve my scanning precision and I was able to spend long hours around the research without getting tired. Pace of work had been comparable with at least seven not mutated humans. Thanks to ability to create special fog diffracting the waves, I survived constant attacks of the ‘X group’ members and ageing process decreased. In the future we will need also new adept into our organization who will be able to perform my tasks. I believe that my teaching skills and scanning allow me to find the one able to save the world in case of my death or disability.”

Nothing to add.

Takeaway: Plan and edit your essay well-rested. We are just humans who are all prone to cognitive biases, and the lack of sleep does not make us better.

Problems of Digital Era: The Last Obstacle to Success

The early typewriters in the 1860s were invented to accelerate writing and standardize it, and the typed text now is a common form of written language. It is easy to read, has many customization options and also very convenient to handle — either on paper or via dozens of digital channels of communication. Moreover, keyboards are also much faster than our hands with pens as we use the majority of our fingers. The average English handwriting speed is about 13 words per minute, while a mediocre typist on the computer easily does 50 per minute.

Still, some of our participants were old-school enough to disregard either their or ours convenience.

Takeaway: The majority of colleges do not accept handwritten submissions even for weekly essays. Don’t be too hipster and use your computer more often.

Rounding Up

As you may see, there are many mistakes that can prevent yours from winning the contests. At the same time, we have all the means to avoid them 🙂 In our Study Tips blog, we publish useful guides and share our experience weekly, so it’s the best way to catch up.

Did you know that Homework Lab is a student task sharing platform? You can work on tasks on your own or ask professional Geeks for help. Join anytime, anywhere for free.

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After you are done with leveling up your writing skills, feel free to join our Autumn Scholarship Contest! While we have only one winner, the benefits for participants are not limited to money — soon we will break down best winning essay to shows the most memetic wins of contest participants.

P.S. Share this post with your friends so they could avoid making these mistakes too 🙂

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