Nowadays, almost all scholarship applications require you to write a scholarship essay as part of the application. Chances are that the institution awarding it will receive a lot of entries. So, how do you make yours stand it in the eyes of the scholarship council board? The number one thing to consider is that we all have our own writing style as we have all gone through different life experiences and are inspired by different things. Even if the message conveyed is the same, the words used will differ. Once you open up your word processor, the words pouring over your keyboard will be unique to you. You need to write a short section explaining about your previous work so it is always a good idea to create a research paper outline in order to express about your last work.
So, the trick is to write a winning scholarship essay that stands out and is convincing enough about why you, the author of that particular essay, should win that scholarship and not another person? What drives your interest in that particular area? Your entry should be about you and how you relate to the subject. Use your own unique writing style and catch the evaluation’s eye.
Here are a few tips that we have found to work over our years of experience with scholarship essays. Of course, some scholarships may require some more specific points but this is a good overall guide.
- Understanding Statement: Make sure you understand the essay statement in order to be able to respond to it correctly. For example, if the essay statement is: “A situation where I have demonstrated leadership skills, and how it made a difference in my work”. Key points that you need to address based on this statement are “leadership” and “difference in my work”.
- Understanding Key points: Understand the meaning of the key points. After identifying them, you will need to consider what they mean beyond the initial level. In the above example, “leadership” refers to results achieved under your leadership, not necessarily the responsibilities of the position itself. Once you understand these you will be able to address them accordingly. The more related examples and points you can make, the more relevant your abilities will look in the eyes of the reader.
- Create Story like a Speech outline: We can not stress enough the importance of an outline. Make notes of possible ideas on what to include in all parts of your essay. If done well, this will make the task of writing the essay a lot easier as you will have already defined the main aspects of the subject matter of your essay, you need only expand them further. If necessary, write several draft versions until you are perfectly content with the final version.
- Know your audience: Before sending in your application, research on who is giving away the scholarship, what they do and what they stand for. Even better, look for information on other grants and awards they have given in the past. What have they asked for? If the winning entries are published, read them. In other words, gather as much information about the audience, the evaluation’s that might be reading your essay and decide whether you should receive that scholarship. This will enable you to get an idea of your audience and who might be evaluating your essay.
- Use keywords and synonym: of keywords used in the essay statement. This will prove that you actually answering the question the statement asked. For instance, references to “leadership” and “difference in work practices” should be included.
- Start off strongly: Instead of talking about yourself and your interest in the specific subject, quote from a relevant source related to the topic. This is a useful strategy as it allows you to seamlessly link to the body of your essay and the main point you are trying to make. Not only that but you also show off your knowledge of the subject area and willingness to pursue it further.
- Respect the word count limit and any other guidelines: Sometimes scholarship applications ask for a limited number of words in entries as they are easier to go through, plus candidates have the opportunity of showing their aptitude to keep things on point and not go off on tangents which is a frequent occurrence whenever essay instructions do not go into such specifics.
- Make sure you are submitting your best work: Most scholarships are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They require an essay to prove your abilities beyond your transcript of records and short biography. So, before submitting, go through it one last time to make sure it is the best it can possibly be. It can be the strongest or weakest point of your application and your chances of being awarded a grant can be increased or reduced purely based on your writing and answer to the writing prompt given.
- Do not wait till the last minute to send your submission: Here you may also need to consider time zone differences, poor internet connections etc. I have personally spent days on an essay only to be unable to turn it on time because of PC issues. So, have a backup copy of your entry on a memory card or wherever else is convenient and try to submit at least a few hours before the deadline.
- Do not quit: because it is taking up too much time and effort. Yes, we would all rather spend our Friday night out with friends instead of writing. But this momentary decision can have a major impact on your future especially if we are talking about a grant that will enable you to attend your college of choice or even a tuition fee waiver. You will be proud of this accomplishment and will not give the missed Friday night outing a second thought.
Finally, when writing a scholarship application essay, show what you are capable of and that you know where you are headed. Use proper language and the necessary keywords, show your enthusiasm for the subject matter, let your experiences and desire to learn something new come through, and most importantly, that you believe the particular scholarship will have a positive impact in the goals you want to achieve. After all, no evaluator will award a scholarship to a candidate whose essay does not prove a certain attitude. Believe in yourself and your abilities. And write an essay that will knock people’s socks off.
Good luck for your entry into winning a scholarship!
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Essentially, this prompt is asking you, “What are you passionate about, and why?”
The five pillars (mind, heart, zeal, family, and hope) give a broad outline for five different directions your essay can take. This is a good prompt to choose if you would like a broad prompt to write about and are unsure if some of the other prompts are to your liking. You can basically write about whatever you want for this essay!
Mind: This essay could take the form of an anecdote of when you stood up for something you believe in, or an in-depth explanation of a subject that makes you tick, and why. The important thing to include here is something that has the underlying concept of being a force for good in the world. For example, did you think of a new way to improve your school’s recycling program? Did you invent a scientific tool and get it patented? The idea behind this “pillar” is to showcase the different talents and intellectual passions that applicants can bring to the campus, so if you think this is you, go ahead and use this pillar as the focus of your essay!
Heart and Zeal: This essay should be centered around a passion to which you have dedicated a lot of time and poured your heart and soul into. It could be about how you trained countless hours in the pool, on the track, on the field, in the gym, etc. to finally win that league title or state championship. It could detail the countless hours of research that you contributed to the science lab you interned at, with the pinnacle of the essay revealing the breakthrough that the lab discovered. The important thing here is to write about something you are passionate about, something you worked hard for to achieve.
Family: This is a very relatable approach to take while writing this essay. You could talk about how your immigrant parents taught you to always be humble and respect people’s differences. You could write about how your mom’s chocolate chip cookie recipe inspired you to start your own food blog.
This pillar also applies to friends and other people you may consider family. You can be as creative as you want when defining “family!” Is it your literal family? Your best friend? A mentor? Your whole community? This should be about how someone in your life has affected you, and how that effect has shaped you into the person you are today.
Hope: This pillar is heavily calling for an essay about when you overcame an obstacle and prevailed. No, you didn’t have to beat cancer to write about this pillar, but writing about something that matters to you is key. Does your 5-year-old brother, who can list off all the U.S. states and their capitols, give you hope for the future generation? Did you overcome homelessness? A bad teacher? A bad school year?
The important thing to remember when writing this essay is to write about what you learned in addition to the thing you overcame. While sob stories can sometimes be seen as the icing on the cake, admissions officers often get tired of reading them if the writers don’t give any additional information on how they grew from that event. Remember to write about how that event has shaped you for the better, and what you learned from it.
A final piece of advice for this prompt is that even though you can choose as many pillars to write about as you want, you only have 175 words, so make sure you can effectively get your point across in those words — usually this means focusing on one pillar or passion to write about!