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What should I assume the scholarship judges know?

QUESTION: I'm writing a scholarship essay about J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye." In my introduction and conclusion, I adopt Holden Caulfield's way of speaking, including short sentence structure and Holden-isms such as, "It really does" and "That's what I always say," etc. Is it safe to assume that the person reading the essay will understand that this is what I am doing? The bulk of my paper is written normally; however the introduction and conclusion are obviously quite different. If the evaluator doesn't understand that I am writing in the style of the narrator, it could be quite confusing, and I might not get the scholarship. I could attach a small note indicating that is what I'm doing, but I don't think that's a very professional thing to do. What should I do? Signed, Holden Incarnated

Dear Holden Incarnated: Scholarship judges can be educators, politicians, business people or students. They come from a variety of backgrounds. Unless you know that the committee members who will be reviewing your application are English teachers or professors, it is probably safe to assume that you may have an evaluator who doesn't understand the references immediately.

This doesn't mean that you need to scrap your creative approach. You can preface your Holden-style dialogue with, "As Holden Caulfield might say" or something similar to indicate your intentions. Any reader would then understand why you switch styles so dramatically for your introduction and conclusion.

In most cases, we advise that you do not make assumptions about what scholarship judges may know. The truth is that you just don't know who is going to be your reader. So it's better to err on the side of caution.

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Gen & Kelly Tanabe

Gen and Kelly Tanabe are the founders of SuperCollege and the award-winning authors of 11 books on college admission, financial aid and scholarships. Together they were accepted to all of the Ivy League colleges and won more than $100,000 in merit-based scholarships to graduate from Harvard debt-free.