We all love free money, don’t we?
Scholarships for college are just that - free money to help pay for your education. The problem is, it seems like everyone else also knows how expensive college can be, and it is hard to stand out among all your peers who are trying to win that scholarship, too.
I am here to give you some tips and tricks on how to write a college essay that just might land you that free money!
MAKE LISTS BEFORE YOU WRITE
Many scholarships have questions that you have to answer before you even get around to submitting the perfect essay. Take the time to really think through these answers.
Make and keep lists of: your skills, goals, achievements, volunteer work, job history, and extracurricular activities. Put them in a place where you won’t lose them, and reference them when you are answering the opening scholarship questions.
STAY ON TOPIC
Read over the topic a few times before you begin writing anything down. I even encourage you to make an outline of the topic and the key things you would like to mention within the essay. Then look back at the question and choose the points you’d like to discuss based on what answers fit the topic the best. Straying from the topic is a fast way to get your essay rejected.
FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES
If the prompt tells you to write a 300-500 word essay, do just that. If it says to format the paper in a certain way, do just that.
Your essay will not be chosen if you write a 5 page essay when everyone else is writing just one page. Most likely, these judges have a lot of really good applicants to choose from, and something as simple as straying away from the essay’s required format could get yours tossed immediately.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Write formally and please, do not include slang such as LOL or YOLO! Most of the time, those judging your essay are well-educated career professionals. They will not be impressed by your lack of formal writing.
Also, look closely at, and seriously consider the questions because many of the judges will be looking for a student who meets a unique criterion. Make sure you emphasize your distinctive life situation within your answer.
MAKE IT PERSONAL
STAND OUT among the rest. What makes your story unique? What makes you worthy of this scholarship more than the hundreds or thousands of other applicants? Share with them a sliver of yourself, so they really connect with you and your response to the topic. They want to hear about you!
Keep in mind that judges aren’t looking for a sob story or an “I deserve this” essay. Give them hope by telling them how you overcame adversity or how your accomplishments will help you in your career. Think about a moment in your life that inspired your future.
MAKE SURE IT FLOWS
I was on my very first scholarship committee this year and I was genuinely surprised by the disjointedness of many of the applicant’s essays. The sentences they wrote were not cohesive and were beyond confusing to follow.
- This is what NOT to do when writing an essay:
- I first decided to major in Underwater Basket Weaving when I watched my great aunt Lois create the neatest basket I had ever seen. I play basketball at my high school and it helps me with my focus and coordination.
- This would be a much better way to make those two sentences flow:
- I first decided to major in Underwater Basket Weaving when I watched my great aunt Lois create the neatest basket I had ever seen. This is an activity that requires a lot of focus and coordination and because I have played on my high school basketball team, I think I have the skills that it necessitates. Basketball taught me how to ____, which is an ability that directly correlates with this degree field.
THINK OF A GREAT OPENER AND CLOSER
If you are reading a magazine and the first two sentences of the article don’t interest you, how likely are you to continue reading it? Not likely at all. That is why it is so essential to have an introduction that grabs your audience’s attention and makes them want to keep reading.
The same goes with the ending. If you write an entire article that just blows away the scholarship committee, but the last paragraph doesn’t summarize everything you just wrote, they are likely to finish with a bad taste in their mouth. Make sure your essays have awesome introductions and conclusions.
EDIT, EDIT, EDIT
PLEASE have someone read the essay you wrote before you hit the submit button. It is hard to catch yourself when you misspell something or when you write a sentence that makes sense to you, but would be confusing to anyone else who reads it. Even famous authors have editors for that very reason. Read it once, read it twice, read it aloud, and have another pair of eyes do the same.
DON’T GIVE UP
Just because you may not win the first scholarship you apply for doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try again. It is the persistence that pays off in the long run.
Further reading for tips on how to write a stand-out scholarship essay:
Five Tips for Writing Winning Essays
Ten Tips for Writing Effective Scholarship Essays
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