Avoid These 5 Clichés In Your Scholarship Essays

The essay is the most important part of your scholarship application. It’s your scholarship essay that will help you stand out from the thousands of other scholarship applicants. But writing this essay is easier said than done. Many students find this one of the most challenging writing projects they have ever worked on.

There are several challenges that arise that stop writers in their track when crafting their scholarship essay. How do you showcase your accomplishments without sounding like you’re bragging? Can you talk about a vital setback in your life without coming across like you are complaining? Is it possible for you to fit everything you want to say within the limited word count that the scholarship asks for? Not to mention the biggest question of all – how do you start the essay?

The introduction can be the most difficult part of writing an essay. Many students end up using clichés as part of their introduction. Others sprinkle a few clichés throughout their essay to meet the word count. The problem with clichés is that too many students are using them as their fallback strategy. To the scholarship committee member who is reading hundreds of essays, the essays all begin to sound the same. Include clichés in your essay and it will end up overlooked with all the other similar essays.

To write a compelling essay that will increase your chances of winning the scholarship, here are 5 essay clichés you should avoid in your essay. Later, we have some suggestions on what you should write about instead.

#1 Starting with an Inspirational Quote

It’s likely the scholarship committee has already read that quote – or one similar to it – several times over. Nothing is more insincere than inspirational quotes that everyone has read but no one really likes. This is a scholarship essay, not a Pinterest page. Keep the inspirational quotes on a poster on your wall and be original in your essay.

#2 Talking About Your Volunteer Work

We’re not knocking volunteer work, and this type of work is important. But if you’ve volunteered at a soup kitchen for a week only because you were required to, you probably won’t get the scholarship.

Scholarship committees don’t want to know what you’ve done. They want to know what the experience taught you. When talking about your volunteer work, talk about the impact it had on you and how it helped you grow. Don’t just say ‘I volunteered for x days at a soup kitchen’ and leave it at that.

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#3 The Non-Challenging Challenge

Everyone has fears and phobias. Everyone has unique experiences growing up. If you’re going to write about a challenge, make it worthwhile to the readers. Was it a life-changing experience? Did you learn anything? Did it change your beliefs or the way you see the world around you? Those are the kinds of essays that win scholarships.

#4 Your Life Story

Of course, you’re a fascinating person with hopes, dreams, and ambitions, but so is everyone else writing a scholarship essay. Unless it has something to do with the scholarship topic, don’t write your entire life story as your scholarship essay.  

#5 The Sob Story

Almost everybody experiences some tragedy or the other in their lifetime. For some, it may be the death of a loved one. For others, it could be an accident that changed their life. These incidents can have a profound effect on anybody, more so if this was their first experience. While it is expected that a tragedy would have an impact on you, that doesn’t warrant making it central to your essay.

Scholarship committees receive hundreds of essays every year about how the death of somebody’s grandmother motivated them to choose medicine as their career path. This particular cliché has been done to death.

What the Scholarship Committee is Looking For In Your Scholarship Essay

So now you know which clichés you should avoid in your scholarship essay. This brings you to the next step – what should you write about?

Here are a few things that scholarship committees will look for and what you should focus on when writing your essay:

Is the answer relevant to the topic? – If the scholarship sponsors have provided a topic, reflect on the topic assigned and write an essay that is relevant to that topic. You may be keen on talking about your accomplishments in track and field events, but if the essay prompt is about your thoughts on global warming, then that’s what you should be talking about.

Does the essay meet the word count specifications? – No matter what the topic is, make sure you stay in the word count. In Microsoft Word, it is simple to check the word count. It is displayed in the lower left corner of the screen. Love what you’ve written but it’s gone beyond the word count? Tweak it to fit. Submitting an essay that is too wordy, regardless of how good it is, tells the reader that you cannot follow simple instructions. This can instantly lower your chances of winning that scholarship.

Is the essay memorable? You want your essay to stand out from the rest and to do that your essay has to be compelling. Have a great sense of humor? Sometimes a light-hearted scholarship essay is a perfect way to showcase this. Are you a brilliant storyteller? Prove it with your essay. Make your essay memorable and fresh so you can get that scholarship to help pay for school.

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