When presented with the task of writing a scholarship essay, many hopeful students panic. Writing an essay for a class and grade is one thing, but writing an essay for money can be off-the-charts stressful. By following a few basic principles of scholarship essay writing, you’ll be on your way to a winning essay.
Every scholarship has its own unique requirements. Just as you shouldn’t take the shotgun approach to resumes, blanketing every company in town with the same resume, you shouldn’t use the same essay for every scholarship you are applying for. Every scholarship provider wants students to meet their specific criteria. If the provider offers specific questions, be sure you are focusing your essay or responses to appeal to that specific provider. Submitting a cookie-cutter essay when you are competing with possibly hundreds of equally qualified applicants will immediately put you at a disadvantage. Know who you are submitting to. Do a little research on the provider, and if the scholarship is in someone’s honor, consider referencing the person to personalize your essay.
As you compose your thoughts, communicate a confident, but sincere message. This is all about tone. You want to sound self-assured, but you don’t want to sound like a braggart. Be passionate in your response. If you are applying for a nursing scholarship, you can bet all the scholarship essays will be from caring and compassionate applicants. Confidently communicate what is unique about you.
Don’t be shy about listing your accomplishments. This isn’t bragging; it’s being honest and assertive. If you list specific accomplishments, the deeds will speak for themselves without a lot of fluffing.
Obviously your essay should be error free. But editing also means choosing your words wisely. Most scholarships have a word or character limit. You absolutely don’t want to waste one single word. After you write your essay and have worked it over, put it away for a day or two and revisit it with fresh eyes. Do you repeat yourself? Do you have a tightly focused, well-organized essay? Avoid vague descriptions or generalized statements. If you are telling a story, use vivid language and descriptions. Be concise, specific and of course, error free.
Are you answering a series of specific questions, or are you simply writing a straightforward essay? If you are to answer questions, make certain you understand what is being asked and that you are specifically addressing this question.
Most scholarships have word limits and other guidelines. Don’t get thrown in the “NO” pile because you failed to follow the instructions. If it says it should be typed, double-spaced, then type and double-space it. If the word limit is 500 words, don’t submit a 510-word essay.
Even though this isn’t exactly an academic essay, a scholarship essay should still have a controlling idea. Once you understand the instructions, consider what the objective of your essay is. When answering essay questions, a one-sentence answer to the essay question acts as your thesis, with the remainder of the body examples or support for that answer.
Avoid the clichéd sob story. Scholarship committees are often turned off by this type of essay, as they feel a bit emotionally manipulated. Even though many scholarships are based on financial need, you’ll still be judged by your merits. What have you accomplished despite challenges or obstacles?
Composing a winning scholarship essay takes some planning, but by following a few basic guidelines, you’ll go to the head of the pack. Remember you could be competing against hundreds, in some cases thousands, of equally qualified applicants. You want to stand out from the crowd, but in a good way! Even though you may be one of thousands, you are still unique, with experiences and knowledge that no one else possesses. Make sure the reader gets a sense of who you are and leave them with a positive, inspiring image of yourself. Make them remember you.
And one last word: many scholarships – too many – go unused due to lack of applicants. Too many students don’t even apply, thinking they have no chance, so why bother? Scholarships are like the lottery: you can’t win if you don’t play. Only it doesn’t cost you anything but a little time and effort to apply.