How To Outline Your Scholarship Application Essay w. Template

Starting a scholarship essay can seem daunting. Where do you start? How do you begin? Our simple answer: Outline your scholarship application essay (and we have an easy template for you to help).

Like planning a trip, an outline can help you map out your essay before you start.

Flickr user Marco Verch

First Steps

After you select your topic, outlining should be your very next step. Before you start writing the essay submission or even complete sentences, grab a piece of paper or open a new document. Start writing every detail you can think of that you may want to write about. It will highlight which pieces of information are most important to be shared with the scholarship committee. Organizing these details into an outline will help you write a killer application essay!

Let’s Start Writing

We’ve drafted a scholarship application essay template outline to help you in your outlining process. Use this as a framework to enter the details you’ve already brainstormed. Don’t be afraid to be original!

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Template Outline

1. Introduction (Your Hook)

  • Introduce your topic. Make it interesting without sharing all of the details to draw the reader in and entice them to read more.
  • It should include a thesis statement that encompasses the whole essay in one sentence.

2. Body

  • This is where you take the reader through the entire story. Be careful not to simply state facts but to weave events and thoughts together to tell an impactful and compelling story.
  • Bonus points: Tailor your story to match the scholarship’s goals. Show, in your writing, how you’re the best fit for their mission.

3. Conclusion

  • At the end, summarize your most important point. Whether that is a lesson you learned or a personal example of how this impacted you. Tie the pieces of your story together with a bow, all while sharing how you are a good candidate for this specific scholarship.

Simple Outline Example

An outline can be very in-depth, or it can be short and to the point—whatever helps you to write. In our example outline, we have a student-athlete writing about an ankle injury and how that impacted not only their running career but also their life in general. They will use this story to share how they overcame the challenges, both mental and physical, and came back even stronger!

Introduction (The Hook)

  • Training for state competition when I broke my ankle
  • Thesis: training for state was tough, breaking my ankle and missing out was tougher


  • Training regimen for state: schedule, practice layout, regional competition
  • Broken ankle: how I got it, the diagnosis, what it will take to recover
  • Challenges: disappointment, felt like everything was for nothing, goal unattainable
  • Reaction: Setting new recovery goals, joining summer track league, plan on running track in college


  • Unforeseen challenges can interrupt your plans, but I learned how to adjust and jump over the metaphorical hurdles

Word Count

Not all scholarship essays will allow for long descriptions of the story you want to tell. In fact, some scholarship applications have essay word counts of 500 or even 250 words! How do you fit everything you need to say in 250 words?

The answer: you outline.

No matter the length of the essay, the outline is very important, but at smaller word counts, it becomes crucial. Begin by filling in your outline with all the details you can think of and let it guide you to the important “nuggets” you want to share with the scholarship committee.

Just Do It!

If you’re feeling stuck about what to write… just start writing! Write down anything that comes to mind and jot it down as a list on a piece of paper. This will help to jog your creative brain and get you in the writing mindset. Think about stories or times in your life that have changed you into a better person. Find ways to demonstrate your passion and commitment.

Looking for scholarships to apply to? College Raptor has tons of FREE resources to help you find scholarships. Register for our Scholarship Search Tool to see your scholarship matches.


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