Most scholarship programs require applicants to submit an essay in addition to an application form and/or transcript. The purpose of the essay is to communicate your goals and dedication to the committee and provide more insight into who you are. For this reason, you must take the time to write a high-quality scholarship essay.
To write a good scholarship essay, you need to ensure that you stand out from the thousands of other applications that are submitted. To do this, you have to “wow” the reader; make it personal to that specific institution by focusing on their goals and the areas they find most valuable, talk specifically about the objectives of that particular scholarship, and explicitly explain why you are the most deserving applicant for that award – above everybody else.
This means you won’t be able to write and submit a ‘blanket’ scholarship essay to multiple institutions – not if you want to be in with a chance of actually receiving the scholarship anyway!
There is an urban myth amongst potential graduate students that no one actually reads the scholarship essays, and therefore, you don’t need to spend much time working on it. Be warned – this information is incorrect, and a lack of effort with the scholarship essay is going to eliminate any chance you had of receiving the award!
The scholarship essays are read and carefully considered; and selection committees want to see that you are a well-rounded student, with experiences and qualifications relevant to the field you wish to study.
To write a successful scholarship essay, consider the layout and structure, as well as the content, carefully. Individual institutions may provide specific instructions for formatting. If not, follow these guidelines:
– Use Times New Roman font
– Use size 12 font
– Double space the text
– Keep page marking to one-inch (top, bottom and side)
– Write your name and the essay title at the top of the page
– Sign at the bottom of the page
– Try to keep to the length of one A4 page
You will often be provided with a prompt that you must address in the scholarship essay. Read the prompt carefully and consider what you think the prompt is really asking (what is it that they are trying to find out about you from this essay?). Plan a response carefully and ensure you stay on topic throughout.
You will, however, want to ensure that you include certain information in your scholarship essay, no matter the prompt. You must ensure that you highlight clearly your experiences and interests that match to the mission of the funding organization and field of study. It is also worth taking the time to do some research about the funding organization.
A good start is to look through their website and try to find their mission statement. Every organization tends to have a few key buzzwords that they use to define their missions and values – if you can include these in your essay, you are likely to catch their attention quickly!
If you are not provided with a prompt, and the topic of the essay is left open for you, be sure to cover the relevant information and try to show your creative side in your approach. If you have questions or queries about the process, or the topic of the essay is unclear, be sure to contact somebody at the organization for further clarification.
Key Information to Include in a Scholarship Essay
- Awards that you have been awarded
- AP and/or college-level courses that you have taken during high school
- How your experience matches the mission of the awarding organization
- Additional courses, experiences, and internships that are relevant to this award
- The subject you wish to major in and how this will support you to achieve your career goals
- Any financial circumstances that impact on your need for the opportunity in order to study
- Projects or extra-curricular activities that support your application
Top Tips for Writing the Scholarship Essay
- Be specific and provide examples – avoid general statements
- Rather than discussing your thoughts or philosophy, use more concrete evidence, such as evidence from research or a particular example of an experience you have had
- Try not to use cliches or common phrases – try to make your writing sound more unique
- Plan carefully to ensure the essay is logical and flowing
- Use the introduction to catch the reader’s attention – try to include something that will make you stand out from the crowd
- Keep it simple – plan to have one key point per paragraph and elaborate on this with evidence and examples
- Write a concluding paragraph to summarise and reiterate why you are the best candidate for the award
- Don’t waffle! Keep your writing concise, clear and to the point. If some words or sentences aren’t adding any value to the essay, take them out!
- Consider the tone of the essay carefully – think about who you are writing to and how they would wish to be addressed
- Try to show who you are. You don’t want the essay to be bland – try to communicate what it is that you value and feel the most passionate about.
- Try not to use “I” too often and instead write in a more passive voice, e.g. instead of writing ‘I think that science is very important’, you could say “Science is known to be an important field…”
- Define any acronyms of organizations, courses or qualifications to ensure the reader understands what you are talking about
- Use a variety of short and long sentences but ensure no sentences are too long
Once you have finished writing the essay, you will need to proofread it very carefully to ensure there are no grammar issues or spelling mistakes. If you can, ask someone in your family or a friend at school to read through it also – sometimes a fresh set of eyes can find mistakes that you can’t see. As you proofread, also consider how well you have addressed the prompt and ensure that you have stayed on topic throughout.