If you ask students what they hate most about applying for scholarships, most of them will tell you that writing essays is the worst part (Well, that and not winning them, but that’s a topic for another post). And, it doesn't matter if the essay requires 250 words or several thousand; most students would simply rather spend their time searching for "no essay" scholarships than sit down and write another scholarship essay. Unfortunately, most scholarship providers aren't willing to hand over free money for college without a little effort, and that’s where the essay comes into play. It not only gives providers more insight into your life, but it also helps them weed out potential candidates, especially when several have similar academic records. For those scholarship programs that don’t even consider your grade point average or financial need, the essay is the one thing that will set you apart from the other applicants. With so much riding on the line (no pun intended), it’s important to grab your reader’s attention immediately, which means you have about two to five sentences to impress the committee or else your essay is headed to the ‘denied’ stack. If you want a shot at having your entire paper read, there are three things you should avoid using in the introductory paragraph of your essay.
1. Spitting Back the Essay Prompt
Can you imagine how boring it would be to read the same opening sentence over and over again? I can tell you from experience that it’s very frustrating to see this in scholarship essays. There’s no need to include this for any reason. Trust me. Scholarship providers know what their scholarship prompts are and don’t need to be reminded. It’s also more of an elementary-style of writing and not quite up to par for someone heading to college soon.
2. Using Quotes
I don’t know who first used a quote to start an essay, but I would really like to kick him or her in the bum. Don’t get me wrong, an obscure quote can work well in an academic paper, but in general you should avoid using them in scholarship essays. Why? Chances are the quote you will choose is going to be used by several other students, which means your ‘original’ essay is going to get dumped into the ‘denied’ pile. If you must use a quote, use one of your own. That might actually get someone’s attention!
3. Introducing Yourself
Unless the scholarship essay instructions specifically state that you must include your name in your paper, don’t start your essay by introducing yourself. It not only seems a bit juvenile, but may also disqualify you from advancing. Most scholarship committees conduct blind readings. This means a reader cannot have any information pertaining to you. Even if the scholarship prompt asks you to share some information about yourself, refrain from starting your essay in this fashion. Instead, begin with something memorable from your life that will leave a lasting impression with your reader.
Now that you know how not to start your scholarship essay, use our Scholarship Match to find scholarships that are perfect for you. And if you need extra money for college, try our LoanFinder.
The costs of higher education have skyrocketed over the past several decades. More and more students are graduating college with significant debt. And while scholarships may not cover the entire cost of your college education, they can make a significant dent in your overall costs.
Besides, who wouldn’t want free money? However, everyone needs this money, so knowing how to write a scholarship essay is more important now than ever. Know how to write a scholarship essay to stand out and have a better chance at being in selection? Here are some tips and tricks to help you write an amazing essay.
Scholarship Essay Tips
General scholarship essay tips can be useful to know before you start writing your essay. Most importantly, start by researching scholarships early. Organize the scholarships that you qualify for by deadline and make it your job to apply for as many as you can.
Next, make sure you have a constructive support system in place; organize a group of peers or others knowledgeable about writing to help you review your essay and make suggestions on how to improve its strength.
Finally, don’t procrastinate. Writing under pressure is the worst thing you can do; stress contributes to writer’s block and you may have a much worse time navigating how to write a scholarship essay if you wait until the last minute. Be open-minded and open-hearted, you are writing a personal narrative as much as an academic paper.
Scholarship Essay Topics
Ah, scholarship essay topics can be the hardest part of how to write a scholarship essay. Selecting a relevant, interesting, and innovative topic can be difficult. You’ll need to select a topic that is unique—you don’t want to select a topic everyone else is writing about because you want your essay and your thought process to stand out. So what are some great essay topics? Good question. Here’s what the experts say:
- Humorous topic
- Personal Experience
- Interesting Perspectives
- Noteworthy historic event
- Teachable moments
- A-ha experience
Selecting a topic for the essay may likely be the hardest part. Remember: you want to choose a topic you’re knowledgeable about and can write with authority on, but you don’t want it to be a topic that the essay admissions personnel will likely read 1,000 similar essays on. They will use this essay to build up a picture of your skillset, as much as it happens with the personal statement paper.
If you choose a common topic such as the importance of diversity, try to create an issue with a unique perspective to engage the reader.
Scholarship Essay Outlines
It’s important to complete a scholarship essay outline; it will help you navigate the writing process and make it less stressful. Once you’ve selected your topic, brainstorm all the relevant information about it. The more details you have – the better!
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You’ll need to narrow and eliminate some of these details later on, but this process allows you to select only the best details to include moving forward as you write the final draft. Be sure to include any specific guidelines for each scholarship you apply for. While some scholarships don’t have a word count, others limit essays to 500 or 1,000 words. Essays failing to adhere to such guidelines are often disqualified; following the rules is an important aspect of making it into the final round of applicants. Here are useful elements to include in a scholarship essay outline:
Be sure to include any specific guidelines for each scholarship you apply for. While some scholarships don’t have a word count, others limit essays to 500 or 1,000 words. Essays failing to adhere to such guidelines are often disqualified; following the rules is an important aspect of making it into the final round of applicants. Here are useful elements to include in a scholarship essay outline:
- Creative, engaging title
- Attention getter or hook sentence
- Literary devices such as metaphor, simile, and anecdotes
- Sentence variety
- Strong diction
- Relevant details
- Striking conclusion
Recognizing the importance of a great scholarship essay, U.S. News consulted experts in the field and put together a great reference on how to make a unique scholarship essay. Following these tips is a good start, but you’ll also need to follow a particular essay format.
Scholarship Essay Format
Your scholarship essay format will vary for every scholarship you apply for. It’s important to read any and all information provided with the scholarship application to ensure that you understand the guidelines. For example, some scholarships will ask you to submit an essay with no name while others will ask you to include your name and contact information on the essay paper. Other scholarships may ask you to include letters of recommendation along with an essay while others only want an essay. Some applications may instruct students to include a SASE while this won’t be a requirement for others.
Additionally, it’s important to follow any specific requirements regarding the typed format as well. Pay attention to font preferences, margin sizes, double-spacing requirements, and heading formats. Some scholarship essays may want essays formatted according to MLA standards while others prefer APA standards. Want to know how to write a scholarship essay that’s awesome? Read everything and follow each direction. If you don’t know what a particular essay is asking you to do, ask a teacher or guidance counselor for help. They’ve likely helped hundreds of students navigate the scholarship essay process and they’ll be able to help you too!
Scholarship Essay Samples
There are tons of scholarship essay samples available to review. Take the time and buy a book of winning scholarship essays, or look online to find essays that meet the criteria you have to write on.
Enrolling to a University can be the hardest challenge you’ve ever faced. Check our admission essay sample to find out how to deal with the admissions officer. Link: Admission Essay Sample: Architecture School
Remember: you are worth the investment of your time and research to create a great scholarship essay. These types of essays are too important to leave until the night before the deadline. Start early and plan to complete the whole writing process from start to finish. Get feedback. Ask your friends, family, and mentors to review your essay and recommend ways to strengthen it.
Moreover, it’s important to keep in mind that scholarship essay readers likely read 100s of essays, so you want yours to stand out. Be funny. Be clever. Be emotional. Be sassy. Be truth. Write in a way that grabs the reader’s attention and maintains it from the first sentence until the last. Make sure that you are proudly attaching the essay to your application letter!
Also, don’t forget to put in those literary devices—they help to keep the reader engaged and interested in the topic. How to write a scholarship essay isn’t a difficult process; it’s simply a process with several steps.