Scholarship Essay Tips and Advice

We receive many inquiries about how to write scholarship essays. Here is a summary of our top advice on this topic.

Don’t Let a Scholarship Essay Keep You From Seeking Scholarships

Many college applicants are overwhelmed by the amount of writing required during the application process. The scholarship essay can seem like the last straw. Not only are you being asked to write yet another essay, but it has to be an essay that meets a different set of criteria.

scholarship essay

Not writing that scholarship essay means money left on the table.

Too often, the perceived difficulty of completing a scholarship essay causes potential recipients to pass up on otherwise attractive scholarship opportunities. Do not let this happen to you! In reality, scholarship essays are not much different from the regular admissions essays you had to write. You wrote essays that got you into college, right? You should be able to write a persuasive scholarship essay, too.

See the difference, though? You *had* to write the admissions essays — so you did. Scholarship essays, however, are optional. You probably didn’t approach them with the same determination that you felt when you attacked the admissions essays. You can overcome this barrier by focusing on the potential reward for writing that last essay — a scholarship, and the recognition that comes with the award.

Allow Plenty of Time for Topic Selection

Give yourself time to work on your college essay. You’re not going to submit a competitive application if you throw together an essay at the last minute. Plan to spend at least two weeks just to choose your topic.

As essay topic ideas come to you, write them down. Jot down some notes about each idea, too. (However, we do not recommend taking the time to draft a formal outline, unless you personally feel that such outlines help you think about and choose your topics.) It doesn’t matter if your ideas don’t seem brilliant at first glance. Write them down anyway. This is part of the brainstorming process. Even half-formed ideas can grow into good ones, or lead you to topics that turn out to be even better than those that seemed most promising at first.

Customize Each Essay

Ignore what anyone else says — it’s to your benefit to customize each essay you submit to the award you’re seeking. If you use the same two or three essays for all of the applications you submit, you will only appear to be saving a lot of time. In the end,  the time you spent both on the essays and on the applications will prove to have been completely wasted. Scholarships are at least as competitive as college admissions. It takes a strong and persuasive essay, and one that speaks to the purpose of the scholarship fund, to win an award.

Our point: It is much better to write a handful of highly customized, focused scholarship essays for a small number of awards than it is to copy and paste the same essay into many different scholarship applications.

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