Scholarship essays are not easy to write. You are under loads of pressure to perform well and the essay is often the most important criteria that decides whether a contender gets the scholarship (you haven’t heard of scholarships that are awarded based on best smile, have you?).
Unless the application process has an interview portion (uncommon), your scholarship essay is the only way to show why you deserve a scholarship. If it’s a large pool of applicants, an essay is the only criteria because many students have similar transcripts. So, you should know how to write a good scholarship essay – the committee members are interested in seeing the person behind the resume.
Further down the road, and especially for your first job out of college, you can put the scholarship on your resume, and it will mean a great deal to the employer. After all, you were the best of the bunch at some point, and it’s time to shine. So, how to become good at writing a scholarship essay? I’m glad you asked.
Follow the instructions
Yes, this needs to be said. If the prompt says to use under 1000 words, that means you should stop at 999. You’d be surprised at how many people actually need to hear this. There is no problem with longer essays, but the committee can get tired with all your thoughts you decided to pour out and won’t simply read your essay to the end. And their eyes glazing over isn’t the least of your worries – your work could actually be disqualified if you don’t follow the rules. Be ruthless when you edit and, as Faulkner said, “kill your darlings”.
Structure your scholarship essay
It’s very obvious when a person is coming up with what they’re writing on the go, and when it’s been planned out. Especially to someone who reads essays professionally. Your plan should include a thesis and a strong opener, paragraphs where you work towards supporting that thesis, grouped together by a central topic, and a closing statement that ties everything you’ve written into a nice bow.
In a huge pool of candidates, the way to stand out can be counterintuitive. Instead of writing an essay that includes “the theory of everything”, where you attempt to examine everything even slightly related to the topic at hand, write only ONE thing. Pick a single topic and stick to it! This is a surefire way to keep your examiners’ interest till they read the last sentence of your essay.
Know who they’re looking for
Every scholarship is a competition based on who fits a certain criteria best. Your job is to show that it’s you who meets the expectations most closely. But think about people who will be reading your essay: they are just like you. Your secondary goal, after conveying that you’re the ideal candidate, is appealing to the committee’s humanity and making them feel like you through reading your work.
Show, don’t tell
What’s the point in telling them how great you are? You’ve probably met someone who, in the first time they spoke to you, tried very hard to convey what amazing people they are. Were they successful, or did they look like a braggart and, maybe, a liar to boot? The solution to not seem that way is to show the reader what you’re like. The strongest belief is the one that a person came to themselves. Instead of writing how great of you it was to help those underprivileged kids, write about what brought you to do it, why it’s important and how it affected you.
What to edit
As has been said above, your editing should be ruthless. Thorough editing, not only great writing, is what makes a masterpiece. Now, a decision on what should and shouldn’t be included in your essay need to be made on a case by case basis. In general, avoid the following:
- Clichéd phrases – if you’ve already used it ten times in different essays, don’t you think others have, too?
- Five dollar words (that you don’t know the meaning of) – an obvious candidate for deletion, because using them wrong will make your essay look like a joke.
- Five dollar words (that you use too many) – even if you’re sure you’re using a certain word correctly, do know that the proliferation of labyrinthine prose encompassing the entirety of one’s manuscript is literary calamity.
That’s by no means all the advice to be dispensed on the topic of writing your scholarship essay, but this should be sufficient for those of you with at least some essay writing experience. The biggest advice? Be courageous. You’ve survived everything thrown at you so far in school, and you’ll survive this, too. Now go write the best essay you can. Good luck!