Tips on College Scholarship Essays

What do both National and Local Scholarships frequently require?  ESSAYS!

Scholarship Essays must not only be interesting and well-written, but must address the specific nature of the scholarship itself, and answer in a clear, decisive way any question that may be asked in the scholarship application.  Sometimes these questions are very explicit: “Why do you deserve this scholarship?”  To be quite frank, even less direct questions, like “What does being a Polish-American mean to you?” or “What is the most important lesson you have learned as a high school student?” or “How do you think your education has prepared you to enter the field of engineering?” all require you to answer: “Why do you deserve this scholarship?”  Persuasion is the goal of scholarship essays.  Remember: even though there may be fewer applicants for a specific scholarship than for your favorite college, frequently there is only ONE winner.

Some tips to make that ONE winner YOU:

  • Use very specific examples from your life experience (this may help you with your SAT writing section as well!)
  • Adhere to the length requirements of the essay – your 500-word essay might be great, but will lose out when the word requirement is 1000 – or 250!
  • Learn about the organization that sponsors the scholarship, and not just the basics.  You want to appeal specifically to the attitude of the organization.  Read the website, get in touch with employees, or, even better, last year’s winner.
  • Make sure your style of writing matches the style of the essay question.  Some organizations ask light, informal, or even humorous questions, and others are deeply earnest and serious.  Don’t mix them up!
  • Even if you write one hundred scholarship essays, don’t send out a single one without proofreading and asking a teacher or mentor to read it first.
  • Don’t expect to do double-duty with your scholarship essays and win over the deciding committee; they’ll know if you just swapped a sentence or two from your college personal statement!
  • Don’t lose out because you didn’t submit a neat, organized, attractive application!

Writing scholarship essays may seem like a daunting task, especially with the busy lives of most students, but remember this: the more essays you write, the easier it becomes.  Practice will not only improve your writing, but improve your chances at winning the scholarship you need to afford college.

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Posted on July 27, 2009 by Manhattan Review

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