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Financial Aid: Writing the Scholarship Essay

Writing the Essay

The basics: to begin with, scholarship essays should be:

  • Informative. The reader should learn more about you than what you answered on the scholarship application. Try to not simply repeat what the judges have already read.
  • Error-free. Make sure your spelling and punctuation is correct. Write in complete sentences. Ask someone to proofread your essay.
  • Authentic. Your essay should reflect you. However, avoid slang or trying to sound "witty" or funny. Have a trusted proofreader give any pointers.
  • Accurate. Be sure the essay addresses exactly what the scholarship committee is looking for. Customize the essay as necessary. Don't exaggerate the truth as readers can usually detect such embellishment and get a bad impression.
  • Flexible. The scholarship committee may ask you to write about a personal experience. When writing about your experience, stay positive and relate how you learned from it. Don't focus on the circumstances leading up to the event (avoid just writing a sob story). On the other hand, you may be asked to write on a topic that has little interest to you. However, with brainstorming and planning, you can do a great job.

An essay formula to help you get the process started:

  • Study the scholarship perimeters, sponsoring organization and the essay requirements. Craft a story about yourself, and stress how this scholarship fits you and your goals.
  • Describe your talents, skills and passion in your story. Then, write about how you have grown from your experiences and honed your skills. Try not to be too general and write something like, "I want to go to medical school, become a doctor and help people." 100 other people will write something like this. Try and think of a memorable experience when you were inspired by a doctor, or when helping someone who was ill.
  • Next, connect your skills, talents and passions to the perimeters/requirements of the scholarship. Think about how they apply to the mission of the sponsoring organization.
  • In the conclusion, be sure to highlight why you are the best candidate for the scholarship. Remember, there will be many others in competition for this scholarship award.

Other tips:

  • Show you are a good investment. Stress positivity, perseverance, and intention to succeed. Judges need to know that their money will be put to good use.
  • Don't rush this exercise. Take enough time to read it over the next day. It is surprising how helpful it is to view the essay with "fresh eyes."
  • Be clear and concise in your writing. Don't repeat yourself.
  • If writing about a challenge in your life, concentrate on how you learned and grew from the experience. Don't just write a sob story.
  • Don't get too many people involved in proofreading your work. Find one or two trusted individuals for helpful criticism. Don't take criticism personally and listen carefully to another point of view, and edit the essay if necessary.
  • Read the essay out loud, ask someone else to read it or use the "speak" feature in Microsoft Word. Does it sound like it makes sense? Does it have a logical flow?
  • Be sure to submit the essay in the proper format.

For more information about scholarship essays:

Essay Tips

Courtesy of Washburn University Financial Aid Office