Column - Something not right about online scholarship contestsI was never “Miss Popular” in school. In fact, I was barely on the radar, and that's just how I liked it. I was the teen who wanted desperately to be different, dressing in black and dying my hair colors most people snubbed their noses at.
By: Nichole Roell, Graphic Artist, Alexandria Echo Press
I was never “Miss Popular” in school. In fact, I was barely on the radar, and that's just how I liked it. I was the teen who wanted desperately to be different, dressing in black and dying my hair colors most people snubbed their noses at. My pseudo-punk peacock look was offset by being a dedicated student, finishing my high school career in the top 5 percent of my class. No matter my achievements, I was always overshadowed by the in crowd. The kids who may not have been quite as smart as me, but had more friends to back them.
Like so many bright-eyed teenagers my senior year of high school was spent thinking forward to college. Federal student aid, scholarship applications, transcripts, tests – a jumble of numbers clouded my thoughts at all times. Performance was crucial as all scholarships were based on academics and activities, and rightly so. It's a scholarship, not a popularity contest. Or is it?
Recently I learned that Midwest Chevrolet dealerships were offering large scholarships to four lucky college-bound students. The method of selection? Popular vote via text message or online submission. Students sent in the usual application information: academic transcripts, extra-curriculars and intent. Submissions were then reviewed by a panel and whittled down to a field of 10 finalists. The rest was left in the hands of friends, family and random supporters who could vote as often as once a day for their favorite candidate. The students with the most votes won the scholarship.
Something doesn't seem right here. Why has something as impactful as a multi-thousand-dollar scholarship been placed into the hands of the public, when it could be easily argued that it should go to the student who most rightly deserves it?
I think back to 2011 when Jefferson High School was in the running for a $50,000 prize from the television show Glee. All schools making applications to the contest filmed their students in action and stated why they thought the gift would benefit their music program. The contest was then left in the hands of online voters, who could cast their ballot once a day for the school of their choice. While all entrants could have made excellent use of the money, many (including JHS) were overshadowed by schools in large metropolitan areas. Schools with more students, more friends and family members and a larger community to vote for them. One winner hailed from New York City, one from Cincinnati, and the third and arguably most deserving school was from a small town in Alabama nearly flattened by tornadoes.
This sort of contest is becoming more and more common, but typically for things of a more ambiguous nature, such as photo contests. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?
Clothing retailer Maurices is currently holding an online search for their next “Main Street Model,” which a friend of mine is taking part in. The winner will receive a sum of money to donate to their favorite charity or non-profit, and be featured in a photo shoot for the brand. The finalists will be decided by popular vote. While the website gives voters the criteria they should be looking for in the candidates they choose, it ultimately states “You'll probably come to vote for a friend or family member.” They could have just as well said, “The girl with the most friends wins.”
So now the question comes: Did I vote for my friend?
Absolutely. Proving that regardless of the legitimacy of the contest itself, friendship will always come in first.