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How to Write an Essay for a Scholarship

Ten steps to a winning scholarship essay.

As you know, applying for college is a lot of work. You must complete university applications, financial aid applications, college admissions essays and even essays for scholarships.

That’s right! Scholarship applications often require an essay, too.

Don’t worry: Follow these 10-step for writing a scholarship essay that will help pay for your college costs.

1. Grab the Reader.

Never underestimate the power of a strong introduction. Look at these two examples of introductory lines. Can you can spot the difference?

Example #1: Strong leadership skills are important for many reasons.

Example #2: November 12, 2004, was the day I lost everything.

Example #1 is vague, impersonal and boring. But example #2 is personal, specific and intriguing. It leaves the reader interested and wanting more.

Hit the ground running in your first paragraph. This will help your essay for the scholarship stand out from the pack.

2. Re-adjust and Re-use Your Scholarship Essays.

Don’t waste hours writing a different essay for all the scholarship competitions you enter. There are many scholarships out there, and essay topics tend to overlap. With a bit of tweaking, one scholarship essay can fit the needs of several different contests. Recycle as much as you can!

3. Always Surprise.

Imagine that the question is “Who in your life has had the biggest influence on you and why?” Don’t automatically write about your mother or father. Chances are everyone else probably will do that too.

Maybe someone like Gloria Steinem or Superman has had the biggest influence in your life. It may not be 100% traditional, but at least it’s interesting.

4. Follow the Essay Instructions.

Nothing turns a scholarship essay reader off faster than an essay that almost applies to the contest guidelines. Big money is at stake, so make sure you give them what they want!

5. Stay Focused on the Scholarship Essay Topic.

Judges are looking at hundreds, sometimes thousands, of scholarship essays. They don’t have time to read tangents about your pet hamster Phil (unless Phil helps illustrate your main point!). Which leads us to our next topic …

6. Have a Point!

Make sure your essay for the scholarship has one unified statement, or thesis, behind it.

You can look at your thesis as your one-sentence answer to the essay question.

Let’s say the essay question is, “What is a time in your life when you demonstrated courage?” Your thesis could be, “A time in my life when I demonstrated courage was when I helped save my neighbor’s dog from a tornado.” Your essay for the scholarship would support and elaborate upon this statement.

7. Check Your Essay for Spelling Errors.

Bad spelling: nothing “buggs reeders moore.”

8. Avoid Contractions, Such as “Can’t” and “Don’t.”

It’s generally a bad idea to talk to readers as if they are old buddies from the football team. Sure, we’re using contractions right now, but we’re not the ones trying to win a scholarship!

9. Care About What You’re Writing.

Readers can sense when you have a genuine emotional investment in your scholarship essay. When you don’t, your essay is sure to be a one-way ticket to Snooze City.

Remember: Don’t write about what you think you should write about. Write about what interests you.

10. Avoid Redundant Conclusions.

Keep your essay conclusions interesting instead of simply rephrasing—or worse, restating—your original thesis. Your conclusion should explain why the rest of your essay was important — it should answer the question, “So what?”

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Now you have everything you need to start writing essays for scholarships. You can practice by entering the contest for University Language Services’ own scholarship! Good luck!