Set Yourself Up for Success
When you’re competing against thousands of scholarship applicants, your personal statement for a scholarship can make or break your chances of winning. While filling out your application is pretty straightforward, your essay is what will make you stand out.
The problem is, without knowing where to start, most students will head over to Google and search for things like:
- scholarship essay examples
- sample scholarship essays
- personal statement for scholarship examples
- scholarship essay examples financial need
- scholarship letter sample
- scholarship letter examples
With thousands of students using the same examples as references, your essays will start to look and sound alike, making it harder to make an impression. However, with a properly constructed and thoughtful essay, you can separate yourself from the student body of college hopefuls, giving you a great chance at securing the resources necessary for higher education.
That said, you’re probably wondering how to write a scholarship essay that’s capable of winning awards and accolades? We’re here to help you apply by sharing our must-know scholarship essay tips that will ensure you the best shot at winning.
The key to how to write a scholarship essay that’s going to stand out falls to the questions you address. When going through scholarship essay questions, you might come across a bunch of different questions specific to what the scholarship committee is looking for from their future winner. However, the underlying question for almost every scholarship essay is the same, regardless of how it’s worded. Most essays will ask, “Why do you deserve to win?” or some iteration of that using different wording. They might ask to “describe your extracurricular passions” or “describe a time when you had to take on a leadership role,” but believe it or not, all these seemingly different questions are looking to hear why you deserve the scholarship money.
How you choose to answer is up to you, but you must address this underlying question and tie it back to your answer to the overarching essay question. On another note, if you haven’t already figured this out, the answer should never be “because I need money.”
6 Steps to Writing an Award-Winning Scholarship Essay
First and foremost, before we provide our tips on how to write a scholarship essay, you need to know the purpose of the scholarships you are applying to and use this as your guide when writing a scholarship essay. Keep in mind that when writing about why you deserve to win, the answer you choose, along with examples that you use, should show how you fulfill the scholarship’s mission. Knowing this, here are our six steps to writing an award winning scholarship essay:
Step 1 — The Right Topic & Approach
Generally, you will come across two types of essay questions: the first will ask you to write about a specific topic, and the second will give you a broad topic to write about. With the first type, you need to create your own topic, and in the latter, you don’t need to think about a topic as it is provided for you. However, you will need to develop an appropriate approach to answer both types of questions.
Finding a Topic
When you’re presented with a broad essay question, you can choose your own topic. As such, you’ll need to generate ideas and start brainstorming. Begin by thinking about significant events in your life, people who have influenced you, learning experiences from your time at school, goals, and future ambitions, where you hope you’ll be in the next five or ten years etc. Don’t get too critical while you’re brainstorming; just let your creativity flow. Once you’ve created a list of topics, start to eliminate the ones that don’t help you answer why you deserve to win and narrow down your topics to the one you feel will best suit the question.
Developing a Unique Approach
Whether you had to come up with your own topic or one was provided to you, you will need to figure out how you will approach it. For any given topic, there are probably a hundred ways you could tackle the subject. You’re going to have to narrow down your topic by choosing to share a small part of the larger story that best answers the question.
Once you’ve narrowed down your topic, it’s time to consider what approach will convince the scholarship committee that you deserve to win the money above other applicants. Keep in mind, simply retelling the story won’t tell the reader how this experience reveals the qualities they are looking for. Get creative and dig deeper by asking yourself: How has this experience changed your life? Why did you do what you did? What is the lesson that came out of this experience? What aspect of this topic is most important to making my point? From there, you need to decide on the focus of your essay since you will be speaking to a small sliver of time.
Finding the right approach is just as important as finding the right topic. This is especially true if you answer a question that provides a specific topic. With every scholarship applicant writing about the same topic, you need to be sure that your approach persuasively shows the judges why you deserve to win more than anyone else.
Step 2 — Be Original
Now that you know what you’re going to write about and how you’re going to approach your topic, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to convey your message. Keep in mind that scholarship committees will read hundreds, if not thousands, of essays that will often be on the same or a similar topic. This is why it is essential to make sure your writing is original and engaging.
To do this, you’ll need to share a moment in your life that will help you convey your point. By doing this, you’re reducing your chances of having an essay that sounds like everyone else’s since your experiences are unique to you. Essays that share a unique moment from your life tend to be a lot more interesting and leave a lasting impression while giving the scholarship committee a better picture of who you are.
You don’t have to look far to find originality. Everyone has experiences that are unique to us. Even the most common experiences can be made original, depending on how you illustrate and tell the story, so don’t write off a topic just because it sounds ordinary. Take the time to think about how you can write about it in a way that is different from others, and you may surprise yourself at how original it could be.
Step 3 — Go with Your Flow
We all know the most challenging part of writing is getting started. Don’t overthink it; just start writing what is going through your head. The first few sentences aren’t going to be the best, but get your thoughts onto paper and worry about the rest later. You can always go back and revise it to sound better, but it’s easier to do once you have all your thoughts down.
While everyone has their own writing style, the most important thing to focus on when writing is winning over a scholarship committee. You need to think about who will read your essay, so you might want to do additional research. Your goal is to write an essay that appeals to your audience. This should guide not only your selection of topics but also your word choice, language, and tone.
The key is to be yourself. While you want to present yourself in a way that attracts the attention of the scholarship committee, you don’t want to portray yourself as someone you are not. It’s fine to present selected highlights from your life that fit with the award, but it’s not ethical to exaggerate or even outright lie about an experience to win an award. Don’t go crazy trying to mold yourself into a person you think the scholarship committee wants to read about.
Be true to yourself and write about what has happened to you personally or how you have been affected by something directly in your life. Given that most essays will have a character or word limit, keep your essay tight and focused. Lastly, don’t forget to make your point!
Step 4 — Stand Out From Start to Finish
Everyone knows that the hardest part of an essay is the introduction and conclusion. While this may be true, it’s also the two most important parts of your essay. Your introduction gives the reader their first impression of you, while the conclusion should leave a lasting impact. Spend extra time on your introduction and conclusion to ensure these two parts deliver the message you want.
The goal of your introduction is to captivate the reader’s attention. Considering posing a new question — questions often grab the reader’s attention because it will make them stop to think about how they would answer the question and are curious to see how you will answer or present a solution to the question in your essay.
As you introduce the topic, don’t forget the power of description. If you can create a vivid image for the reader, they’ll be more inclined to continue reading. Paint a picture for the reader with senses and words so they can envision themselves there.
The purpose of your conclusion is to thoughtfully bring your essay to an end. The conclusion is the second most powerful statement in your essay because this is what the scholarship committee will remember. With the hopes that the scholarship committee has thoroughly read your essay, avoid summarizing your essay in the conclusion. While it’s okay to include one sentence rehashing what you’ve already said, you want to do more than just restate your point. You have one final opportunity to make a lasting impression, so add a parting thought. This can be one last observation or idea that ties into the main point you’re trying to make. The worst thing you could do is tack on a meaningless conclusion filled with fluff, so be sure every sentence has a purpose. Lastly, never start your paragraph with “in conclusion,” and never end your essay with the words “The End.”
Step 5 — Get Some Extra Eyes On It
Despite how well you think you write, you’re not infallible, so it’s important to get someone else to proofread and edit your work. Whether it’s friends, roommates, family members, teachers, or advisors, ask someone other than yourself to look over your work. One of the key benefits of having someone else read your work is that they will find errors that eluded you, and they will be able to identify spots in your essay that seem unclear from an outsider’s perspective.
Make sure your reviewers know what to look for. Ask them if your ideas are clear, if you have answered the question appropriately, and if your essay is interesting. While you may disagree with some of their feedback and suggestions, take them seriously, and consider what they are telling you. The more input you get from others, the more times you’ll find yourself revising it to be better.
Your main goal is to produce an essay with clear points and supporting examples that logically flow together to prove your overall point. You also want to make sure that your essay has no spelling and grammar errors. The best way to do this is to have someone else read your work. If you don’t have someone you can ask or are limited due to time, then do it yourself. But, do it ever so carefully.
Step 6 — Repurpose Your Essays!
Keep in mind you’ll be applying to more than one scholarship, and since most scholarship committees usually ask very broad questions, you should repurpose your essays. Doing this could save you a tremendous amount of time. If you choose to reuse your essay, make sure you go through all the steps of figuring out who your audience is and what the topic is. If your existing essay can effectively answer another topic, be sure to tailor it for every scholarship application. However, be mindful of when a repurposed essay doesn’t fit the question. It’s better to take your time to write an appropriate essay than to submit one that doesn’t make sense for a specific scholarship.