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Scholarship Essay

Updated: Apr 22, 2016
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Let’s face it – college tuition is very expensive. Which means the need for scholarships is immense. They may make college affordable – and can mean the difference between going to college and not.


And whenever a capable student begins their search for scholarship opportunities, they will quickly discover that most programs require an applicant to write a scholarship-worthy essay. This means they must write a splendid essay to even be considered for the scholarship.


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Grades are very much so an essential part of the scholarship-selection process. However, they’re not enough. Just as an employer would, scholarship committees want to get a sense of an applicant’s character and personality, or the type of student or person the applicant is and wants to become. It would be impossible to personally interview every single applicant. Instead these committees have applicants write an essay, a personal response to a prompt or question. This levels the playing field for the applicants – as students from different backgrounds with varying levels of accomplishments have an equal chance of winning these scholarships. In many ways, the Scholarship Essay is the applicant’s chance to sell themselves to the scholarship committee.


How to Write an Effective Scholarship Essay

1. Put in the Research


The scholarship applicant should do plenty of research to find the scholarship/s that is/are right for them. Some scholarships are for certain programs, others to help finance tuition. The applicant must find one that is best for them. These scholarships are often given to individuals with certain kinds of experience and with certain criteria – whether religious, a scholarship could be based on someone’s volunteer work; there are even some needs-based instances where a student is given money because they can not afford college but have sufficient grades and/or experience. Whatever the case, the applicant must be convinced they are a good fit for the scholarship and have a solid chance of winning it. There are various websites and resources that can help them. It starts with a basic web search or speaking with one’s advisor or guidance counselor.

2. Carefully Read the Essay’s Instructions


Instead of jumping right in and going to work on the essay, it is best to read and then re-read the essay’s instructions so that there is no question as to what the prompt is asking of the applicant. Many scholarship-essay prompts may ask a student to write an essay about an experience where they had to overcome an obstacle, or when they faced adversity and learned from it, etc. There are tons of prompts. Each scholarship has its own, individual set of guidelines, expectations and writing prompts. So the applicant, for each scholarship they apply for, should always take their time in reading, then following, directions.

3. Brainstorm, Create an Outline


Rather than jumping right into the writing, it’s best if the scholarship applicants – after completely understanding the question or prompt of the essay – make notes and brainstorm their initial thoughts and reactions. It could be an experience they remember – whatever comes to their mind. It’s good to brainstorm, then write down their ideas, because they are essentially organizing their thoughts onto paper.


Then, the applicant is to make some general notes and make an outline. In general, they are to outline an essay that has five or more paragraphs – an introduction paragraph announcing what the rest of the essay will be about, which is the Thesis Statement; three or more body paragraphs that defend the Thesis Statement, followed by a conclusion paragraph summarizing the essay and announcing the argument has come to a close. The applicant should be able to fill each paragraph with five to seven sentences that are relevant to the applicant’s overall take to the scholarship essay’s prompt.

4. Following the Outline, Write the First Draft


In the first draft of the essay, the applicant is to elaborate on all of the points illustrated in their outline. They are to use clear, concise and direct language. They should also be mindful not to come across too boastful in their accomplishments, but showing a level of humility and eagerness to do more. They are to use transitions in each paragraph (First of all, Secondly, Finally, In Conclusion, etc.). These indicate a new point is being expounded on in order to further the argument (or general direction) of the essay.

5. Proofread, Edit, Make Corrections, Reread, Then Submit for Evaluation


Here, the student must reread their essay, making corrections as they go along. It should be free of grammar and spelling mistakes, and should form a logical, well-supported and well-maintained argument. At this point, the applicant should reread the scholarship’s original essay prompt to make sure they have followed it word for word, making sure they have addressed every point and taken care of the prompt’s objectives. Finally, before submitting their essay, they should have someone with strong writing and editing skills proofread the essay for perfection.


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