Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship Essay Sample

Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Scholarship Essay Example

Short Answer Essays

Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship Narrative Autobiography Essay Career Goals Essay Art Expression Essay

If awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Arts Award, I will pursue an MFA in Film, concentrating on either Directing/Production or Screenwriting. Numerous industry professionals and the graduate programs themselves have advised me in this decision, as these two tracks are the best possible avenues to the knowledge, internships, and career opportunities that will get me where I want to be in my career: I want to be an independent filmmaker-- both as a writer and director-- and eventually a showrunner for a television program. An MFA program would allow me to hone my craft, gain valuable filmmaking experience, and network extensively (which is key for a career in film and television

Simply put, film is my passion. I have always enjoyed crafting stories, primarily through writing initially, but when I took my first film class, I fell in love with the challenges and capabilities of medium. I am the sort of person that can find joy and learn how to be happy in most situations, but with film, the joy comes effortlessly. For my shoot over the summer, I spent 16-hour days shut in a small, un-air conditioned apartment with a flea-ridden dog for no pay at all. None of it fazed me. I was just so happy to have the opportunity to make a movie. The satisfied exhaustion I felt at the end of each day made me realize that this is definitely what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Prompt: What are your long term career plans?

Even as I am in the process of completing my undergraduate degree and applying to graduate programs, my eye is on the future, and I am taking steps to ensure my success. Someday, I hope to direct feature independent films and perhaps break into television. Cable networks, like HBO and Showtime offer, opportunities to pursue a level of artistry and craft consistent with the medium of cinema, but operating beyond the restrictions of censoring entities such as the MPAA and FCC allows programs on these channels to develop content that pushes boundaries. I firmly believe that television has the potential to be great art, and I would love to play a part in its creation.

Many current showrunners are head writers and executive producers. This is a path I intend to follow. Over the summer, I wrote, directed, and produced a feature-length film which I will be screening as a part of CineSLAM/Pride of the Ocean, a week-long workshop for LGBT filmmakers, festival programmers, and development personnel. This will give me the opportunity to hear critique of my current work and, perhaps most importantly, allow me to network with individuals currently working in the field and glean important information regarding how to get future projects off the ground.

Prompt: Please explain why you have chosen each of the universities listed above as your preferred institution(s) for your graduate studies.

In addition to the schools listed, I applied to Chapman University in Orange County, CA and have yet to hear from them regarding acceptance.

The programs I have applied to consistently show up on industry lists of top film schools in the world based on the quality of their curricula and work churned out by their students and graduates. I visited numerous institutions to find the school that would be best for me. As a result, there are two conspicuous absences from my list: USC and UCLA. Although these are excellent programs that produce talented filmmakers, they simply did not feel like a good fit.

As far as the programs that did make my list, I believe that “iron sharpens iron,” and that in order to be my best, I should be surrounded and supported by faculty and peers who challenge me to achieve my highest level of artistry and skill.

American Film Institute is, arguably, the best film program in the world. Its conservatory environment and selectivity appealed to me. The same goes for Chapman, another highly selective school with extensive resources. Loyola Marymount’s program is new and very small, but it is definitely making waves in the industry. I had wonderful conversations with students and faculty from all three institutions, and they all seemed to embrace the ideals I sought in a program-- artistic freedom, hands-on experience, and integration into the professional world. These three programs are in and around Los Angeles, which is a key location for filmmaking opportunities. Conversely, although University of Texas-Austin is far removed from the LA/Hollywood sphere, their program is excellent, and Austin has a distinctive and truly independent film scene, and the graduate program at UT offers internship and employment opportunities in Los Angeles.

Prompt: Narrative autobiography.

I was born in a tiny town in Arkansas to dirt poor parents who divorced when I was five. My mother, who retained custody, suffered from an undiagnosed hypothyroid (that often left her bedridden) and borderline personality disorder (which is a separate essay in and of itself). My first stepfather was mentally and sexually abusive; my second stepfather tried to kill me. I was bullied throughout school relentlessly, both for being poor and for identifying as bisexual.

I left home of my own accord for the first time at 14. I did move back periodically, but rarely for more than a few weeks at a time, and I always maintained economic independence from my mother; in fact, sometimes, I supported her and my brother in addition to myself. I worked as a prostitute from the ages of 14 to 19 and used drugs through most of this time period. When I left the life, I latched on to the first man who would have me, got married, and had a son, thereby jumping from one unhealthy, abusive situation to another. I left my husband less than a year after we married and have been a happy single mother ever since.

I returned to college when my son started kindergarten. That was always my plan. However, whereas I had anticipated my education opening doors to career opportunities, what I found when I returned to school was so much more. I engaged with my community and became and activist and an advocate. I embraced the intellectual challenge of rigorous coursework. I re-discovered my passion for art and stories, and, more importantly, learned that a career as an artist was not, as my culture had led me to believe, a pipe dream. Rather, it was a feasible reality for someone with talent and drive and a work ethic; I have since found that the blue collar work ethic that nearly prevented me from pursuing filmmaking has made me an asset on a film set, as I take great pride in the long hours that go into film production.

I am set to graduate from Loyola University New Orleans in May of this year with degrees in both Psychology and English: Film and Digital Media. With valuable life and work experience under my belt and a tremendous amount of ambition and toughness, I find that for the first time in my life, my future is defined by my hard work and potential, not by limitations.

Prompt: Discuss why your art expresses you.

In a more physical sense, filmmaking, as a process, tends to demand organization, collaboration, adaptability, and endurance, all of which are traits that I feel I possess and that I like to put to use, like exercising muscles. As a result, I love every step of the filmmaking process, from casting to scheduling to creative decision-making on set.

More abstractly, I believe in the magic and the power of well-crafted stories—for both the audience and the storyteller. I find that as a filmmaker, I am drawn to creating stories that I can relate to. I like strong female characters who overcome obstacles and characters who subvert socially constructed sexual orientation or gender norms. I like creating stories that I find compelling and that reflect my values or sensibilities. I feel like the overtness of film, the audiovisual nature of it, provides a great forum for self-expression, but it also presents a challenge—how to create subtext or subtly in a medium where the “big picture” is all laid out for the audience—and I find the process of overcoming that challenge extremely gratifying.

Above all, I just love a well-crafted film. A film that is painstakingly constructed—from the screenplay to the cinematography to post-production—affects people, even those who watch movies casually, on a surface level, but for those of us who know about the work that goes into making a movie, a well-articulated film is like the inside of a watch—this wondrous compilation of bits and pieces, and even knowing exactly how the pieces interact does not detract from the magic behind a great film, which always seems to be greater than the sum of its parts. I feel like my expression, as a director, is that whole and its effect.

Prompt: What one thing about your art would you change and why?

It almost goes without saying that the film industry is highly commercial. As a result, funding tends to go to high concept projects that are widely marketable. I want to tell my story, informed by my experiences on the fringes. Unfortunately, I fear that my thinking in developing projects is unduly influenced by the knowledge that in order to secure funding or an audience, I have to include characters or events or humor based on appeal rather than their connectedness to the story, which undermines my artistic integrity. For example, when directing “Perry & Emile,” there was a scene where some nudity would have been completely appropriate, but I did not include any because I did not want to limit my potential audience. Similarly, when writing the screenplay, I felt like Perry’s vernacular was not reflective of her station, but for the sake of keeping the project PG-13, I limited her use of expletives. Frankly, I am not proud of these decisions, but I have learned from them and intend to stay truer to my instincts in the future, regardless of the potential financial or exposure limitations.

Original Source: Loyola University of New Orleans

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Applying for scholarships can be very stressful. The Jack Kent Cooke scholarship application is one of the more extensive applications I’ve dealt with, but if you are willing and dedicated enough to put in the effort, the payoff is incredible.


I was awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship in May 2016, a few days after graduating from Manor College with my Associates in Science. Receiving this scholarship has been a life-changing event. The Jack Kent Cooke foundation provides up to $40,000 a year for up to two years for tuition, fees, books, living expenses, and even child care expenses for recipients with dependent children. It is important to note that the foundation doesn’t wish to displace any financial assistance (FAFSA, merit scholarships, institutional aid, etc.) that students will be receiving upon transferring. They simply wish to bridge the gap between the financial assistance scholars are already receiving and the financial assistance they need.  

The Cooke foundation works tirelessly to make the transfer from your two year school as easy as possible by not only providing financial assistance, but also a network of people and resources outside of the financial aspect of the scholarship. Cooke scholars are even eligible for graduate school funding of up to $50,000 a year for up to four years! As someone who has grappled with the application process, I want to provide some insight on my experience to help other potential scholars in the future.

The application portal opened in early October of 2015, which is standard for each year. We were given until the 3rd week in December to submit our applications. This sounds like a lot of time, but for an application that requires cooperation from professors and parents as well, there’s no time for procrastination. I will go over each part of the application below:

  • The most important thing to fill out in the beginning is your parent information request and letters of recommendation requests. This means you must input your parent’s emails for them to submit financial information and the emails of those you wish to submit your recommendations. It is strongly suggested that the recommenders be academic professionals who are familiar with your work in and outside of the classroom. Getting these requests sent out early is crucial because it gives everyone involved sufficient time to fill out their application portion, which is fairly extensive also.
  • The next portion of the application was for short answer and essay questions. The best thing to include in this section is what makes you a unique candidate. The Cooke foundation receives countless applications each year (over 2,000 to be exact), so they love reading about the unique life experiences that have made you who you are. No detail or accomplishment is too small to mention. In one essay, I spoke about the time I learned to solve a Rubik’s cube in under a minute and how it was a motivating factor for me to apply to college. This section is the only time you get to write directly to the foundation, so be honest about yourself because it will go a long way. Eventually, you are also asked to include the activities you are involved in on and off campus. This is a good chance to include everything you aren’t able to mention in the essay portion.  
  • A section that can be a bit discouraging is one in which you are asked to list any honors and awards you’ve received. This section almost resulted in me not finishing the application. I found that I hadn’t received many awards throughout my time in college. It made me think that because of this, I wasn’t deserving of the scholarship; however, I couldn’t have been more wrong.  As long as you convey your passion and heart for the things you do in the other portions of the application, you have nothing to worry about.
  • There are other sections where you are asked for other information such as a self-assessment, previous academic history, criminal history, and college transcripts.
  • One of the most important sections is the financial assessment. The Cooke foundation works hard to bridge the gap for academically bright students who simply can’t afford college. Academics are as big of a factor as financial need.  On average, for scholars who have been previously selected, the household income for each parent is around $25,000 a year. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t apply just because your parents make more than this amount. This is why parents fill out their own financial application. Parents can be open up in their section about other financial responsibilities that aren’t conveyed by a tax form, such as sick family members or other debt. There are also other options for older students that no longer depend on their parents. You and your parents should be prepared to provide various tax forms to prove your household income.

You can continue to check back on your application portal to see when your recommenders and parents have submitted their portions. It is also suggested that you submit your application ahead of the deadline, because heavy server traffic the day of can cause a delay. Late applications will not be accepted under any circumstance. Once all the portions of your application have been submitted, your application is considered complete. After this, all you can do is wait.

The first time I heard back from the Cooke foundation was in early March when I was notified I was selected as a semifinalist. This was extremely exciting and gave me a lot of hope! Of the 2,300 applicants, it had been narrowed down to around 500. At this time I joined an online forum on the College Confidential website specifically for those who had applied for the undergraduate transfer scholarship in 2016. I highly recommend this because it’s nice to know you’re not alone in this long process.

After the semifinalist notification, I received another email requesting more financial information from me and my parents. Then, about a month later in April, I heard back again. This time the foundation requested that I let them know which colleges I had been accepted to and for my fall 2015 transcript. This sounded like a good sign, so at this point I had very high hopes. Notification of award status was being sent out to transfer counselors and advisors by the Cooke foundation between early and mid-May. All of the students on the scholarship forum were a nervous wreck, clutching our phones in hopes of getting that fateful phone call. Many recipients were being surprised at their graduations, so when I didn’t hear anything back at my own, I was sure I didn’t get it. This was truly a heartbreaking thought.

Eventually, about a week after I graduated from college on May 12th, I received a phone call from my transfer counselor notifying me that I had been selected as a Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer scholar! I will never forget that phone call; it was so shocking I had to sit down. Apparently, the Cooke foundation had the wrong email, which is why I was notified after everyone else. This is why it is important that your school’s contact information on the Cooke foundation website is up to date.

Completing this scholarship application and waiting five long months to hear back was not easy. I had to accept my offer from La Salle University before knowing if I could even afford it. It was truly a leap of faith. When I volunteered to do all of the activities I did throughout my time at Manor College, I wasn’t expecting it to lead to this scholarship. When I learned about this opportunity in the fall of my sophomore year, I applied because I was encouraged by friends and faculty. I didn’t have the slightest idea that I had a chance of winning. It is great to encourage other students to also apply with you like I did with my good friend, Sofiya, especially because you will have someone to share your thoughts and concerns with. Transfer counselors are also wonderful resources for questions about the application.

I was lucky enough to have so many supportive people at my school who were willing to take on the application process with me. I encourage any hard working transfer student with financial need to apply for this scholarship, because you’ll never know what you can accomplish unless you take a chance.

– Isla M.

2-Year Colleges, Guest Bloggers, How To's, transfer scholarships, Uncategorizedafford, afford dream college, afford dream school, associate degrees, dreams, Get involved, goals, Isla M, Isla Martinez, money, scholarships, success, Transfer students, Transferring

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