How are you going to make your scholarship essay stand out, so you get the letter in the mail that says, “Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you were selected for….” [Insert your own squeals and jumping up and down sounds here].
It’s easier than you think if, well, you think about it a bit. The scholarship funder tells you the topic you need to write about. It may be on your academic or career plans along with personal accomplishments or experiences, or current events and social issues.
Read the directions carefully because if you don’t hit the word count, you’re out. If you forget to include your address and they asked for it, you’re out. If they specify a certain font size and you don’t use it, you guessed it – you’re out.
Then, approach it just like you would any other essay you’ve written in high school. Start with thinking about your personal experiences as they relate to the topic. Write all of them down and then choose up to three of them to build on to make the points of your essay.
Create an outline, and from there start writing.
- Write your first draft. Write down everything you’re thinking. It’s easy to cross things off. Then, review it with the next five items in mind.
- Make it personal. Use interesting verbs and paint a picture of who you are with words. For instance, instead of saying, “I attend volunteer youth meetings,” describe what you actually do. “I collaborate with fellow students and adult mentors to enrich the lives of 5- to 7-year old children who have lost a parent.”
- Tell the truth. Don’t overexaggerate. Changing the life of one elderly person can mean as much as changing the lives of 50 people if you explain it well.
- Target your writing to the minimum number of words required, rather than the maximum allowed. Shorter is always better because you hold the reader’s attention.
- Proofread. Proofread again. Have someone with strong proofreading skills review your application and essay. Don’t rely on spellcheck or grammar check to do that work for you.
- Simmer. Let it rest over night or a couple days and then go back to re-read and make sure you like it! If you do, hit send! If you don’t, start with #2 and repeat.