Writing a scholarship essay gives you an opportunity to break free of forms, demographics and statistics and to share your true voice and identity with the scholarship committee. Scholarships can be life changing in some situations so there’s no reason not to apply to a scholarship that suits your goals and that you qualify for. If you are planning to apply for multiple scholarships, be sure to choose a few that really match up with your needs and background and concentrate on completing the applications well. Here are three basic steps to writing an excellent scholarship essay:
1. Research and Plan
Sites such as Schoarships.com and Big Future offer searchable databases of scholarships for you to peruse. You can search by type of award, your personal and academic information, scholarship amount, state of residence and many other factors. Once you have narrowed in on a scholarship (or several) that you want to apply for, gather up the required materials and start to plan out your application and essay.
Many scholarships will require you to provide financial information and academic records. Many applications require personal essays. The essay is the point at which you can really try to grab the committee’s attention. Scholarships.com explains that, “the effort you put into writing your essay represents the chance to sell yourself to the scholarship committee. A winning scholarship essay is one that truly sets a particular applicant apart from the others.”
Plan out your essay by carefully reading the question and making sure that you understand it. At this point, it’s a good idea to seek out a mentor and editor. This could be a teacher, parent or other adult or a mature and experienced peer who excels in writing or has put together their own successful scholarship application packet. Once you have a general understanding of what the scholarship essay question is asking for and what you want the main theme of your response to be, run it by your editor to see if it makes sense to them. It’s always possible you have missed an aspect of the question.
Once you choose a general theme, many writers find it helpful to create an outline of their essay. Break your main concept down into several important points and jot down related and supporting information under each point. Be sure to plan out an introduction and conclusion to your essay as well. Finding a relevant quote or two can also boast your essay’s message but make sure most of the writing is 100 percent your own. Get started on this planning at least a few weeks before the essay is due in order to leave time for writing, editing and revisions.
2.Write the Essay
Once you have an outline in place, begin to flesh it out into paragraphs. It’s alright if your essay is a bit longer than the required length at first because you can clean it up and make it more precise during the editing process. Aim to use a natural and clear voice in the essay—descriptive words can be captivating but you also want to make your message direct and accessible. Aim to share your strengths without giving the entire essay a bragging tone. Include specific details from your life that will help the committee to get to know you and understand you better.
The U.S. News Scholarship Coach blog offers this helpful advice: “don’t just mention that you work with disadvantaged kids; tell them how your love of soccer got you into coaching those kids. Don’t just tell them about your acting awards; show how the stage helped you conquer your shyness. Putting your unique interests and perspectives on the page will go a very long way toward creating a memorable essay.”
3. Revise and Complete
Once you have written the essay, re-read the question and your essay and see if they seem to match up and complement each other. If you have gone off-topic or missed the point you were trying to convey, don’t be hard on yourself; this happens to everyone sometimes. Re-focus on your intended theme and create a more accurate outline before revising, if necessary.
This is a great time to turn to your editor for support. A conscientious editor can offer advice on many topics, from sentence structure to grammar to mood. It’s natural for you to miss errors in your own work after you’ve been looking at it for so long. Be open minded to their critique and make recommended changes as you feel is appropriate.
Once you’ve completed what you feel is a final draft, have one or two more people read it whom you trust and respect, if possible. Different points of view can be helpful. Do your best to create your best scholarship essay, double-check your application materials and then send it off. Once it’s mailed or submitted online, pat yourself on the back for all the effort you put into the scholarship application process. The result is out of your hands and whether you are chosen for a scholarship or not, you’ve done your best and gained a useful real-world writing experience.
Written by Julia Travers
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