Cliches to Avoid in Scholarship Essays

Flickr user Vic

Imagine you’re a scholarship sponsor and you have to read 50 some apps a day. If all 50 essays start off the same way, or contain the same tired elements, they might blur together. Applications that don’t stand out, won’t get picked.

Avoid these cliches and you’re already well on your way to having a stronger essay.

Cliche: Introducing Yourself

Now the point of an essay is to show the readers who you are—so avoiding an introduction almost seems contradictory. But sticking a “Hi, my name is ______ and I’m applying to this scholarship because _____” will earn groans at best.

Instead, get right to the prompt. For example, if the prompt is writing about a person that inspires you, jump right in with the qualities they have or an anecdote about a time they did something awesome. Don’t waste your precious word count.

Cliche: Inspirational Quotes

Starting off with someone else’s words draws attention away from you. And it’s more than likely someone has used that exact same quote before anyway. Try to avoid sticking quotes in your essay, unless it’s absolutely integral to the story you’re telling.

Cliche: Your Whole Life Story

Certainly elements of your life will be shown in the essay, but you don’t need the whole thing. Avoid starting with the cliche “I was born on a dark and stormy night” kind of idea. You don’t need to tell the person how you got to the point where your essay actually beings. Just include the important (and relevant) bits.

Cliche: Answers Without Real Impact

If a prompt asks you to tell them about a time you overcame a challenge, the Big Test you studied really hard for will not cut it. Nor will confronting your fear of snakes by holding your friend’s pet snake. While it might have been a meaningful experience for you, these sorts of responses aren’t unique.

Find a real challenge; something that would have truly impacted your life. Getting a C on one test will not derail things significantly, so it doesn’t make for a significant essay answer.

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Allison Wignall

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