Writing a winning scholarship essay can mean the difference between getting free financial aid or not. Scholarships can be worth thousands of dollars that help you complete your college degree. But your application essay must stand out if you hope to win a valuable student scholarship. The scholarship providers read hundreds of papers but only award relatively few scholarships.
Most college students can apply for scholarships. If you’re a non-traditional student, financial assistance in the form of scholarships can help ease the cost of learning as an adult student. Some scholarships are targeted toward older students to encourage them to get their degree or complete an unfinished one.
According to some reports, scholarships can help to cover around one-third of school tuition fees.
There is a lot on the line with your scholarship essay. Scholarship providers use essays to get a glimpse into your personal and unique world. They want to know your achievements, goals, passions, interests, and how you’ve overcome obstacles. Above all — what sets you apart from other applicants.
Does the thought of writing a 600 to 1,000-word essay fill you with fear? If so, keep reading this article. Here, you’ll find the best tips for writing scholarship essays. With extra financial aid, you can significantly lower your college tuition fees.
What is a Scholarship Essay?
A scholarship essay is your opportunity to prove why you should win financial assistance to attend college. The essay allows you to inform the committee about who you are. But you also have the chance to persuade them why you are deserving of the scholarship.
Tips for Non-Traditional Students Writing Scholarship Essays
If you’re a non-traditional student applying for a scholarship, your essay is vitally important. It may seem that high-achieving younger students have the advantage. However, you have many advantages over “traditional” students. In most cases, you have life-experience and have had to overcome many obstacles.
Many non-traditional students work full-time, look after kids, or have other responsibilities. So, the fact that you plan to further your education or study for your degree shows great resolve and determination.
In your application essay, it’s crucial to turn your weaknesses into strengths. For example, did you drop out of high school? But what did you overcome to turn things around and apply for college? Talk about your determination, hard work, family loyalty — experiences that are unique to your situation.
Top 8 Tips for Writing a Scholarship Essay
How can you make your scholarship essay stand out from the rest? Here are eight top tips on how to write a winning essay and get that all-important student aid.
1. Stick to proper scholarship essay writing rules
Your application essay must have a good structure so that reviewers get an insight into who you are. Here are a few general rules on writing strong, persuasive essays:
- Start with an essay hook — You have a few seconds to capture attention, so make it count. The hook is a short statement of what you hope the degree will help you achieve. Or it could be a significant obstacle that you overcame in life.
- Write short paragraphs — Keep paragraphs relatively short and always use a new one for each new idea.
- Use good structure — The essay should have a clear introduction, body, and conclusion.
- Use excellent grammar — There is no room for spelling mistakes or poor grammar in a winning scholarship essay. Remember, that spellcheck won’t always pick up on errors. For example, there are differences between “your” and “you’re,” or “to,” “too,” and “two.”
- Stick to the instructions — Follow the directions to the letter. If the essay is between 700 and 1,000 words, stick to the length.
2. Fully understand the essay prompt
Take your time to read the prompt and try to understand what the committee is looking for. It’s a good idea to memorize the prompt and then think about it for a couple of days. Keep a notepad handy to write down any ideas that come to your mind.
To help you develop focus for your story, try some brainstorming. Write the prompt in the center of the page. Then jot down short ideas around the central idea. You can pick one or two of the ideas to develop your essay.
3. Do some research on the scholarship organization
Organizations often offer free financial aid for education to further their causes. Researching the organization — its mission and goals — can help develop a strong focus for your essay. You can use this information to adapt your personal story to their objectives.
Only when you have understood the prompt, brainstormed ideas, and researched the scholarship providers are you ready to compose your essay.
4. Make the essay personal
Scholarship essays are about painting a picture of your life. So, you must relate the prompt to events and experiences in your life. This will give your writing a genuine feel and help the scholarship committee understand you on a deeper level.
Top tip for writing scholarship essays: Choose a topic that you enjoy — something with personal meaning. Make it unique to you, not just what the readers want to hear.
5. Don’t be afraid to show emotions
Emotions and reactions are often what set us apart from others. So, you don’t always have to talk about your strengths. Talking about vulnerabilities, how you felt, and what you did to overcome them makes for powerful and captivating reading. Try to talk about a specific event in your life. This is a great way to show how you overcame something rather than just tell.
Here are some more tips to help you write a personal scholarship essay:
- Be honest about your achievements
- Use specific examples
- Try to avoid wordiness
- Avoid using slang, profanity, or offensive language
- Don’t brag about your achievements
- Use descriptive language to emphasize statements, not exclamation marks
6. Give yourself plenty of time to write the essay
You are never going to cut it if you don’t give yourself enough time. Remember, there could be thousands of dollars riding on the outcome of your essay. Ideally, you need to break up each step of the writing process, leaving a few days between them. This way, you will come up with ideas and prevent brain fog.
7. Finish with a short conclusion
The conclusion should bring all parts of your essay together in a few sentences. You can include the moral of the story, what you have learned, and how you hope to use your education in the future.
8. Proofread the scholarship essay
After finishing your essay, you need to review it, edit it, and probably rewrite some sections. So, give yourself a day or two, then come back to it. You can then read the application with fresh eyes. It is also a good idea to give the essay to a trusted friend or teacher to proofread.
Grab a cup of coffee and your laptop and start writing your standout scholarship essay
Making sure your scholarship essay stands out is the best way to win financial aid you don’t have to repay. Tell your story in a unique and personal way that appeals to emotions. Then the application essay readers will not only enjoy reading it — they may award you the scholarship.