Most scholarship applications ask for an essay of some sort. This helps the reader get to know you personally, and it’s also a chance for you to share information about yourself that may not otherwise come up in the application. A stellar scholarship essay will make you stand out as an applicant, but how do you go about writing that stand-out piece? Here are six top tips.
Start with an outline.
Scholarship essay instructions generally give a word count or page count. For example, the application may request a 500-word essay. You don’t want to reach 450 words and realize you left out some important details. This is best avoided by outlining your essay before you begin to write.
Your outline should break your essay down into main paragraphs. It should also specify the key points you’ll introduce in each paragraph. It’s a lot easier to check information off your list and move key points around in outline format. Once you’re happy with your outline, you can put pen to paper!
Cater to the audience.
If you know who will be reading the essay, use that to your advantage. For example, if you’re applying for a scholarship from a sports association, you know the people reading your essay are likely athletes. You may want to include more sports references in your essay and reference your own athletic experiences. The reader is likely to prefer applicants they can relate to.
Follow the instructions.
Scholarship essay instructions are not suggestions — they are requirements. Those reviewing your essay will pay close attention to how closely you followed the instructions. They may immediately exclude you if your essay does not meet the requirements. So, take guidelines like word count, prompts, and formatting rules seriously. Double-check that your essay follows all the instructions before submitting it.
Write a strong introduction.
Your introduction is your opportunity to make a good first impression. You want it to hook the reader and make them want to read more. You also want it to accurately summarize what the essay will be about. Consider writing several versions of your introduction. Ask your mentor or a peer to read them and tell you which they find most compelling.
Scholarship essays are your chance to “get personal.” The rest of the application will be pretty dry and factual, but in the essay, the organization is usually looking for you to get more emotional. As such, it is okay, and even encouraged, to show your feelings.
Use plenty of adjectives in your writing. Don’t hesitate to describe how an experience made you feel. It’s normal to feel a little vulnerable when writing scholarship essays, but you’ll become more comfortable pushing that boundary over time.
Another way of saying this would be “show, don’t tell.” Scholarship essays that tell a story, describe what happened to you, and illustrate your points with specific examples tend to get more attention. For instance, instead of saying “I’ve been passionate about history from an early age,” you could say “I started collecting history books when I was eight, and by the age of 12, I was spending an hour every night reading about Abraham Lincoln.”
Writing scholarship essays can be time-consuming, but the more you write, the more skills you’ll develop. Follow the tips above, and don’t hesitate to re-use scholarship essays when possible. With a few simple changes, you can often make the same essay fit multiple applications. What’s most important is that your essay follows the instructions, shows your personality, and teaches the reader something unique about you.