Scholarships: Essays

Begin writing drafts of scholarship essays. The topics will vary depending on the scholarship, but typically include short- and long-term goals (personal, educational, career); significant accomplishments and challenges; important values in your life; your major skills, strengths, and personal qualities; influential experiences and people; etc.

  • Do not wait. Start now. Write.
  • Use the Writing Center (Center building 210) which offers tutors helping students with all phases of the writing process.
  • The essays should give readers the best glimpse of you as an honest, genuine, goal-directed, passionate, unique person. It is your opportunity to stand out and be considered for the next step in the scholarship selection process.
  • Review the directions for each scholarship for which you are applying. What are the essay requirements? Write specifically what the essay directions tell you to write. If it is supposed to be an essay about your goals and aspirations, do not write about your accomplishments.
  • Ask teachers, advisors, mentors, tutors, family members, etc. to review your essays and provide constructive feedback.
  • Keep copies of every essay you write (electronically as well as on paper).
  • Do not submit an essay you wrote for one application for a different application unless the topic or essay question is identical.

Detailed Essay Writing Tips

While there is no cookbook recipe for writing the perfect application essay, the following detailed suggestions may prove helpful.

Be Original
Even seemingly boring essay topics can sound interesting if approached creatively, passionately, and genuinely. The readers want to learn about "who you are"—your past, present, and future.

Be Yourself
It is important to show the real you in your essay. You want to show why you think or act the way you do, what drives you, or what has moved you, and stay close to the topics that are truly meaningful to you.

Use Imagery and a Clear, Vivid Style
The application essay lends itself to imagery, since the entire essay requires your experiences as supporting details.

Spend Time on Your Introduction
Expect scholarship committees to spend 1-2 minutes (initially) reading your essay. You must use your introduction to grab their interest from the beginning. You need to draw the reader into your essay with a catchy and creative introduction. You might even consider completely changing your introduction after writing your body paragraphs.

Body Paragraphs Must Relate to Introduction
Your introduction can be original, but it cannot be silly. The paragraphs that follow must relate to and support your introduction.

Use Transition
Applicants continue to ignore transition, to their own detriment. You must use transition within paragraphs, and especially between paragraphs, to preserve the logical flow of your essay.

Conclusions are Critical
The conclusion is your last chance to persuade the reader or impress upon them your qualities and goals. For example:

  • Expand upon the broader implications of your discussion.
  • Consider linking your conclusion to your introduction to establish a sense of balance by reiterating introductory phrases.
  • Frame your discussion within a larger context or show a link to your future and potential.

Do Something Else
Spend a day or two away from your draft to decide if you still consider your approach effective.

Give Your Draft to Others
Ask others you trust to edit and read with these questions in mind:

  • What is the essay about?
  • Have I used active voice verbs wherever possible?
  • Is my sentence structure varied or do I use all long or short sentences?
  • Do I detect any clichés?
  • Do I use transition appropriately?
  • Do I use imagery often, and does this make the essay clearer and more vivid?
  • What is the best part of the essay?
  • What about the essay is memorable?
  • What is the worst part of the essay?
  • What parts of the essay need elaboration, are unclear, or do not support my main topic, or are not relevant?
  • Is every single sentence crucial to the essay?
  • What does the essay reveal about my personal qualities?

Revise, Revise, Revise
If you are allowed only so many words, use them wisely. Delete anything in the essay that does not relate to your main topic. How you write is just as important as what you write. You should constantly ask yourself if you would be interested in your essay if you were the reader. As you read the first few paragraphs, ask yourself what makes you want to finish it? Consider reordering your supporting details, delete irrelevant sections, and make clear the broader implications of your experiences. Allow for the evolution of your essay – editing takes time.

Some Final Notes
Writing an essay is one of the most important parts of your scholarship application, and unless you have an interview with the awarding committee, this will be your only chance to persuade the committee to award you the scholarship. Your essay will give you the opportunity to share your thoughts and dreams, articulate your accomplishments, and describe the qualities that make you unique and deserving. Being passionate and genuine is crucial.

Since the essay is so vital, it is worthy of your best effort and time, and while no one but you should write your essay, this doesn't mean that you can't get help. Ask friends, family, and/or instructors to help you brainstorm your volunteer work, interests, and achievements. After you have written a solid draft of the essay, ask your English instructor, someone in the tutoring center, or a skillful friend to help you edit and critique your draft. Finally, when you have composed the best draft you can, ask the same people to proofread for grammar and spelling errors.

And remember, your essay should be typed. Grammar, punctuation, and spelling must be flawless, with no typos.