How to Write a Winning Scholarship Essay
It seems more and more scholarship programs are advertising ‘no essay needed’ in an attempt to draw in more applicants. What many students fail to realize is that many of these ‘easy’ programs receive tens of thousands of applications for a single scholarship award. With odds like that, you might as well be playing Mega Money or power ball lottery. I know that creating a winning scholarship essay can seem like an impossible task, and some of you may be intimidated by the high word count required for some scholarship competitions, but submitting an essay just might be your greatest advantage when it comes to winning scholarships. Think about it. If you and another applicant have similar grades and extra-curricular involvements, the essay will likely be the deciding factor. So, how does someone write a great scholarship essay and win that scholarship money?
Carefully read the scholarship essay prompt or question. Once you are clear on the subject at hand, and know exactly what is being asked, write the main point out on a piece of paper or dry erase board. Start jotting down words or ideas that relate to that subject. For example, to answer the question about which superhero or villain you would want to change places with for a day and why, you may write some of the following words/ideas: Spiderman, Ironman, Dr. Evil, Hitler, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., or my grandmother. As you can see, some are the traditional ‘superhero’ type, while others are not. In any case, you’ve given yourself several potential essay subjects to ponder.
2. Make it Personal
Now that you have some ideas for the essay subject, determine how you can make one of those more personal. Let’s say you decide to go the traditional route and choose Ironman. Maybe, you desire to change places with him because you feel the need to protect someone in your family or school. This is where you would create a story that incorporates glimpses into who you are and your life; show how being Ironman for a day could help you prevail over an injustice in your life or help someone you love. If you choose to use a real person as your hero or villain, you’ll need to explain how this person has influenced your life by picking a specific instance or event that was pivotal in making you who you are today. Now, tell your story!
3. Stay on Point
One of the easiest things to do when you start writing is to go off on a tangent; it’s easy to get lost in your writing and forget the point of your essay. To prevent random thoughts from creeping into your essay, create an outline before you begin writing your draft. Your first paragraph should be interesting and original -- it must grab your reader’s attention and make them want to read more; think of it as a movie trailer, teasing the reader with what’s to come. The body of your essay should explain or tell your story, as it relates to the essay subject. And finally, close your essay with what you have learned and how it will shape the future you.
Whether you are writing about real-life or creating a piece of fiction, refrain from using words you would not typically use in your everyday speech; if you have to look it up, you probably shouldn't use it in your essay. Also, don’t submit your first draft. Put it away for a few days before reading it again; you’ll be surprised at how many improvements you will make to it after letting it sit a while. Before you consider submitting your essay, be sure to have another set of eyes look it over for errors, too. Once you confirm that your essay meets the scholarship guidelines (font, word count, formatting, etc.) and you are satisfied with your work, you’re ready to apply.
We all have stories to tell and when you are trying to win a scholarship with your essay, you just have to figure out how to relate your unique life experiences to the subject at hand. With a little word play and creative thinking, anyone can write a winning scholarship essay. So, forget about waiting around, hoping to win the lottery. Start writing your future by applying for scholarships with essay requirements now.
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