Schols: to try or not to try?

A student weighs up the pros and cons of the upcoming scholarship exams

Illustration by Amanda Cliffe

The 2018 Scholarship Exams are coming up in less than two months and those of us who decided to sign up have probably already questioned our life choices as we stare at a mound of special reading that seems like it was written by a man who swallowed a thesaurus and hadn’t seen daylight in 20 years. I, for one, am tired of the cliched remarks of “it’s worth giving it a shot” and “be a part of the tradition” when discussing the whole ordeal and think it’s about time to look at it with the heartless eyes of reality if we’re ever going to be objective about whether taking the exams are in fact worth it.


Free food

Free dinner for five years is probably the most appealing aspect of the award and the only thing keeping most people going at this point. Or maybe it’s just me since I started studying late and had to halve the time I usually give myself to cook in order to catch up. I’m so tired of eating gluten free toasted cheese sandwiches and trying to read at the same time. The bread goes mouldy far too quickly and at this stage, I’ve forgotten what real food tastes like.


Everybody wants it. Think of all the burritos and cocktails five years worth of fees can buy you, all those overpriced movie tickets. Maybe once in a while you can buy clothes that aren’t on sale, or maybe save the money for a nice holiday.

I love a bit of purchasing power, I will admit. Morally, materialism and empty fulfillment aren’t the reason I should be doing schols but on a practical level, it’s a juicy stick on a carrot. Also I don’t have a job and am currently scrounging off my parents. Leeching three grand less per year for a degree I’m not planning on carrying into a career in would probably make me feel better about myself as a person.

Putting sch. next to your name

If you’re thinking of heading into academia, having as many titles as possible is necessary if you want any kind of permanent position or funding for your niche fascination. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to grab a title that will make you stand out from the crowd, if you quietly explain  that it shows you’ve been a smart thinker since your undergrad. You can repeat a PhD, but you can’t repeat schols.

I have no intention of heading into academia and am doing it mostly as a challenge. It would be a snazzy CV filler though, if any employer actually knows what Schols means.

Sympathy points

Remember, you’ve decided to do an optional exam over Christmas that involves an inordinate amount of reading whilst your friends are toasting their smug little toes over a fireplace. Use it wisely on your parents, your friends, your extended family.

The only upside to the study so far has been my mom buying freezers worth of Haagen-Dazs as I bang my head against the books. You can bet that I’m milking this miserable month dry.

“It will help you in your summer exams”

The validity of this statement varies depending on the format of your exams and what subjects you’ve opted to do. As a science student, there is no doubt that the Schols exams will help me for my Evolution and Geology exams at the end of the year – but that’s two modules out of a total of ten. If you want to be a little less pessimistic, it’s a good chance to practice exam and study skills. You do learn some things which are interesting and in a lot more depth than in a lecture. It’s the little things that count.


It’s really unpleasant

The studying isn’t quite as bad as the tight timeframe you’re doing it in. Everyone is gearing up for Christmas, thinking of all the markets they’re going to visit and all the parties they’re going to, as you’re stressing out in a library for five hours, feeling guilty that it hasn’t been six. It’s only two months of your life, but it’s rough and it is a gamble. If you feel like the costs outweigh the benefits in terms of the time you’ll be sacrificing with your friends and  family during the holidays, not to mention the stress you’ll be putting yourself under, give it a fat pass.

The nature of your department’s exams

The free reign departments seem to have over the standards of the exams means that some  students are less likely to succeed than others. For instance. Earth Sciences hasn’t had a scholar since 2011. Funding a scholar isn’t cheap, but your department may or may not have an agenda to keep those free rooms away from you.

The ski trip

Or any other kind of tomfoolery societies are getting up to around Christmas that you will miss because four days without studying is a death sentence to your prospects of success. I was supposed to go skiing. It would have been fun. Snow would have surrounded me. But this is my life now. I might try study in ski gear, with anti-fog goggles so I can read through the tears.


I hear that’s a thing people do. They just lie down for eight hours and dream about going for a walk or something. I tried it the other night, but started seeing trilobites asking me to discuss their pygidium classifications and I decided it was better to cut my losses and stay up until 2am watching nail polish tutorials.

Christmas is de facto cancelled this year

Santa? I miss you.

Enya O'Connell-Hussey

Enya O'Connell-Hussey is a Staff Videographer for Trinity News.