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Writing a Scholarship Essay
- Published: 2009-09-13 (Revised/Updated 2010-06-25) : Author: Andre Alonzo
- Synopsis: A number of tips for writing an essay when applying for a scholarship to increase your chances in winning the scholarship.
There are some scholarships where they have a predefined topic, however you will want to tailor these topics to address one of the following issues. I have found that focusing on these issues will greatly increase your chances in winning the scholarship.
For me, writing essays is not an easy task. Coming from a computer science background, I didn't have the skills necessary to write a quality essay. I eventually was able to pick up the writing skills necessary to work in the real world, so here are some essay tips I have learned along the day.
Pick an interesting topic
This is one of the most critical aspects of your scholarship essay. There are some scholarships where they have a predefined topic, however you will want to tailor these topics to address one of the following issues. I have found that focusing on these issues will greatly increase your chances in winning the scholarship.
1. Focus on a major accomplishment
You're going to want to impress the reader of the essay, so when writing about a major accomplishment, you want them to say, "wow, this person really does deserve this". Keep in mind that an accomplishment that YOU think may be major, may not be major to the eyes of the reader. For example, writing about how you were able to stuff 20 marshmallows in your mouth is probably something that you can forget (until college starts, then you can tell or demonstrate to all your college buddies).
2. Focus on an event where you took action
Readers of scholarship essays LOVE initiative. This means that you saw a need and you actively pursued to fill that need. Some examples of this are being the ASB President, starting up a club, helping out less fortunate kids, etc. People who do these types of activities are most likely going to succeed in life, and the readers know this, so use it to your advantage.
3. Focus on an obstacle you overcame
Here, I would like you to you focus on adversity that has occurred in your life and how your managed to overcome in. Some examples would be the loss of a parent, living in a world with divorced parents, having a disability. These are the types of situation where when you tell somebody, they give you this puppy dog face and say, "I'm sorry". When you write about these events, it is imperative that the focus is on how you overcame these obstacles and to stay positive. When a reader finishers your essays, you will want them to say, "Wow, this person has gone through a lot, this person deserves this scholarship".
Fully research your topic
I know that when you start to apply for scholarships, you will realize that you will need to write a ton of essays! You will feel that you can skimp on all the essays and focus on quantity, and not quality, but SHOULD not be the case. This is an automatic path to rejection.
Give yourself 2 weeks time for research and the writing of the essay for each essay you do. This will allow you to fully think out the topic and have enough time for feedback and editing.
Remember to focus on QUALITY, not QUANTITY.
Write for your audience
When I talked about some of the topics you should write about, I said that when the reader is done with your essays, the reader should say, "wow, this person really does deserve this essay". You will need to do this when you write your essay. Put yourself in a reader's shoes and ask yourself if you really do deserve this essay. Keep in mind that the reader may have to read tens to hundreds of essays of varying quality, and it is his/her job to pick just ONE. Do you truly think yours will be the one chosen
In addition, you can tailor the essays to the foundation that provides the scholarship. Say, you want to apply to your parent's company scholarship. You could write a little bit on how your parent's company has affected your life in a positive manner.
Make your essay different from the other essays they get
This comes back to the fact that the reader has to look at tons of essays and needs to choose one. One way to do this is to show, not tell, your reader about your topic. Focus on specifics so that you can avoid vagueness and you'll be able to make an overall stronger impression.
Another way to do this is to take a totally different creative approach to writing an essay. I can't find the link to it right now, but I remember someone won with an essays that went like this.
"I have never parachuted from a plane. I have never taken a canal ride in Venice. I have never seen the light as feathers snow in Russia. I have never won a scholarship."
As you can see, this is a totally different way to write an essay. So be creative, and try something different. Your readers will notice it.
Get someone to proofread your essay and keep editing!
Too many students treat their scholarship essay writing like a regular essay for class. Students will write their essays a couple days (or on the day) it is due and proofread it themselves 1 or 2 times. They don't show it to their parents, or other teachers. You must remember that this essay will generate between $100-$100,000, so treat it like that! Show it to your parent and at least 1 teacher before submitting it. This will greatly increase your chances in winning the scholarship
Reference: Andre Alonzo is Owner/Publisher of Scholarship Talk providing information about college scholarships and scholarship tips
I’m about to dispel five widespread myths about winning scholarships. Myths that have, unfortunately, prevented many deserving students from winning money for. By learning the truth behind these myths, you’ll gain a better understanding of the essential “rules” of the college scholarships game.
MYTH #1: “Only students with high academic achievement win merit scholarships.”
The Real Story: Scholarships are awarded to students with all sorts of talents and interests. In fact, many of the best scholarship programs are designed for students who devote time and energy to such diverse fields as music and the arts, foreign languages, community service, science, leadership, writing and oratory, to name just a few. Typically, these programs are entirely “grade blind”—meaning that grades are not used as a judging criteria.
Furthermore, many scholarships that do take into account grade point averages (GPAs) only use such quantitative measures as preliminary cutoff points. For instance, some scholarship contests specify that applicants have a minimum 2.0 GPA. Once you’ve cleared this minimum bar, grades don’t impact your chances of winning.
Finally, even when GPA is used as an evaluation factor, it’s only one aspect of your application. Scholarship programs aren’t myopic: They want to recognize students with all sorts of achievements and backgrounds. They realize that applicants have much more to offer than simply the grades that appear on their transcripts.
MYTH #2: “Scholarship applicants should seek to compile the longest list of extracurricular activities.”
The Real Story: As is the case in many other aspects of life, winning scholarships is about quality, not quantity. Some people think that to win these awards you must devote your entire high school career to participating in extracurricular activities. On the contrary, most scholarship winners distinguish themselves by the devotion they have demonstrated to a particular activity or activities, rather than by the sheer quantity of their involvement. Winning scholarships isn’t about having the longest list of extracurriculars. It’s about communicating who you are and what you care about through the activities you participate in and enjoy.
MYTH #3: “Scholarship contests are conducted on a level playing field.”
The Real Story: Each scholarship contest has its own biases. This is not to say that scholarship judging is unfair. Rather, it’s just that each scholarship program is looking for students with particular qualities. The subjective process of valuing certain qualities over other ones tilts the playing field far from level. In this way, the ideal application you submit for one scholarship contest may, in fact, place you out of the money when submitted to another. Because of these biases, it’s essential to define each scholarship’s “ideal applicant” and to emphasize personal attributes consistent with this definition.
MYTH #4: “Applying for scholarships is just like applying to college.”
The Real Story: Actually, scholarship contests demand a modified approach from the college admissions process because scholarship contests are characterized by substantially more head-to-head competition. While college admissions officers compare students primarily to a standard, scholarship contests directly compare students to one another. Because of this more competitive environment, students who devise creative techniques to stand out from the crowd have a distinct advantage. In this way, a good scholarship application (which distinguishes you from everyone else) will likely be a good college application—but the reverse is not necessarily true.
MYTH #5: “The track record you’ve already accumulated determines whether you’ll win scholarships.”
The Real Story: What you do after you decide to apply for scholarships is just as important as the record you have already accumulated. This holds true regardless of how much time you have until a particular scholarship application is due. Content strategies, for instance, increase your chances of winning by adding depth and breadth to your existing record. Likewise, packaging strategies help make your application stand out from the crowd by creating a cohesive message that highlights talents, communicates passions, and emphasizes potential. So don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your die has already been cast. What you do now will make all the difference in the world.
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