Essence of a Scholar

scholar    \’skä-lǝr\    n      1: a person who attends a school or studies under a teacher: PUPIL     2a: a person who has done advanced study in a special field     2b: a learned person     3: a holder of a scholarship

This definition comes from my hard copy of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. (2004). [This book was given to me by my parents back in Christmas 2005. It was one of four presents I asked for that year. Along with the “big dictionary,” I asked for a pocket-sized dictionary (for my backpack), an ironing board, and an iron. (It was my sophomore year of college.)] 

So that’s the definition of a scholar, but isn’t there more to it than that? There are certain qualities/traits that scholars have in common–each of these contributing to what I would describe as the essence of a scholarIn no particular order, I give you what I believe to be the essence of a scholar:


A scholar is committed to their studies. They work towards their goals and they are diligent in their efforts.


Scholars get that there is no limit to what they can learn. They continuously question, challenge, and examine. Every new discovery leads them toward deeper understanding.


A scholar strives for truth in knowledge.


A scholar is trustworthy. A scholar maintains decorum; they are responsible, reputable, and good for their word.


Scholars follow the code of ethics for their discipline and their institution.


A scholar’s work is in vain unless it is documented and shared. Thus, a scholar utilizes the appropriate means for producing, sharing, and storing their knowledge so it is available for peers and future scholars.  Scholars listen. Scholars debate. Scholars write. Scholars speak. Scholars utilize as many mediums of communication as they can to disseminate ideas.


A scholar strives for balance in their life. Activity and rest, studies and play, personal life and professional life. A  holistic approach to living contributes to a scholar’s healthy mind, soul, and body.


Scholars are thinkers; they are dreamers. Scholars are constantly pushing towards the cutting-edge. They aspire for new discoveries.


A scholar is not afraid to fail. They understand that learning occurs through all experiences and sometimes the hard lessons have more to teach us than the easy ones. A scholar must be brave; they must be willing to take risks. A scholar knows that at times they may not be successful, and they can overcome any setbacks through process and persistence.


  • alexpfp17 says:

    Fantastic. Love the layout. Best blog post I’ve seen yet.

    Would you fit “aware of / celebrate their own limitations” in here somewhere? Every one of us is striving to be scholars in our own fields (and continue life-long learning in other fields) – but no matter how long we live, we’ll always be laymen in most subjects. I think it is important to recognize the fact that others have spent their lives pursuing knowledge we’ll never even taste. That is not something to be ashamed of, it is something to be celebrated, as is the work of our peers.

    • Sara Lamb Harrell says:

      Hi Alex,

      Thank you for the compliments, I appreciate it.

      And yes, I think that would be a good addition to my list. I like the way you think and I agree with you! The pursuit of knowledge is what brings scholars together (and you’re so right!) our entire lives could be spent exploring our interests and in the end, we are still left with more questions than answers.

      I am going to update this post after I have a little more time to reflect on the additional characteristic–to me, that quality of celebrating one’s limitations could be called/related to “down-to-Earth-ness” or being “grounded.” Would you agree with this interpretation or were you thinking something a little different?

      Thanks for the feedback!

  • Sneha Upadhyaya says:

    Very nice. I think “balanced” is one of the most important aspects that is often ignored or I would say, not given much attention. I really liked that you brought it up. Self care and work-life balance is as much important as anything else.

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