How To Write A Winning Scholarship Essay
Scholarship essays are an inevitable part of most scholarship applications. Sadly, many qualified students see an essay requirement, think, “I’m not a good writer,” and decide not to apply. Don’t fall into that trap!
As a writing instructor, I know firsthand that anyone can write a winning scholarship essay if they devote the time and effort. Follow the steps below to write an excellent scholarship essay, dramatically increasing your chances of winning scholarships!
Take Your Time
For most people, it’s not possible to write a stellar essay ten minutes before the application deadline. We recommend giving yourself at least one hour to write the first draft of your scholarship essay. Ask a friend to read it over or just take some time away, then take another hour to proofread your essay, ideally the next day.
Start With Structure
Remember, the reader is not in your head. A solid essay structure is needed to convey your ideas effectively. Before you begin writing:
● Create an outline to map out your ideas
● Plan for multiple paragraphs, with each paragraph headed by a clear topic sentence for that paragraph’s main point
● Use a transitional sentence or phrase at the end of each paragraph to connect one idea to the next
Answer the Prompt
Nothing will set you back like not responding to the prompt provided. It screams “this person didn’t bother to fully read the directions,” or worse, “this person doesn’t care about what we are asking.”
Read the prompt, and then read it again. This is where giving yourself plenty of time to write comes in handy. Rather than immediately starting to write:
- Let the prompt sit with you awhile so that you come up with the best response
- Think of the prompt as a question to be answered
- Consider your audience while being your authentic self
Start With a Hook
Your writing teachers were not joking about the importance of the introductory hook. There are a number of ways to hook the reader, including:
- Using startling statistics
- Opening with a moving sentence
- Making a strong statement
For an example of an engaging hook, say you are writing an essay about social media distraction. Perhaps you could open with:
It might sound odd, but I love my flip phone. In fact, I feel nothing but disdain for that moment stealing villain, the iPhone.
See how you’re already interested in reading on? Effective writing is all about telling an engaging story, and a strong hook is the first step!
Don’t Forget Formatting
Be mindful of any required formatting. This might include a word count or page limit. The application may also specify single or double sentence spacing, using certain fonts, or using a certain format, such as MLA or APA.
Show, Don’t Tell
Finally, no matter what, do your best to tell an engaging story! If given the opportunity, focus on a specific challenge you’ve faced or goal you’ve achieved. As you tell your story, the qualities that make you a great scholarship applicant–your drive, your passion, and your personality–will shine through!
Speaking of conclusions, don’t end your scholarship with “in conclusion,” which sounds robotic on the page. Instead, think about why what you wrote matters, and remind the reader of just that.
An effective way to bring cohesion to your essay is to refer back to your hook in the closing. For example, if you used that flip phone introduction, your closing might say:
So while some people have 100s of pictures of “experiences” that they were not truly present for, I have lifelong memories stored in my own mind, no extra cloud space required.
Remember, writing scholarship essays is an opportunity to show who you are in a way that test scores and rankings never can. Don’t miss out on winning scholarship awards that you qualify for. Happy writing, all!