Three tips on writing scholarship essays
Feb 19, 2017
For Grade 12 students, graduation is only a few months away and many people are thinking about potential scholarships that might be available to them. The financial aid will certainly be beneficial, however, scholarship applications are often not an easy task to complete, especially those that require essays. The experts at Sylvan Learning Halifax recommend considering three aspects before you start writing.
1. Each scholarship exists for a reason. Some organizations offer scholarships to help a member of a certain community go to university or college. Families might set up a scholarship in memory of a loved one. Schools might try to attract athletes or companies sometimes use scholarships as an advertising tactic, or as a benefit for their employees. And, of course, universities and colleges offer scholarships to attract students. Thus, it is important to do your research to figure out who the scholarship targets, what does the organization support and who are some previous winners. Schools will often post statistics about previous classes and those offering scholarships often showcase winners, so make sure to carefully review their sites and application materials for information.
Make sure you are eligible for the scholarship. However, some requirements might be flexible. Strict criteria tend to include demographic characteristics, such as, age or gender. However, if you meet all but one of the criteria, apply and use the essay to explain how you are still a good fit. Many scholarships are not awarded because everyone assumes they don’t fit the criteria.
Think about the evaluator who reads thousands of incredibly similar essays. What would make them take notice? Try to find something that makes you special to make your essay stand out. You might be tempted to approach the scholarship essay in the same way that you did when writing about the Roman Aqueducts or Romeo and Juliet, but this would be a tragic mistake. A common feature of all winning essays is that they are written on subjects about which the author is truly passionate. When you are genuinely enthusiastic about something, it does not take much effort for that energy to naturally show in your writing. Therefore, when you are choosing a topic, be sure it is something you truly care about and are interested in. Without even trying, you will find that your sentences convey an excitement that the reader can almost feel.
2. While many of your scholarship essays will be similar (and you should keep every essay you write), each has an individual prompt that you must speak to. Read the prompt carefully. Discuss it with others and consider all the different angles you could explore. Find the key words and themes in the prompt and make sure to use those words throughout your paper. If you go off topic, it doesn’t matter how brilliant your writing is or how unique you are, it will go in the “reject” pile. In most cases, the essay question is just a springboard for you to answer the real question the scholarship committee want addressed. An organization giving an award for students who plan to study business might ask, "Why do you want to study business?" But the underlying question they are asking is, "Why are you the best future business person we should gift with our hard-earned money?"
So how do you know what the theme of your essay should be? The answer goes back to why you decided to apply for the scholarship in the first place. The theme of your essay is almost always determined by the purpose of the award or why the organization is giving away the money. Remember, they do not need to give money away. You need to prove to them that you deserve it and that you are the best choice.
3. What do you want the people reading your application to know about you? This is the time to demonstrate who you are beyond a list of facts and dates. Talk about your accomplishments and goals that don’t fit on a resume, such as your passion for jewelry making or the community clean up that you organized. You can also use it to explain any issues in an application, such as a poor grade or a gap in your education. Show that you are a real person but don’t try to explain everything — just share a slice of your life! Be honest and straight forward, put your best foot forward and highlight your strengths without bragging. For example, explain why you enjoy math and strive to do well, not expound on how you were always the top in your class.
For every scholarship that you attempt to earn, you will be competing with students who share similar backgrounds and goals. If you are applying to an award that supports students who want to pursue health care, you can bet that 99 per cent of the students applying also want to work in that field. Therefore, the goal of every scholarship judge is to determine the best applicant out of a pool of applicants who at first glance look very similar. Use the essay question as a way to prove to the scholarship committee that you are the worthiest applicant for the award.
Once you figure out what to say, how do you say it? Check out Education Edge next week for part two.
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