Scholarship essays vary dramatically in subject. However, most of them require a recounting of personal experience. These tips will be more helpful for writing personal essays, like for the National Merit Scholarship, than for writing academic essays.
- Grant: usually need-based and distributed by the government
- Scholarship: usually given by a corporation, nonprofit, or individual, and requires an essay
- Need based scholarship vs. Merit based scholarship: Need based scholarship is awarded on the basis of financial need. Merit based scholarship is awarded on the basis of a skill or interest deemed important to the funder.
- Loan: You must pay back the money you received. Student Loans have lower interest rates.
- FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid; determines how much financial aid you are eligible for. Based on your financial picture, you will be offered a combination of government loans and grants
What Is Required? The Components of a Scholarship Application
- Letter of Recommendation from teacher/guidance counselor/mentor
3 Types of Essays Used for Different Scholarships
- Personal essay: A personal essay shares a story from your life and may include your thoughts and feelings. You can use your college application essay!
- Persuasive Essay: Provides the reader with a fact-based argument with the goal of convincing the reader to believe a specific point of view or to take a specific action, i.e. why I deserve this Scholarship, with an eye to the mission of grantor.
- Creative Essay: Nonfiction text written with specific attention to its aesthetic qualities and presentation that is written in first person
How to Choose a Subject for Your Scholarship Essay
The most important aspect of your scholarship essay is the subject matter. You should expect to devote about 1-2 weeks simply to brainstorming ideas. To begin brainstorming subject ideas consider the following points. From brainstorming, you may find a subject you had not considered at first.
- What are your major accomplishments, and why do you consider them accomplishments? Do not limit yourself to accomplishments you have been formally recognized for since the most interesting essays often are based on accomplishments that may have been trite at the time but become crucial when placed in the context of your life. This is especially true if the scholarship committee receives a list of your credentials anyway.
- Does any attribute, quality, or skill distinguish you from everyone else? How did you develop this attribute?
- Consider your favorite books, movies, works of art, etc. Have these influenced your life in a meaningful way? Why are they your favorites?
- What was the most difficult time in your life, and why? How did your perspective on life change as a result of the difficulty?
- Have you ever struggled mightily for something and succeeded? What made you successful?
- Have you ever struggled mightily for something and failed? How did you respond?
- Of everything in the world, what would you most like to be doing right now? Where would you most like to be? Who, of everyone living and dead, would you most like to be with? These questions should help you realize what you love most.
- Have you experienced a moment of epiphany, as if your eyes were opened to something you were previously blind to?
- What is your strongest, most unwavering personality trait? Do you maintain strong beliefs or adhere to a philosophy? How would your friends characterize you? What would they write about if they were writing your scholarship essay for you?
- What have you done outside of the classroom that demonstrates qualities sought after by universities? Of these, which means the most to you?
- What are your most important extracurricular or community activities? What made you join these activities? What made you continue to contribute to them?
- What are your dreams of the future? When you look back on your life in thirty years, what would it take for you to consider your life successful? What people, things, and accomplishments do you need? How does this particular scholarship fit into your plans for the future?
Preparing to Write Your Scholarship Essay
Before you draft your essay, you’ll make a list detailing what you want funders to know about you.
Most scholarships require that you write an essay about why you deserve the scholarship. You’ll give a snapshot of yourself that would make a funder think investing in you is a good investment. When writing the essay, you’ll want to highlight the following:
- Academic – accomplishments
- Personal – values
- Community – participation
- Future Goals and Potential
Things to consider:
- Why is it significant for your academic and long term goals to get this scholarship?
- What qualities make you stand out among other candidates? (consult your friends or family if this is a hard question)
- What background information will you include to help the reader understand the stakes?
- Is there room for humor?
- Is the subject approached in a new way?
More Tips & Tricks for Scholarship Applications
Many scholarships have a long application period—find out if it’s possible to apply significantly before the deadline! In some cases early applications may have a better chance of winning, and in other cases you may just want to send it in early so you can move on to the next one.
Go the Extra Mile
If a scholarship application has an “optional” item you may submit with your application (like an extra letter of recommendation, writing sample, etc.)—be the candidate who goes the extra mile and includes the bonus materials! You never know what might bump your application up.
Find the Right Fit for You
Having trouble deciding what scholarships you should apply for? Here are some ideas for finding scholarships that will be a good fit. Search for:
- Scholarships for sports or other activities you participate in.
- Scholarships based on your intended major or career path.
- Scholarships for exceptional students and/or youth leaders from your racial, ethnic, or religious background or immigrant community.
- Scholarships associated with community service or volunteer work you participate in.
- Scholarships specifically for women/girls in ____________ (like “women in chemistry”) — if you participate in activities or excel in subject areas where women are typically underrepresented, you may be able to find scholarships to support you! Think about STEM subject areas, sports, and business/entrepreneurship, for example.
- Scholarships advertised in publications you read or sponsored by local media (for example, NY1 has an annual scholar-athlete scholarship competition).
- If your parents belong to any kind of professional organization (like a union) or work for a large company, these organizations/companies may offer scholarships for immediate family members.
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