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    How to Start a Scholarship Essay (With Examples)

    By Will Geiger

    Will Geiger is the co-founder of Scholarships360 and has a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. He is a former Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at Kenyon College where he personally reviewed 10,000 admissions applications and essays. Will also managed the Kenyon College merit scholarship program and served on the financial aid appeals committee. He has also worked as an Associate Director of College Counseling at a high school in New Haven, Connecticut. Will earned his master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania and received his undergraduate degree in history from Wake Forest University.

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    Reviewed by Bill Jack

    Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: May 20th, 2024
    How to Start a Scholarship Essay (With Examples)

    As an admissions officer, I reviewed thousands of essays for students seeking admission and scholarships. The essay is one of the most important parts of the scholarship application process–a strong essay can go a long way. However, with so much competition, it is important for your scholarship essay to stand out. That’s why it’s important for you to start a scholarship essay off right!

    There are some very simple things that you can do to ensure that your essay is engaging from the very first sentence. In fact, beginning your essay with an exciting opening is one of the most important things you can do, because it will immediately distinguish your essay from the others. 

    Keep on reading to learn more about how you can nail the very first sentence and start your essay off right!

    Engage the reader with the first sentence

    No matter what type of essay you are writing, you will want to ensure that the very first line grabs the attention of the reader. One of the biggest mistakes that students make when starting their essay is simply restating the prompt. This is bland and boring. 

    Now, you might be wondering, “how do I engage the reader with the very first line of my essay?”. The good news is that there are several ways that you can do this that are very simple to do. 

    Related: How to answer scholarship essay questions about your career goals

    Begin with dialogue

    First, you could begin your essay with conversation. This can be an interesting and unexpected way to start your scholarship essay. Maybe someone asked you an unexpected question? Perhaps you were having an interesting conversation with a friend or family member? Either way, dialogue can be a powerful tool to start your essay.

    Put the reader in your shoes

    Alternatively, you can choose to start your essay by placing the reader right in your shoes and show them something from your life. Appeal to the senses and show the reader what you see, hear, smell, or taste. These specific details will help your essay come to life and make it even more memorable. 

    Also recommended: What’s the best scholarship essay format?

    Scholarship essay introduction example

    Next,  we’ll look at a specific example of how you can open up your essay. Let’s say you are applying for the Questbridge scholarship program. One of the essays that you will be asked is:

    We are interested in learning more about you and the context in which you have grown up, formed your aspirations, and accomplished your academic successes. Please describe the factors and challenges that have most influenced you. How are they shaping your future aspirations?

    You might be tempted to rephrase the question and start your essay with something like:

    “I have grown up in a rural context and this has formed my aspirations and allowed me to accomplish academic success…”

    This is generic and will not engage your reader at all. 

    Instead, what if you started off your essay with something like this:

    “I look outside my bedroom window and see Henry, my favorite chicken, pecking at something in the dirt.” 

    Makes a big difference, right? As a reader, you are probably wondering: why does this person have chickens outside their bedroom window? Why did they name this particular chicken Henry?

    See also: Here are our top writing & essay scholarships for students!

    Keep the ending of your essay in mind as you write the opening

    While crafting your opening, be open to ideas about how to close your essay. There is no need to stress about the ending now, but being mindful of effective ways to end an essay is always a good idea. Say you are opening your scholarship essay with Henry the chicken. Is there a way for Henry to make an impactful appearance at the end of the essay to close things out in a way that perfectly wraps everything up? The key is for the essay ending to be meaningful and memorable for the reader. 

    Don’t miss: Our free scholarship search tool

    If you can’t think of a “wow” scholarship essay beginning, keep writing!

    Sometimes, we know what we want to say, point by point, but we are not ready to be creative when it comes to opening an essay. In that case, keep writing! There is always the option of going back and crafting an engaging opening after your essay is written. Simply write your main idea where the first paragraph would be to guide you as you write. After, go back when your creative juices are flowing, and craft the amazing opening (and closing) that your scholarship essay deserves!

    Final thoughts

    As shown, there are many questions that we as readers will have after reading an engaging essay opening such as the one just shared; We want to learn more about the student who is writing this essay. After all, as a writer trying to stand out in a pile of essays, that is our main goal. 

    We hope that you have a better understanding of how to start a scholarship essay so you can maximize your chances of winning scholarships!

    Additional resources

    Scholarships360 is the go-to for all things college admissions and scholarships! Wondering how to write a 250 word essay and how to write a 500 word essay? Curious how to write an essay about yourself? Wow, do we have the resources to help! Additionally, check out our free scholarship search tool to help you finance your college education. Best of luck to you and your future endeavors! 

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • The first sentence of the essay is what makes the reader want to continue reading 
    • Engage the reader by appealing to the senses
    • Create a sense of wonder in your essay, making the reader want to learn more about you
    • Keep the ending of the essay in mind as you craft the beginning
    Key Takeaways

    Frequently asked questions about how to start a scholarship essay

    What is an essay hook?

    An essay hook is usually the first sentence of an essay that is meant to grab (or hook!) the reader’s attention. An effective hook makes the reader want to keep reading.  Hooks come in many forms, including anecdotes, questions, and interesting statements.

    How long should my scholarship essay be?

    That depends on each specific scholarship application. Some of the prompts will ask for more detailed responses and others will only require brief responses. Strive to fully answer the question in an engaging way without being overly wordy.

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