How To Write Great Scholarship Essay

Do You know that you can write a great scholarship essay within five minutes?

There is no single approach to drafting a successful scholarship application. If you gathered all the scholarship entries that have ever won a prize, it would be difficult to determine what made them the same. Each would present the author’s approach; a unique peek into his or her past, present, and future objectives.

This individuality is the key and the first thing you should remember as you pick up your pen to write. Make your scholarship application essay unique to you by personalizing it, delving deeply into your love and determination to study your subject, and crafting a response that can only ever relate to you. It is this uniqueness that shines out, and it is precisely what draws a judge’s attention and identifies a winner.

I got the 2013 QS Leadership Scholarship, thus my advice will be based on my thought process when writing my application essay. However, the fundamental concepts that I have highlighted in this case can be extracted and used in different scholarship essay writing methods.

1. Read and re-read the essay statement to which you are expected to respond, identifying the main ideas

The essay statement for my example was: ‘Where I have displayed responsible leadership or innovation, and how it has made an impact in my community or at work’. I found two major themes: ‘leadership‘ and ‘community effect‘.

2. Understand the meaning of the key themes

After identifying the key themes, it is important to understand what each of these ideas means, beyond the initial level. For example, I acknowledged that the meaning of ‘leadership’ involved identifying the effects of my leadership – the actions taken and results achieved under my leadership – rather than simply describing the position I held and my responsibilities. The more depth you bring to your understanding of the meaning of each theme, the more examples

3. Fill your scholarship essay with keywords/synonyms of those utilized in the scholarship statement.

Using the keywords from the scholarship statement throughout your essay will indicate your dedication to answering the topic posed. For example, I made a concerted effort to incorporate allusions to ‘leadership‘, ‘innovation‘, and ‘impacting communities throughout my essay.

4. Make an engaging start to your essay.

If you’re having trouble starting your scholarship application essay, consider using a quote or statement about your planned course that you may later link to in the main body of your work. Demonstrating a broader understanding and aptitude for your subject will help persuade the judges that it is a worthwhile investment to assist you in your chosen path.

5. Understand the scholarship committee’s standards for evaluating applicant essays.

Based on my own experience, I’ve identified what I believe are the major factors utilized by scholarship committee judges to evaluate scholarship application essays on the topics of leadership and community impact. My advice is to cover all of these topics in your essay, whether the question specifically asks for it or not.

6. Follow the basics for producing any strong essay

Have a powerful first sentence to your essay, sometimes known as a “hook.” This is an excellent introduction to several types of essay hooks, but remember to stick to your style and tone (more on that later).

Stick with the tried-and-true introduction, body, and conclusion structure. Even if the essay prompt appears vague, your essay should have a distinct beginning, middle, and end.

Start fresh paragraphs to express new ideas. It is MUCH better to have more short paragraphs than long paragraphs that are difficult to read!

Make sure your essay is well-finished and does not stop abruptly. You might conclude it, for example, with a statement explaining why you want to pursue postsecondary education: “Ultimately, I want to be a strong role model for other young women who may have been afraid to use their voices.” You may not have time for a lengthy concluding paragraph, but a simple “bow” at the end is appropriate.

7. Get familiar with the essay prompt. and stick with it

Read the prompt numerous times to ensure that you understand exactly what it is asking. Many scholarship programs feature essay prompts with similar themes, such as how you’ve displayed leadership skills or how increased financial freedom would affect your life as a college student.

8. Select a topic you enjoy

You’ll want to keep to the essay prompt. However, in other circumstances, you may have some discretion to select the topic or at least the core focus. Write about a topic, event, or value that is meaningful to you. If you are passionate about what you are writing, you will generate better work and come off as more honest. This helps you improve your scholarship essays without adding to your workload.

9. Understand the word/character limit

Most scholarship essays have word or character limits. If you’re not used to thinking about these characteristics, it can be difficult to determine what “250 words” means. As a rule of thumb, 250 words equals one typed page, double-spaced. (Therefore, 500 words equal two written, double-spaced pages, and so on).

10. Appeal to ethos, pathos, and logos

What’s going on? If you haven’t yet learned about ethos, pathos, and logos, here’s a basic overview. Ethos, pathos, and logos are ways to persuade your reader. In other words, they are tactics for making your work more effective and persuasive.

11. Be honest

Your life and experiences are fascinating and important! You do not need to embellish or make up things to appear more deserving of the scholarship funds. Nothing is more powerful than being real. And, believe us, it’s a lot easier for readers to recognize nonsense in an essay than you think.

12. Show, do not tell

This is the fundamental rule of creative writing. Rather than just explaining everything, try to construct a vivid image for the reader. For example, don’t simply state that you’re stressed out from managing employment and high school. Describe what stress looks like in your life. (Are you pulling all-nighters and drinking coffee? Do you do schoolwork throughout your breaks from your job, school activities, and community service? Create a picture and give concrete, credible instances.

13. Be specific and concise 

While we encourage you to use vivid language, we also emphasize that you should get to the point. Typically, the simplest, most direct word choices yield the best results. Instead of making broad generalizations, use specific examples. Similarly, avoid flowery language in favor of shorter sentences.

14. Use exclamation points sparingly

Honestly, we adore exclamation points! And, while receiving financial aid in the form of scholarships is fantastic, using too many exclamation points might be overwhelming.

As a rule of thumb, don’t use more than a handful of exclamation points in your scholarship essay. Also, make sure they are appropriate for the prompt. We’ve seen some fairly innovative scholarship essay prompts (such as one that asks for a hilarious anecdote or joke). In this instance, you may use exclamation marks more freely.

15. Emphasize your resilience

Scholarship prompts frequently ask about a challenge you’ve conquered. We enjoy this type of inquiry because it allows the reader to learn about a student’s perseverance and problem-solving abilities. These attributes are crucial in a scholarship essay.

Many students make the mistake of writing exclusively about the difficulties they’ve encountered without acknowledging or addressing how they overcame them. When choosing a winner, essay readers look for a comprehensive narrative that includes how the student worked to conquer the difficulty, rather than just the most difficult story.

16. Be professional… but also be yourself

While you should avoid cussing and using too much colloquial or conversational language, you should still be yourself. This involves writing in your voice and tone. Readers want you to sound like yourself as long as you maintain professionalism. You don’t have to write a lengthy essay for it to be effective! Keep things simple, but also keep it authentic!

17. Sell yourself… but also be humble

Is this an example of a humble brag? Maybe. Your scholarship essay is an excellent area to highlight your accomplishments. However, do not simply mention all of your best traits and accomplishments as justification for receiving the scholarship award. It’s essential to establish a delicate balance.

18. Be brief with your “thank you”

Most scholarship essays are brief, so avoid filling your essay with thanks and appreciation for the opportunity. Instead, use your character and word limit to provide a thorough response to the topic!

If you have the space, a simple thank you is considerate and fitting. However, you’ll want to be as concise as possible. For example, at the end of your essay, you may simply state, “Thank you for this opportunity and for taking the time to read my essay.” Bam. Polite, but to the point.

19. Pause, proofread, and revise

The author Robert Graves once stated, “There’s no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting,” which is correct; nothing comes out flawless the first time. So keep revising!

We love taking pauses during the rewriting process. Walk away from your task to clear your mind, then return to it. You’ll see your essay with fresh eyes, allowing you to take it to the next level.

If you feel comfortable doing so, it’s a good idea to send your work to someone else for criticism. Choose a trusted instructor, peer, or friend and listen to their ideas for growth.

20. Give yourself enough time

As with any written project, you should set aside adequate time to consider the prompt, plan, draft, and revise. A well-planned essay has a considerably better chance of winning than one written last minute.

We recommend that you give yourself at least two weeks before the deadline to develop, draft, and review your essay. Ideally, you should allow a few days between each stage of the essay writing process. This break will allow you to avoid essay writing exhaustion. It will also provide you with a greater opportunity to correct errors, typos, and areas for improvement.

21. Reuse your scholarship essays

Sometimes you don’t even have to compose a fresh scholarship essay. If the essay prompts and directions are almost identical across two scholarship applications, you may reuse the essay. If you are a high school senior, you may be eligible to reuse the personal statement you wrote for college applications. And this will save you a lot of time!

10 Things to Leave Out of Your Scholarship Essay

Now that you know how to approach your scholarship essay, let’s look at what you shouldn’t write.

Keep in mind that these principles are not set in stone, but rather recommendations to help you create the most distinctive and appealing scholarship essay possible.

Here’s what you should avoid.

1. Inspirational quotes

DON’T utilize famous quotes, many of which are overused. For example, “Mahatma Gandhi stated, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world,’ which is why I’m applying for this scholarship grant. I want to go to college so I can become a nurse and improve the world.”

2. Overly general phrases and platitudes

DO NOT mention the scholarship potential with cliches such as “It would mean the world to me to win this money” or “Winning this scholarship would be life-changing.” These assertions may be true, but they don’t reveal anything about you.

DO specify how things will change if you obtain the scholarship money. To give an example, “This scholarship award would enable me to have only one part-time job instead of two, providing me more time to focus on my college courses.”

3. Cliche stories or themes

Many scholarship essay prompts urge you to explain how earning a scholarship would affect you. This is generally where cliches appear.

Cliches are phrases, tales, or ideas that have been used so often that they have lost their potency and meaning. And they will undoubtedly harm your scholarship essay.

4. Profanity

Here’s another one that may appear blatantly obvious. You wouldn’t swear in a scholarship essay, right? However, you may be shocked by how many individuals do!

DO NOT use profanity or swear words, even if they are part of popular expressions we hear on TV and in everyday life.

5. “Text speak”

We understand that texting is the way of the world. And we’ve all been accustomed to abbreviating words and employing acronyms daily. However, keep your “text speak” in group discussions and out of your scholarship writings.

Your scholarship essay is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your eloquence and professionalism, therefore (unless otherwise specified) write as if it were for a teacher or boss.

6. Controversial topics

Unless the essay prompt specifically requests that you address and take an opinion on a currently hot, controversial topic, do not do so. These essays are about YOU.

Based on the subject and your personal experiences, you may tackle a “hot topic,” but do not do it solely to make your essay stand out. You risk alienating your readers.

We strongly urge you to be yourself and to be open and honest about your life experiences, but “hot takes” are more suited for Twitter than scholarship essays.

7. Emojis, photos, and funky fonts

We adore emojis, too, but they should not appear in your scholarship essay. Unless you’re requested to respond creatively with an emoji, avoid the desire.

The same applies to images, fun typefaces, and anything that isn’t a standard typeface. Unless, once again, you are given the green light.

8. Extreme declarations

It’s usually a good idea to avoid strong, either-or viewpoints. This is certainly true when it comes to scholarship essays. An extreme assertion entails only seeing one side of a problem (usually the negative one) and presenting it as fact.

9. Put-downs of other applicants

Speaking badly of anyone or claiming that other students are less deserving of scholarship funds is not a good look. You can communicate why you are deserving without putting others down!

10. Your autobiography

As previously noted, most scholarships have strict word or character limits, so you won’t have much room to give your entire life story. When talking about yourself, it is tempting to get carried away and provide more information than is required. But try to remain focused.

Scholarship Essay Outline Example

  • Hook Introduction: To handle the writing prompt, begin your essay with an engaging snippet from the tale you’ll be sharing.
  • 1-3 Body Paragraphs: Continue to share significant elements from the tale, explaining how it relates to the prompt and qualify you for the specific scholarship. Make sure to highlight the qualities that scholarship committees are searching for, such as leadership skills in school activities, academic and career ambitions, why you’re specifically seeking this award, and so on.
  • Conclusion: Finish your essay by expressing your enthusiasm for the scholarship and demonstrating how the narrative you’ve shared illustrates your readiness for college.

What to include in scholarship essays about leadership

  • The extent of the leadership experience and degree of accomplishment. What were the results? Did you manage to expand a society from 10 to 100 members via your tenure?
  • Why did you get involved in the leadership experience? What sparked your first inspiration, and how did the experience make you feel? This is a very significant feature because it helps you to express your sincerity and passion.
  • What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them? Inspirational stories of endurance in the face of hardship compel readers (particularly judges) to want to help you succeed. It also demonstrates your strong leadership abilities, such as the capacity to adapt to new situations and the drive to persevere.
  • What did you learn? How did these lessons shape you as a leader?  Every event teaches fresh lessons and provides opportunities for personal growth, and the finest leaders are modest enough to recognize this. Speaking about these lessons demonstrates that you have sincerely pondered on your experiences and understood what leadership entails. (In other words, you understand that leadership is more than just having a title like “President” or “Executive Director“.)
  • What does this mean for the future? Scholarships are more than just awards; they are investments in your future. So, if you intend to continue participating in your specific leadership activity in the future, notify the judges.

What to mention in scholarship essays concerning community impact

  • How much time did you dedicate to the activity? The scholarship committee is likely to seek applicants who made a relatively long commitment to a community activity.
  • Why was it important to you? Is there joy in helping others? Excited to try something new? Opportunity to develop relationships with others? A true cause can help you write a convincing essay.
  • Why was it important to the community? Consider: What impact would your actions have on your community? The most important thing is to demonstrate that you recognize and solve the true problems in your community.
  • What did you gain yourself through giving to the community? It is crucial to demonstrate that you understand how giving leads to receiving more in the end. Sharing what community service has taught you and how it has helped you grow proves that you have benefited from your involvement and that you intend to continue doing so in the future.

In Conclusion

My final piece of advice for writing a great scholarship essay or cover letter is to demonstrate that you know who you are. What are the relevant previous and present events that indicate your abilities, and where are you going? Use carefully chosen wording to underline your passion, ambition, and enthusiasm, and remember to maintain a positive mentality in which you believe in all of your accomplishments and intend to achieve more in the future. If you do not believe in yourself, why should the judges?

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