Writing a scholarship essay can put a lot of pressure on you as a student. Rather than receiving a grade in class, you are writing to potentially receive money to help pay for your college education. When starting down this path, it is important to keep your cool, write your essay well before the deadline, and follow these five suggestions for the layout of your essay:
1. Introduce Yourself
Be sure to mention your name and for which scholarship you are writing your essay. Some organizations you apply to will offer multiple opportunities, so identifying which scholarship you are seeking can be especially important. Then, briefly tell the scholarship committee what your educational goals are, and what career you plan to pursue. This helps to paint a picture of who you are to the committee.
2. Provide a Brief Background
Let me highlight the word “brief” one more time. This is not a place to overshare about past events in your life. Jerry Springer material is not welcome here. Feel free to share lessons learned, but try to connect how these lessons have helped you grow as a person. Think about connecting your background with where you are today in your educational goals.
3. Highlight Accomplishments
Try not to toot your own horn too much, but feel free to demonstrate your strengths and what sets you apart from other candidates. This part of your essay can include volunteer work, extracurricular activities, and any other efforts you feel tie in well with the goals of the organization offering the scholarship. Making the connection between your accomplishments and the donor’s efforts will help to show why you are an excellent candidate.
4. Express Need
This goes beyond telling the committee you do not have the money to pay for school. That would put you into a large group of most college students these days. Describing unique challenges that have happened in your life to make paying for school more difficult will help the committee recognize your need for the scholarship.
5. Conclude Your Story
Every story needs a good ending, and the story of your journey to a scholarship application is no different. Ensure that the committee remembers what makes you unique, and why you would be a good representative for their organization. Manners go a long way too, so be sure to thank the committee for their time and consideration.
These general tips will help get you started. If the scholarship you are applying to has specific questions you must answer, be sure to follow those closely. Many times, you can use the tips above and adapt them to the questions being asked for a scholarship essay. Lastly, always have someone else read your essay before you turn it in, and take a deep breath. Write your story one paragraph at a time, and you cannot go wrong.
Have you ever written a scholarship essay? What other tips are helpful?
Below are some common scholarship essay questions. You can use these as a great starting point for a pesonal statement. Some of these essay questions are used in the Maricopa Scholarship Database.
- What life experiences have shaped who you are today and what challenges have you overcome in achieving your education (i.e. financial, personal, medical, etc.)?
- Explain why you need financial assistance.
- Describe your academic and career goals and your plans to achieve them and discuss any of your extracurricular/volunteer activities (both on and off campus) that you may perform.
- Describe an event in which you took a leadership role and what you learned about yourself.
This is a sample essay to help guide you when you are writing essays for scholarships. Keep in mind that all scholarship applications are different, so you may have to design your essay to meet those specific requirements.
(State an overview of what you are going to talk about in the essay. If the essay is about you, give a brief description of your experiences, goals, aspirations, family background, etc. Touch on why you want the scholarship.)
For as long as I could remember, I have wanted to be a veterinarian. I have been responsible for the care and feeding of pets ever since I was in the second grade. In high school, I participated in the 4-H club as well as the Junior Humane society. To reach my goals, I realize that I must pursue an eight year college education which will begin with the Fall 2010 semester. I am very excited about my future and feel that with the opportunity your scholarship will provide, I can help many animals.
Paragraph II & III
(Go into more detail on one of the topics listed in paragraph I. For example, elaborate on your previous experiences, family and financial situation, volunteer work, employment, academic career, future goals, college plans, etc.)
My love for animals has been encouraged by my family and friends. I have had the opportunity to volunteer with the local animal shelter and provide basic care to the stray animals. With the help of my biology teacher, I was able to start a 4-H club on campus. Many of the other students on campus developed an interest in the animals and now our club has 100 members. My family also has many animals for which I provide care, including basic needs as well as first aid. I find that I enjoy that aspect of pet ownership best. Unfortunately, my family cannot afford to pay for my entire education, so I hope to use my skills and love of animals to help me pay for college.
(Conclude your essay with a wrap-up of why you should be considered for the scholarship; how do your goals match those of the organization, etc.)
Your organization stands for what I believe in. Like your organization, I hope to help animals for the rest of my life. To reach my goals, I need as much help as possible. I already have the moral support of my family and friends, but that is not quite enough to make my dream come true. I hope that your organization can help me reach this dream by awarding me your scholarship.