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7 Steps for Writing an Outstanding Scholarship Essay

November 20, 2020

For those in high school or college, the topic of how you will pay for your education is common. There are grants, financial aid, loans, savings, and more. However, there is another way to help pay for college. It’s never too early to start your college scholarship search and application process.

Scholarships often come with a wide array of qualifications. Many require applicants to write an essay. Once you’ve found a scholarship you want to apply for, follow these 7 steps to help you write the best scholarship essay possible.

student brainstorming for scholarship essays

1. Read the instructions & requirements

Reading through the instructions and requirements might seem like an obvious scholarship tip. But, you may be surprised at how many applicants make the mistake of just writing and submitting the application and essay.

Scholarships could either be lenient with their requirements or very strict. Some criteria to watch for are word count, minimum GPA, class year, age, financial need, field of study, and more. Some scholarships even focus on unique hobbies or strange characteristics, such as being exceptionally tall!

Take advantage of the criteria, such as the field of study. You can show the scholarship committee your interest in that area and share some of your career goals. This may help you to stand out from other applicants.

 

2. Give yourself enough time

Waiting until the last minute to work on your essays could cause your writing quality to suffer. Review any scholarships you may be interested in, then think about any topic ideas that correlate to the essay prompts. Starting your preparation early can also allow you more time to research your prompt and the organization offering the scholarship.

Give yourself plenty of time in order to prepare a well thought essay entry. Think of preparing your scholarship essay the same way you would prepare for a paper in class. Thoroughly think about each step; you don't want to forget any vital information.

It may help to create an electronic calendar with all of your scholarship deadlines, including their requirements. With your calendar, you can keep track of your prompts, ideas, and deadlines all in one place! If you prefer to write your tasks down, designate a notebook strictly for your scholarship application information.

 

3. Understand who your audience is

When writing your essay, it’s key to know who you are writing for. The scholarship committee could be a wide range of people, anywhere from college admissions offices, local business owners, school boards, corporation employees, teachers, and more. You may not always know the type of individuals the scholarship committee will make up. So, use your best judgment with the kind of scholarship you are applying for.

Write as though you are the ideal candidate for their scholarship. However, don’t become too consumed with writing exactly what you think they want to read. You should never change your voice or personality to match the perfect candidate, either. Use your strengths, experience, and other qualifications to stand out. Take your capabilities to make your scholarship essay format communicate that you are the ideal candidate.

 

student working on her college scholarship essay

4. Start brainstorming topics

Similar to not following all essay criteria, your chosen topic could make or break your running for the scholarship. When applying for a scholarship that requires some form of essay, you will likely either be given an essay prompt or a selection of prompts to choose from.

Depending on the scholarship, you may also have a creative writing prompt, for example, “What ice cream flavor are you?” or “How would you try to survive a zombie apocalypse?” To address these kinds of prompts, brainstorm unique answers and unconventional solutions. The scholarship provider is looking for creativity. Don’t be vanilla.

There may also be instances when you get to decide your own topic. This could be anything from telling a story about a personal experience to describing your role model. Try to avoid topics that bore you, focus on negativity, or don’t interest you. While you can focus on your hardships, don’t highlight the negative things along the way. Prioritize how you have overcome your struggles and what you learned from them. That way, you can share your growth and individuality through your writing.

 

5. Create an outline

Once you have brainstormed your ideas, chosen your topic, and gathered your details, create an outline. An outline is a great tool that can help you organize your thoughts and ideas about your essay topic. Your outline can help you easily order your paper and highlight any key points you want to include.

There is a possibility that some scholarships will use similar prompts. For example, various scholarships may ask the question, “What is a difficult challenge you have overcome in your life?” If you find that you have an essay already written for that specific topic, don’t be afraid to reuse it. However, check if there is room for improvement, especially if it didn’t help you win another scholarship in the past. Don’t forget to proofread again and make any corrections necessary.

 

6. Write your essay

After you have created your outline, it is now time to start writing. When you begin writing, it’s okay to start by writing whatever comes to mind. Some sentences may be jumbled and not make much sense, but you always have time to edit later.

Remember to stick to a structure that is easy to follow and understand. Include your introduction with an attention-grabbing hook, a detailed body divided into paragraphs, and a well-thought conclusion. Since your word count may be limited, don’t take up too much text on your introduction or conclusion. The rest of your application will likely ask for your name, college and other information. Therefore, you may not need to include those details in your essay.

During your writing, you should also use specific examples of encounters that you have had. Make your essay personal, and be sure to tell your unique story. Try to keep your tone positive, even if it may seem difficult to do so when writing about sensitive topics.

 

student proofreading her scholarship essay

7. Proofread

Before completing and submitting your scholarship essay and application, always proofread. You must check for grammar or spelling errors and make any and all corrections. Errors in your work could distract the scholarship committee from your actual essay.

Proofreading is also your last chance to double-check your content. Make sure to stay focused on the essay prompt. If your work doesn’t follow the prompt, your application could be tossed out immediately.

After you have thoroughly read through your essay and made any corrections, ask for someone else to proofread it. This could be a family member, teacher, tutor, writing center guide, guidance counselor, or a friend. A second pair of eyes will almost always help you to find any mistakes you may have overlooked. Constructive criticism doesn’t have to be a bad thing; take the advice of your peers.

 

Writing scholarship essays can be challenging at times. Searching for scholarships, writing essays, reviewing, then submitting can be a lengthy process. That is why you must start early and find scholarships that fit you. Use CollegeData’s Scholarship Finder to use your specific criteria to find scholarships that you qualify for. Give yourself enough time to apply for scholarships, meet the requirements fully, tell your unique story, and you’ll be awarded scholarships to help pay for college in no time.

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