Getting it Write: The Scholarship Essay
By Kimberly Hardy
Many organizations that provide scholarships to students have pretty stringent requirements in order for students to qualify for their limited funds. Typically, the basic information such as GPA, field of interest, and financial need will not be enough to narrow down the field, so the providers seek out more personal and individual information. Oftentimes this means writing the dreaded essay.
Seniors typically get accustomed to writing essays for their admissions applications, and scholarship essays are not usually very different. Many admissions applications will ask students why they are choosing to apply to a particular school or what their professional aspirations may be after graduation. Essays for scholarships tend to differ only in that they usually ask a student to write about him or herself or a life-altering situation, and that personalization can help the committee make its final decision.
Regardless of what the question may be, there are some basic tips that students should consider when they are composing their essays:
- STAY ON THE TOPIC – Try to keep yourself focused and answer only the question that was asked. Anecdotal stories and scenarios can be fun and add personality to the essay, but it is easy to let the story take you off of the topic.
- REMEMBER YOUR AUDIENCE – Although you may have had a touching personal experience, remember that some information is TOO personal. Relationships with your boyfriend/girlfriend, a recent argument with your parents, etc. may not be well received by the decision makers. Also, remember that you are writing to adult professionals, not to your peers, so you should remove all slang and colloquialisms from your essay.
- REMEMBER YOUR PURPOSE – You are trying to convince people you have never met to give you large amounts of money, so be convincing and succinct in your essay. You want to be sure that your essay can answer any questions they may have, as they may not be willing or able to contact you if any questions should arise.
- DON’T FORGET THE FORMAT – Remember that you are writing an essay for scholarship money for COLLEGE; therefore, be sure to stay on top of the basic conventions-use paragraphs, punctuation, spelling and grammar check. Your essay should be polished and professional-this is your time to shine, so be sure to get it WRITE!
It may sound like a lot-and it will certainly feel like a lot to remember in the moment-but it isn’t impossible, and with practice gets much easier. Keep these tips in mind when writing essays for your classes, and when an essay for a scholarship or admissions application should come up, the steps will become second nature. Good luck!