How to Write a Flawless Scholarship Essay. Scholarship Essay Outline & Tips
College is an important step in the life of many young people, and getting into college takes all their efforts and time. They experience additional stress if they are short of money and have to find sources of funding for their education. Along with student loans, the viable option is getting a scholarship that will cover tuition or even tuition and living costs. This is a great chance to boost your educational prospects and to pave the way for your future successful career.
Yet the big ‘but’ of this opportunity is to apply and to actually receive this scholarship. This is the point where most students get stressed out and decide to quit. The main scaring factor is writing a college scholarship essay (the rest is dull but palatable paperwork). With this guide, we aim to dismantle at least some of your fears and to assist you in writing a decent essay that will make you stand out among the rest.
The secret is that the scholarship committee is overburdened with applications and skims papers briefly, looking for something extraordinary to catch their eye. The main attention is focused on the introduction and its first sentences, and then, if nothing interesting surfaces, the attention fades. So to secure yourself consideration and possible approval, you have to grab their imagination or interest right from the start.
Such essays are usually showcases of your personal accomplishments or turning points in your life, they are the case you defend with very limited time allocated to you. So instead of beating about the bush, get right to the point from the first sentence and bring it to a culmination in your thesis. If you manage this, the rest of your essay will be read and appreciated with a positive attitude. That’s the biggest tip you should remember. Your skills in writing may not be perfect, just focus them on creating a compelling and interesting intro. The rest will come in naturally.
So let’s explore in detail how you can apply your writing capacity to create a really persuasive essay and at the same time not build another stereotypical paper no one wants to read.
Scholarship Essay Outline
To keep and focus and track of what you are saying and how you are saying it, start with outlining your essay. In such a way, you will be able to look at your planned text from outside before you write it in detail. When you see an outline, you can add or remove points and jot down cool examples or phrases for the conclusion or body part right when they occur to you. In general, you are able to see if the story is strong and compelling enough or you need to add something or change the viewpoint of writing (towards a more positive one, for example).
What is a typical outline for a college scholarship essay? Look at the following example:
- Opening sentence. It may include your name (or it may go on the title page), but it needs to be attention-grabbing;
- Development of this sentence;
- Brief description of the topic you write on (obstacle, crucial event/book/experience);
- Thesis: how the mentioned event/obstacle makes you eligible and deserving of a scholarship; in other words, how it has impacted you.
- Body of the paper
- Explanatory/supporting point 1. The event itself, and how it relates to you (you lived through it or witnessed it, or read about it);
- Explanatory/supporting point 2. How you processed it;
- Explanatory/supporting point 3. How you changed and became who you are because of this event.
- Restating the thesis, to sum up, your story;
- Some moral or ethical lesson descriptions and an optimistic closing sentence.
This outline works if the prompt I about some specific case/event/experience in your life. If the prompt asks you to tell why you chose this very scholarship or college and what you plan to do after it, the outline of the body of the paper may include the following:
- What your career goals are;
- What social or community significance they have;
- How this college or scholarship can help you attain your goals;
- How you will contribute to a community with a newly attained degree.
Basically, the rule is the same: be positive, optimistic, put a highlight on the social significance of what you want, and mention how the desired education will help you be a better person. You may or may not aim for leadership, but personal development and striving for more are important signs of a good prospective student.
But how to start working on the essay, how to decide on the topic and appropriate slant to take? Before you draft an outline you need to know what to write about. There are many questions you need to answer before you actually start typing. Yes, crafting a good application essay is not an easy task. Read on the suggested guide on how to write a scholarship essay that will lead you through all steps from deciding on a topic to proofreading.
Usually, application guides provide a prompt on what to write about. It may be either narrow, of the kind ‘Tell why you are fit to receive a scholarship’, or broader ones, like ‘Describe the event that changed you’, or ‘The book that overturned your views of the world’.
Be sure to check what goals and mission of the scholarship are. The reasons why it is awarded need to be reflected in your college scholarship essay. So whether you write about a book, a movie, an experience or your personal qualities, focus on what the scholarship asks for.
If it is about being a better person, pick such episode or explain that through your life you made various decisions, good and not so good, but always strived to learn a lesson and be a better version of yourself.
If it is about community values and support, speak about it. Tell how you partake in the wellbeing of your community or how you came to see mutual help in a different light after reading a book or attending a sociology class. Yes, it also matters if it impacted you profoundly. So combine your story with the goals and demands of the scholarship. That’s what matters to the committee.
After you’ve decided on the topic, learn the number of words required for the essay, the deadlines for applications and plan your time. You will need to think everything through, draft, polish and proofread. Afford yourself a generous amount of time not to create this important paper in a hurry.
Such essays range in length from 500 to 1000 words, not more, so it will not take that much time. But again, better to be ready in advance than to be late because of carelessness.
Now design a scholarship essay outline. It will facilitate your task significantly. As we said above, you will have three main sections:
- Body section;
In the introduction pay special attention to a hook, an attention grabber that will compel the committee to adjust their glasses and read with attention. You will also need to include a thesis.
In the body develop your ideas but briefly, remember about word count limit. Whether you speak of your experience or of books/movies, be concise and clear in wordings.
The conclusion usually says what you have learned and how everything impacted you. It will be about 3 sentences in length, so think them through thoroughly. They should include some moral assertion and your personal expression of changes that happened to you (in a positive light).
There are a few recipes on how to start a book engagingly, but they may not fit the needs of a short scholarship application. You can make use of some important facts, statistics, jokes, or literary moves like metaphor, rhetorical question or a bit of hyperbole (exaggeration). You may set an intriguing tone from the start and explain everything in a thesis. Just be careful to develop your thoughts and not to drop them unclarified halfway.
‘On the 23d of July 1998, I learned the true cost of friendship’.
‘Only 14% of enrolled students will graduate and become qualified doctors. This statistic is sad, and I plan to tip the balance towards more positive by becoming one more successful student who can treat people’.
‘My life directly depends on water. Well, we all need water to live, but for me, this element is as vital as air. I love water and treasure everything that lives and swims in it (except trash, of course). This fact explains my burning desire to become a marine biologist.’
‘How would you call a person who puts his life at stake to rescue someone else? I call this person father. Yes, my father saved my life, this sets an example of a parent that I want to become myself one day’.
‘Some books are never read, some books are read once and then are left on the plane, and some books change lives. For me, such a book was ….. ‘.
These are some examples of how to start a scholarship essay (we bet you would like to read the rest of such an essay yourself). So think what hook will be most appropriate for your topic and use it.
Then add 2-3 sentences developing the topic and bring in the thesis. The thesis is a gist of your essay put into one sentence. This is essentially why you write your essay and what you want to say to the committee.
First, you can say why you are the best applicant for this very college (passionate, able to change or review your beliefs, appreciate feelings of others, care about the community, can be an ethical leader, etc.).
Or else, you name the book/movie/event and say how it impacted you (in a positive way).
Now move on to the body of the paper. Just remember to keep it short and up to the point.
You will have three paragraphs (3-4 sentences each), so distribute your space wisely. When you describe anything (a book, a movie or experience), move from past to present. In the first paragraph describe the settings and what happened. Or mention briefly what the book/movie was about and how it relates to your personally (age and gender of characters, race, social issues, family troubles, community issues and your participation in them, etc.).
Now move to the main point of college scholarship essay: how and why transformation happened. You saw similarities and realized you were not alone in your troubles, or you decided to contribute more to the community, or you found out you had leadership qualities while you thought you did not. Dwell more on this part. It shows that you can analyze events in your life and find real causes and connections. You did not wake up one morning realizing you are a leader, you developed or discovered it and now you reflect how it happened. You read a book about racism and the dignified civil rights movement and reevaluated what you have and what is there to accomplish. Or you realized that your personality matters no matter your social status or size of a bank account.
Third paragraph: you have a better understanding of something or you have a firm belief that this very college is the place to make your community-driven goals accessible in the future. Be brief, you still have a conclusion to moralize a bit 😉
Here you can employ the same components and tricks that you employed for the introduction. It is a nice literary tool and it shows that you know your way around with the art of writing. You may add a small dialogue that restates your lesson learned or desire to study at this college.
You may end up in action snapshot: ‘I was tired but I knew I had a real goal in my life now. I picked my jacket and joined the ranks of volunteers to continue to provide assistance to people in need. And I know I am not going to quit this path.’
Some metaphor or philosophical musing will also be fine (just craft them carefully and do not exploit old Internet memes).
Close the loop of narration. If you started talking about a special day, end in something like ‘Such was the day that divided my life into before and after. And I would never trade this new life for anything else in the world.’
Or take a risk but elegant move and address the scholarship committee: ‘I know that you encounter thousands of good students worth a degree, but getting a scholarship means the world to me, and I know that with time I will make this world a better place. Just give me this chance.’
Look through your essay and decide what ending will be more appropriate. Keep the style coherent across the text. It makes the paper look cool and professional.
Congrats! You’ve traveled a long way. Now it is time to give some rest to yourself and your essay. Let it sit for a day (if timeframe allows it) and do the proofreading. Yes, looking for errors is a crucial part of the writing process. Sloppy text, no matter how interesting, will scare away the readers and will close the doors of college to you.
Spellchecker is fine, but it cannot fix typos or word replacement. You have to read attentively and see if everything is in the right place. Read from end to beginning, since it makes your attention more focused.
Look out for run-on sentences and punctuation. They can also spoil the impression of a winning college scholarship essay. Write sentences up to two lines long. They will be neat and easy to read.
Ask a friend or a parent to read it. A stranger’s eye will catch mistakes faster. Besides, they can comment on overall content and structure.
Basically, that’s the detailed manual on how to write a scholarship essay. But there are some nuances that will help you stay ahead of competing applicants. Follow the guide and read the useful tips, and you are ready to craft a really important essay that can change your life.
A college scholarship essay is a formal piece of writing, and complying with requirements is as essential as picking a good topic. To learn in advance about formatting style, an exact number of words, requirements to topics and what elements topics should include, etc. If you fail to comply with instructions while writing application, how will you study at college, then? – the committee may ask themselves.
Another one of great scholarship essay tips is to double-check grammar and spelling, as well as punctuation. There are slips that look innocent to the processor but spoil the whole picture. They are replacement of their and there, you and your, its and it’s, of and for, and so on. Read the paper carefully and fix such nasty bugs, if you find them.
Besides, try to use more varied grammar constructions. Simple word chain sequences are boring. Introduce participle phrases, gerund, explanatory phrases, but carefully. Do not bend grammar to create something that looks cool. Usually, such experiments do not look good to the committee.
Yes, the sad truth is no one cares about those in trouble (mostly no one). Everyone wants to see and meet successful and happy people, or at least people who are good at pretending to be optimistic.
So do your best and find a topic that will let you be optimistic and positive. Even if you want to be honest about hard times that you have overcome, focus on your success, not on your struggles. You may feel tempted to say that you suffered and now deserve a reward, but many a student has tried this, and the scholarship committee has grown rhino’s skin against such stories. So just be positive.
You may hear it everywhere, but we will repeat it once more in scholarship essay tips. Use examples from your life where possible. This is a rock-hard must if the essay format permits it (and it usually does). Many students will rely on famous books or movies to speak about personal transformations, so if you have anything interesting to say about personal life, say it. Even it does not seem interesting in the first place, try to find some connections between personal and outside inspiration. We mean, not just saying that it changed you, but in the sense of parallels of events in books and life. Look carefully and you will see them because books reflect reality. And these specific parallels will turn your essay into something greater and important than just another one boring paper.
Clichés are things that once were interesting and original but they were used so often that now they feel stale and boring. Talking about community service is a cliché unless you say why you decided to do it or what personal experience made you consider this option, in the first place.
Volunteering, sports, leadership, ethics, environment, sustainability have all become commonplace descriptors that mean nothing unless you show your personal, intimate connection to them. To tell the truth, students do volunteering to add weight to their CVs. To give you an example of sincerity that beats the staleness of the idea: explain how you arrived on this idea through personal involvement with people (or animals) who needed help, how you provided it successfully (or not), and how you decided to go further. These details will make the story real and moving.
Do not overdo with confession and self-blaming. If in your quest to show your transformation you say too much about how unworthy and bad you were, the committee will start thinking whether their college is the right place for you at all. So keep your troubles and sins to yourself and show your bright side. That’s the only cliché that you should actually follow to write a winning scholarship essay.
Or else – ask us for assistance and such considerations and doubts will not plague you at all.