Different Types Of Scholarship Essays

How to Write a Scholarship Essay

Ten steps to writing a winning essay for a scholarship.

As you know, applying for college is a lot of work. You must complete university applications, financial aid applications, college admissions essays and even an essay for a scholarship.

That’s right! Scholarship applications often require an essay, too.

Don’t worry: Follow these 10 steps on how to write a scholarship essay that could help pay for your college costs.

1. Grab the Reader.

Never underestimate the power of a strong introduction. Look at these two examples of introductory lines. Can you can spot the difference?

  • Example #1: Strong leadership skills are important for many reasons.
  • Example #2: November 12, 2004, was the day I lost everything.

Example #1 is vague, impersonal and boring. But example #2 is personal, specific and intriguing. It leaves the reader interested and wanting more.

Hit the ground running in your first paragraph. This will help your scholarship essay stand out from the pack.

2. Re-adjust and Re-use Your Scholarship Essays.

Don’t waste hours writing a different essay for all the scholarship competitions you enter. There are many scholarships out there, and essay topics tend to overlap. With a bit of tweaking, one scholarship essay can fit the needs of several different contests. Recycle as much as you can!

3. Always Surprise.

Imagine that the question is “Who in your life has had the biggest influence on you and why?” Don’t automatically write about your mother or father. Chances are everyone else probably will do that too.

Maybe someone like Gloria Steinem or Superman has had the biggest influence in your life. It may not be 100% traditional, but at least it’s more personalized and, therefore, more interesting.

4. Follow the Essay Instructions.

Nothing turns a scholarship essay reader off faster than an essay that almost applies to the contest guidelines. Don’t write under the limit. Don’t write over the limit. Big money is at stake, so make sure you give them what they want!

5. Stay Focused on the Scholarship Essay Topic.

Judges are looking at hundreds, sometimes thousands, of scholarship essays. They don’t have time to read tangents about your pet hamster Phil (unless Phil helps illustrate your main point!). Which leads us to our next topic …

6. Have a Point!

Make sure your essay for the scholarship has one unified statement, or thesis, behind it.

You can look at your thesis as your one-sentence answer to the essay question.

Let’s say the essay question is, “What is a time in your life when you demonstrated courage?” Your thesis could be, “A time in my life when I demonstrated courage was when I helped save my neighbor’s dog from a tornado.” Your essay for the scholarship would support and elaborate upon this statement.

7. Check Your Essay for Spelling Errors.

Bad spelling: nothing “buggs reeders moore.”

But really, scholarship judges have plenty of essays to read. They are looking for any good enough reason to kick one out of a big pile if it makes their job easier. Don’t give them a reason to reject yours.

8. Use Correct Grammar and Punctuation.

This one could have been lumped in with spelling, but it deserves to have its very own spot. You’d be amazed at how easy it is to overlook improper use of homophones like “it’s” and “its” and “their” and “there.”

Have another person — preferably someone who knows the difference — look over your essay once you’ve finished. Check pronoun agreement, commas and anything else that could confuse the reader.

9. Care About What You’re Writing.

Readers can sense when you have a genuine emotional investment in your scholarship essay. When you don’t, your essay is sure to be a one-way ticket to Snooze City.

Remember: Don’t write about what you think you should write about. Write about what interests you.

10. Avoid Redundant Conclusions.

Keep your essay conclusions interesting instead of simply rephrasing—or worse, restating—your original thesis. Your conclusion should explain why the rest of your essay was important — it should answer the question, “So what?”

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Now you hopefully know more about how to write a scholarship essay. You can practice by entering the contest for University Language Services’ own scholarship! Good luck!


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One of the most important aspects of your college application is the scholarship essay. For many, scholarships may be the only way to afford the cost of attending college. This makes crafting a stellar essay all the more important. Topics for scholarship essays may vary by institution, but there are some common ones that you can expect to come across as you prepare your college applications.

Here are four of the top prompts you will likely encounter when applying for scholarships – and how you should (or shouldn’t) answer them:

1. Where do you see yourself in five years?
This question is about planning. Have you thought ahead about your goals for your career and life? It’s a question that asks you to imagine your future. Scholarships are limited, and the essay is a chance for an institution to judge students’ ability to plan and execute short-term and long-term goals. Organizations awarding money are also interested in investing in a student who is serious about his or her goals. Be sure to keep your response limited to academic and professional goals (unless the prompt specifies otherwise). While you shouldn’t be afraid to think big, keep your goals realistic.

2. Who do you admire and why?
Mentors or idols can inspire you to pursue a specific academic or career path, and a prompt such as this provides an excellent opportunity to illustrate your passion for a specific field of study. What has your mentor achieved in his or her career that inspires you? How has your relationship with this mentor strengthened your resolve to pursue this path?

You can also broaden the scope of this prompt by writing about a teacher or other academic figure outside your field of study. Regardless of who you write about, it is important to remember that this essay should not be biography on the person you admire – it is also a chance to highlight aspects of who you are as a student and a person. Also, be wary of writing about a family member. If you do write about a relative, be sure to have an extraordinary reason for doing so – otherwise, you risk blending in with many other applicants.

3. Discuss a special attribute or accomplishment that sets you apart
This can be a deceptively difficult prompt and requires you to boast, which can make many students uncomfortable. A question that asks you to differentiate yourself from the scores of other students applying for the same scholarship requires concrete examples and anecdotes. How you tell the details of your story is important, and could be the very thing that helps your application stand out.

4. Describe how you have demonstrated leadership both in and out of school
You have likely demonstrated leadership in many situations, but the difficulty in answering a prompt like this one is choosing the right example. Remember: Only include instances that clearly and concisely demonstrate your leadership ability.

Don’t be afraid to discuss any mistakes you’ve made along the way. However, it is also important to write about how you corrected those issues or what you learned from the experience. Perfection doesn’t make a great leader – adaptation skills and the ability to learn do. By acknowledging challenges you faced and how you overcame them, you can make your essay stand out.

An essay prompt is an invitation to tell a story. As with any good story, giving concrete examples allows your audience to understand your message. The more specific you are in your essay, the more likely it is you’ll stand out from the other applicants. Regardless of the question you’re asked, a scholarship essay is a chance to demonstrate the specific skills, experiences, and passions that make you the most qualified recipient.

Brian Kornell is a contributing writer forVarsity Tutors, the leading curated marketplace for private tutors. The company also builds mobile learning apps, online tutoring environments, and other tutoring and test prep-focused technologies.

image credit: teenlife.com

This entry was posted on Monday, August 10th, 2015 at 2:16 pm and is filed under Scholarships & Financial Aid. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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