Scholarship Essay Tips That Will Boost Your Odds of Winning

Scholarship committees almost always ask applicants to submit an essay as part of their scholarship application. Your transcripts tell them about your academic accomplishments, but that’s only part of who you are. The essay is a way for the scholarship committee to get a better sense of who you are. These scholarship essay tips are sure to leave a lasting impression on the reader.

Student applying for scholarships.

1. Take Time To Read And Understand The Instructions

Don’t just scan through the instructions in your rush to get the essay done. Every scholarship essay will have its own specific instructions. Take time to read through them carefully. Make notes of the word count and any formatting requirements if specified.

Most important of all, take time to pore over the essay prompt and read between the lines. No matter what the topic of the prompt is, you must answer it in a way that highlights your interests and experiences. Better still, you can write about interests and experiences that fit in with the funding organization’s mission and goals.

2. Organize Your Thoughts

Answering a scholarship essay prompt requires some thought. There are lots of little pieces that must fit together in a way that doesn’t seem haphazard. To do this, you must first organize your thoughts.

Start by brainstorming ideas and write them all down. Make a list of important points to include in the essay. Now go through your big list of ideas and cull the list down to just 3-4. That will help the essay stay more focused.

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3. Begin The Writing Process

Use your ideas to first create an outline for your paper. Don’t miss this step. An outline will keep your essay more organized. It’s time now to work on fleshing out the outline.

The first sentence is always the most important in your scholarship essay. It should capture the reader’s attention and compel them to want to know more about you.

Now that you have a thesis statement, an outline, and a list of important points to include, you can begin to fill in the missing parts of your story. The first sentence is particularly important: it should capture the attention of the reader, and motivate him or her to continue reading. We recommend starting your story by painting a vivid picture of an experience about which you will be talking in the essay.

4. Use Simple, Clear, Concise Language

Don’t force multi-syllable words into your essay in an attempt to impress the judges. Sure, use them if the context calls for them but for the most part keep the language simple, clear, and concise. Scholarship committees are more interested in seeing how you use simple words to narrate your story most effectively.

5. Follow The Standard Essay Format 

The standard essay has an introduction, the body split into two to four paragraphs, and a conclusion. Using this format will give your essay more definition.

6. Watch That Word Count

If the essay requirements specify a minimum and maximum word count, you absolutely must stay within those limits. Don’t assume that it’s okay to write more because you have a lot of interesting things to talk about. The word limit is set for a purpose. For one, the committee wants to see if you can follow specific instructions. Secondly, they want to see how you can fit your ideas and make an impression within their stipulated word count. If there’s a word count mentioned, don’t go over or under.

7. Edit For Grammar & Spelling

Your essay must be 100% error-free. Grammatical errors and spelling mistakes show that you’re either careless or just can’t be bothered. These traits will cause you to lose out on winning an award no matter how impressive your other credentials are. Read, re-read, and edit your essay until it’s free from errors. Ask someone with strong editing skills to proofread your essay. Grammarly is a free and easy resource you can use to help you double-check your work. 

8. Reread, Revise, Rewrite

Never ever submit a scholarship essay without re-reading it. Experts suggest re-reading your essay multiple times. Leave at least a day in between so you look at the essay with fresh eyes every time.

Ask yourself these questions as you reread your essay:

  • Does it answer the essay prompt?
  • Are all specifications met?
  • Does it have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion?
  • Is the message clear?
  • Does it tell a positive story about yourself?
  • Is the content aligned with the sponsor’s goals and mission?

Some Things To Avoid In Your Essay

Knowing what to avoid in your scholarship essay is just as important as knowing what to write about. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Don’t include any information that’s already on your transcripts. Scholarship essays have a word count limit. You don’t want to waste precious words repeating any details.

Avoid talking about religion, or politics in your essay. These are highly controversial topics. If the person reading your essay has a different view from yours, they’ll have a difficult time being objective. The same goes for controversial topics. 

Don’t include famous quotes. It’s cliche and overused. Instead, include a piece of meaningful wisdom or advice you received from a parent, grandparent, or another important person in your life.

Resist the urge to embellish your essay with emojis, funky fonts, memes, or gifs. Your essay is not a casual letter you’re writing to a friend. You want to appear sincere and professional in your essay; adding these extra elements does not help your cause.

Don’t use profanity or slang in your essay. Although they’re used freely all too often, it’s still in bad form and could disqualify you from the award.

Use These Scholarship Essay Tips

With these handy tips, you’ll be better prepared to create a winning scholarship essay! Good luck.

Looking for more scholarships? Search our free scholarship search tool to see options from different institutions, private businesses, and even federal and state governments.


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