7 tips for making your scholarship essays stand out
Miina McCown/The Broadside
Scholarships are great, they provide funding for our expensive schooling and help support the futures of determined students. But most of the time, besides eligibility, a major challenge to overcome in order to receive a scholarship is writing a decent essay.
Scholarship committees review hundreds of responses when deciding who to award. So, how can you make your writing stand out among all of the other applicants?
- Be concise
Try to avoid using fluff and extra words you don’t need. Although it’s tempting to add adjectives and adverbs to fulfill the word count, sticking to minimal but clear writing makes it easier for the reader to process what you are communicating and is less likely to make scholarship committee members feel like they are wasting their time by reading your essay. It also helps to demonstrate that you have proofread your writing and prioritize strong ideas and paragraphs rather than flimsy, unclear sentences supported by a mishmash of unnecessary adjectives.
- Consider reusing an existing essay that you are confident in
Many essays prompts require similar answers or ask similar questions. So, there’s nothing wrong with recycling previous essays. In fact, it can save a lot of time to alter, add to or shorten an existing paper rather than starting one entirely from scratch. And over time, as you build up your library of scholarship essays, it will get more and more convenient to use an existing essay to fill out a new application as your selection will grow.
- Establish a strong introduction
Consider the prompt and try to open an essay by describing an experience, an intriguing first line, or with a question rather than giving a general overview of the entire essay. While we’ve heard plenty of times in grade school that it is important to start off an essay with a “hook,” it’s especially important to hook in the reader when writing essays for scholarship applications because your goal is to essentially convince them that you should be the applicant that they award the prize money with.
- Don’t be afraid to show emotion and vulnerability
Scholarship committees don’t want to see that students applying for scholarships are perfect with no flaws. Showing that you’ve made mistakes and learned from them is much more credible and admirable than someone who appears to try very hard to show that they are a flawless student. Additionally, showing emotion through your writing by describing your vulnerabilities and weaknesses demonstrate that you have worked hard to overcome struggles throughout your academic and/or professional career. Being personable through your writing, such as with humor or generally letting your personality show while maintaining a professional tone is also better as opposed to sounding robotic or monotone.
- Maintain a strong structure throughout the essay
Every once in a while, especially when beginning a new paragraph, it is good to glance back at the prompt and remind yourself of what the main idea is. It can be easy to go off on tangents and lose sight of the original prompt. Scholarship committees can quickly decide not to consider an applicant for an award when they see that they easily get off track and aren’t answering their question as they go through essays.
- Keep a positive and passionate tone
Although it is vital to establish a formal and polite tone when writing scholarship essays, it’s also important to maintain a positive and inspirational tone throughout your writing. Additionally, where it’s appropriate, including a little bit of humor or personality can go a long way to show that you can not only write professionally but that you are interested and engaged. This can also prevent your response from being drab or boring.
- Pick topics you are interested in to write about
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but when writing about something you aren’t really interested in, it ultimately shows through your writing. Choosing topics you care about can motivate you and greatly improve the quality of your writing as well as let your passion for the topic shine through. When the writing is passionate and engaging, the readers will most likely feel the same way.
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