It is clear what recruitment committees and college boards are looking for when they read a scholarship essay: they seek students who can express themselves eloquently, effectively, and correctly.
A scholarship essay must impress examiners with its topic choice, eloquence, relevance, correct references, signs of high intelligence, and superb mastery of writing and reasoning skills. Also, examiners are looking for students that are engaged in their community and have intriguing personalities—not just students that do nothing but study.
Steps for Writing a Scholarship Essay
- When the topic or question is decided upon, you must carefully create the main plan. It is key to decide upon the length, number of sources and citations, and the amount of time to be spent on research, drafting, and editing.
- The language to use in the planning stage must be flawless and unequivocal. The terminology and vocabulary must be derived from research—that is, the sources and other material gathered for the essay.
- List a number of points to help you decide which facts to use in support of your argument—which data can be considered relevant and how to analyze it.
- Decide on the citation style. Never deviate or confuse styles.
- Do not forget to write down the goals or aims of the essay. This is a competitive task. You are aiming to write a better essay than anyone else applying to your chosen institution in order to catch the attention of examiners.
- Research the topic you want to present in your essay.
- Write a first draft, second draft, then a final draft.
- Edit your essay at least three times with the help of a tutor or respected colleague.
Key Points to Consider
- When students decide they want to receive a scholarship at a college or university, they have to know that they are entering a competitive field. There are only a few scholarships given out and there are thousands of applicants.
- A solid and relevant topic must be found. It must be a little different from all other topics and must point to a number of easily-accessible references. A scholarship essay without exceptional references that are up-to-date, appropriate, and significant cannot hope to impress a board of selective examiners.
- When a topic is found, materials in the form of books, magazines, journals, and other forms of information, such as audio or video files, must be assembled in an organized and logical fashion. It is much better to have too much material to refer to than too little.
- More than in any other scholarly work, a scholarship essay is an instrument of exposure and demonstration. One must expose one’s knowledge, and demonstrate evidence of covered ground, and material being understood and interpreted correctly.
- A large amount of notes must be taken during the reading process. The notes must be in clear language, must make sense, and must be organized properly.
- All text must be supported by properly formatted citations and referencing, using APA, MLA, or Chicago/Turabian styles.
- A proven notetaking system is best, because with it, a student can keep all observations and rationale in sequential order. Strict organization is essential, and time management must be adhered to if the scholarship essay is to be successful.
- The key points of the research based on the topic must be sought, planned, and reported. Each paragraph of the report must deal with one of these points, and elaborate on what can be found in the reference sources.
- Deciding on a writing style is the easiest part: all the writing must be academic in style, and accurate. It is a mistake to use conversational language.
Do and Don’t
An ambitious student who wants to garner a scholarship must be twice as careful as regular students, and work twice as hard. It is useful to put a checklist of this nature in a prominent place to avoid submitting a scholarship essay that will not defeat the competition.
- Make sure your topic is relevant, up-to-date, interesting, and engaging.
- The language needs to match the argumentation style of your selection. Use a philosophical stance for humanities subjects, and an objective observational style for science subjects, for example. Never fall into colloquialisms or slang in an effort to be more persuasive.
- An engaging scholarship essay necessarily appeals to the examiners’ emotions, intellect, and memory. It must also present a new way of reasoning or findings.
- It is a mistake to make points that are mere opinions. All statements must be factual and supported by citations.
- Do not omit direct quotes from relevant texts, as well as suitable paraphrasing. Ensure that all your references are current and suitable for the subject and theme.
- Avoid driving a point home too emphatically. It is enough to support your claims with evidence without repetition, exaggeration, or hyperbole.
- Too many negative sentences can turn a successful essay into a destructive argument. A scholarship essay is constructive: analysis, interpretation, and questioning need not be critical of a person, piece of work, or philosophy.
- Avoid presenting facts and data while also omitting a clear and well-thought out thesis argument. Make a logical outline or plan, and adhere to its principles.
Now that you have acquainted yourself with the basic scholarship essay writing tips and rules, you can check out our scholarship essay samples to link theory with practice.
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Samples for Writing a Scholarship Essay
Applying for the Educator’s Professional Master’s Program Scholarship
Applying for the WMU Lawrence, Clara & Evelyn E. Burke Scholarship
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.