Written By Marlo Wyant

Everyone has been discouraged by an application at some point in their lives. Often times it is far too easy to fall into the mindset of “I’ll never get it anyway, so why should I bother taking the time to apply?” It is true that many applications may seem daunting and that the prospect of being selected seems almost far-fetched. However, the odds of the application coming to fruition may not be as unlikely as you think. This past year, I have learned, first-hand, the value of taking the time to apply for unlikely awards and contests.

It started when one of the career advisers at the University of Miami Toppel Career Center sent me an encouraging e-mail to apply to be the next “Mechanical Engineering Student of the Year,” sponsored by Vestas, and Universum. I thought that, while flattering to be considered to apply, I would never win an award like that on a national scale. I was not yet convinced that I should apply. However, after quite a bit of nagging from my adviser, I gave in and submitted the requisite 600-word cover letter accompanied by my resume. Upon application, I got an automatically-generated confirmation e-mail and assumed I would never hear back.

Before I get into what happened in the months following the student of the year application, I will now segue into what turned into unlikely application number two.

Approximately three weeks after I submitted the Student of the Year application, I received another e-mail from a Universum employee encouraging me to enter a new contest called Go Green in the City. Upon further reading, I learned that Go Green in the City is an international business case competition for engineering and business university students to present energy efficient implementation plans for their respective cities. The participating countries were Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Russia, Turkey, and the United States. The prize: an all-expenses paid trip to Paris, France.

The application seemed simple enough: the team members’ resumes paired with either a 300-word summary or a 60-second video of what the green idea is. The top 100 teams would be selected to work in greater detail on the project and write a longer paper. Finally, if the team made it to the top 25 in the final round of the competition, they would be sent to Paris, France to present the ideas to upper management of Schneider Electric. The only catch with the application was that the deadline was just one week away from notification e-mail. Despite, the short time frame, I managed to secure a teammate and the two of us filmed our 60-second video on Key Biscayne and edited it in a single day.

One month later, my teammate and I learned that we had been selected as one of the top 100 teams internationally. I was ecstatic. This meant that my teammate and I were one step closer to making it to Paris! As part of the second round of the competition, we were assigned a Schneider Electric mentor in the United Arab Emirates to assist us in the preparation of the report. Our mentor met with us via teleconferencing and sometimes stayed up as late as midnight in her time zone to give us guidance on improving our application.

After several weeks of continuous improvement, my teammate and I had our polished version of the report and submitted it to the online application.

The spring semester progressed into its end with the advent of finals week. I had just walked out of my last final exam for the semester and saw that I had missed a call from an unknown New York number and had a voicemail. When I listened to what the mysterious caller had to say, I found out that I had been selected to be the Mechanical Engineering Student of the Year. Universum wanted to fly me to New York in two days time to personally accept the award at the Universum Awards hosted at the New York Times building in Manhattan. The news left me in absolute shock. I had never won any sort of award before, unless you count the certificate they give you for making Dean’s list every year. I then thought about it and realized that I had not exactly applied for too much before, either. The award taught me, first-hand, the benefits of applying for contests and awards.

As if the day could not get any better, I received another e-mail later that afternoon informing my Go Green in the City teammate and I that we had been chosen to present our green idea to the Schneider Electric executives in Paris, France as one of the top 25 teams in the world! It was a surreal day for me. I could not believe that I (and my teammate) had won two contests in a single day.

The award for the student of the year resulted in additional traveling opportunities. Not only did I get to receive the award in front of dozens of human resources professionals from companies from around the country, but there was an additional perk to be awarded. The prize was a trip to Denmark to visit the Research and Development Technology Center for Vestas Wind. This center is the largest wind turbine test facility in the world. I traveled in August 2011 and was able to meet with wind turbine engineers and tour the facility. In addition to the visit to the technology center, I was able to have a great time touring the cities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark and Oslo, Norway.

Marlo Wyant with her parents after accepting the Vestas Mechanical Engineering Student of the Year Award

The trip to Paris, France also went very well. The Go Green in the City event allowed my teammate and I to network with students and professionals from 12 different countries, present our ideas to a formal executive panel, interview on an international level for an internship at Schneider Electric, and attend informative workshops on innovation, diversity, and globalization. Additionally, my teammate and I were also able to sightsee in Paris and visit several iconic attractions, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Seine River. The trip did not cost us a cent.

Daniel Castillo and Marlo Wyant after presenting at Go Green in the City to Schneider Electric in Paris, France

What can you learn from my experiences? If you see an award or competition that you may qualify for, you should always take the time to apply for it. You never know—it may result in two free trips to Europe or, at least, something worthwhile.

Marlo Wyant enjoying the scenery of Paris, France

For more information on go Green in the City Click Here.

For more information on the Student of the Year Click Here