How to Write a Scholarship Essay (with Examples)

September 27, 2023

How to write a scholarship essay examples

While applying to college, many students are faced with an additional, daunting task: how to write a scholarship essay. Financial need, already a sensitive subject, can become a stressful factor in the process alongside other existential unknowns. Luckily, scholarship essays will not require you to go tiptoeing around the taboo topic of money. Furthermore, most scholarship essay prompts more or less resemble standard supplemental essay questions. The trick then is to make your scholarship essay stand out. The following article and scholarship essay example will offer up pointers for anyone striving to win a college scholarship.

Organizing Scholarship Essays by Prompt

You may feel like melting into a lump of despair when facing a browser full of tabbed scholarships. The best way to avoid getting overwhelmed is to organize and analyze a list of prompts. Why? Because your first goal is not simply to figure out how to write a scholarship essay. Rather, you’ll want to know how to save time while writing complex and relevant scholarship essays.

As you look over the various prompts, you’ll notice that some sound fairly open-ended, while others ask for something quite specific. In response, you should annotate each prompt with thematic keywords. This will help you figure out when you can use the same essay for several prompts.

Your annotated list may look something like the following…

Sample Scholarship Essay Prompts

1) “Explain something that made a big impact in your life.”

  • Keywords: event , personal development, growth, background

2) “We’re committed to diversifying education abroad by providing funding to students who are typically under-represented in study abroad. Please describe how you and/or your plans for study abroad could be viewed as under-represented.”

  • Keywords: minority, diversity, identity, study abroad

3) “Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.”

  • Keywords: background, identity, interest, talent

Sample Scholarship Essay Prompts, Continued

4) “Please explain a personal hardship or catastrophic life event that you have experienced. How did you manage to overcome this obstacle? What did you learn and how did you grow from it?”

  • Keywords: event, personal development, growth, challenge, background

5) Describe a change you would like to make in the world. Tell us about how you would plan to make that change, and what obstacles you might encounter along the way.

  • Keywords: world development, challenge, future

6) “Tell us three things that are important to you. How did you arrive at this list? Will these things be important to you in ten years? Why?”

  • Keywords: background, values, interest, development, identity, future

Scholarship Essay Prompts ( Continued)

7) “What does it mean to you to be part of a minority community? What challenges has it brought and how have you overcome them? What are the benefits?”

  • Keywords: minority, community, challenge, growth

8) “Please explain how your experience volunteering and participating in community service has shaped your perspective on humanity. Elaborate on how these experiences have influenced your future ambitions and career choice.”

  • Keywords: community service, humanity, community, background, future, values, career

9) “Discuss in your essay any challenges or obstacles you have dealt with and overcome in life and how this will help you succeed in college and beyond. Describe how volunteer, community service or extra-curricular activities have shaped who you are today and what it has taught you. May also include future educational plans and career goals.”

  • Keywords: challenge, future, community service, interests, value, personal growth, career

How to Write a Scholarship Essay through Prompt Analysis

Let’s compare some prompts by keywords. You’ll notice that some prompts have a lot of overlap, such as prompts 1 and 4. Both have event, personal development, growth, and background as keywords . Prompt 4 includes the additional keyword challenge . This prompt explicitly asks you to explain how you have “overcome” a “personal hardship or catastrophic life event.” While prompt 1 is not so specific, it would be easy, even natural, to include this narrative arc in your response. This means depicting how you faced the thing that “made a big impact in your life.” In other words, these two essay prompts, though worded differently, allow you to tell the same story.

Other prompts provide potential overlap. In this case, it’s up to you to find and interpret these moments. You may consider the values, strengths, interests, and experiences you wish to relate. For example, prompts 7, 8, and 9 all mention community through different approaches. While prompt 7 focuses on one’s past involvement in a minority community, prompts 8 and 9 are more future-facing, and don’t mention minorities.

Scholarship Essay Examples (Continued)

Here, your best strategy involves answering prompts 8 and 9 together in a single scholarship essay. To do so, the essay would need to detail “a challenge or obstacle you have dealt with” (9) which has thus “shaped your perspective on humanity” (8). This narrative arc will thus inform your “future” educational and career plans (8 and 9). Note that prompt 9 allows you to mention extra-curriculars. However, I wouldn’t recommend it, since this would make your essay less relevant to prompt 8. After your essay is written, adapt it to align with prompt 7. Consider condensing the part about the future into one final sentence and focusing more on minority aspects of your community.

How to Scholarship Essay Avoid Burnout

The above tactic will allow you to avoid burnout by strategizing your essay approach ahead of time. In turn, you’ll be able to maximize your efforts from the get-go. You’ll also likely find that your essays become more complex and nuanced when you consider several prompts at once.

The next step involves editing. Refer back to the prompt, once you have a draft written. Ask yourself, did I answer the question fully? Do I need to edit this essay further to emphasize a particular point? Do I need to cut the essay down to fit a new word count? Contrarily do I need to bulk it up? If so, are there other essays in my portfolio from which I can borrow material? Strategic editing will allow you to respond to a large number of essays during peak essay-writing season.

Finally, you’ll notice that most essays require a word count between 250 to 600 words. It’s often easier to write a longer essay first. This will allow you to go into greater detail without censoring your ideas. You may find yourself including dialogue, scenery, emotions, and all sorts of other specifics that make an essay personal. As you whittle down this essay to comply with a similar prompt, you’ll want to identify which pieces of the essay do the most work to get your message across. Don’t simply condense everything by eliminating details, for details are often the most memorable aspects of an essay. More on this next.

How to Write a Scholarship Essay Using the Three Fs

The three Fs can be applied to any college essay, though they are particularily useful in scholarship essays. Why? Because the three Fs will enable you to impress readers and beat out other applicants. Ultimately, they’ll help you win financial support. Think of the three Fs as a checklist to go over, once you’ve completed an essay draft. Ask yourself, is my essay fabulous? Flawless? Fearless?

How to Write a Scholarship Essay (Continued)

If your essay is fabulous , it glitters with personality. It is detailed, unique, and does its best to highlight your impressive journey. If your essay lacks a little fab, ask yourself, how can I make this essay more enjoyable and memorable to read? If your essay is flawless , it lacks all spelling, syntactic and grammatical errors. It answers every aspect of the essay prompt, and leaves no room for vagueness or misunderstandings. To avoid flaws, give your essay to several people to proofread. Finally, if your essay is fearless , it is not afraid to get a little vulnerable. This may sound contradictory to the first F. On the contrary, this fearlessness refers to the confidence to tell your own story. A fearless story isn’t afraid to go deep, add complexity, or get emotional. It is unafraid to show why its author deserves a financial boost.

Scholarship Essay Example

Now that we’ve established how to approach the scholarship essay, let’s dive into a scholarship essay example. The scholarship essay below stems from a prompt we saw above: Describe a change you would like to make in the world. Tell us about how you would plan to make that change, and what obstacles you might encounter along the way (500 words).

My generation is growing up in a time of increased global turmoil. We’ve witnessed Brexit, the Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, a series of refugee crises, and the invasion of Ukraine. It’s easy to liken this moment to Europe in the 1930s, which saw a spike in fascism and propaganda (their version of fake news). Only now, my generation must also contend with the hottest summers on record, raging forest fires, and the beginning of the 6 th extinction. It’s no wonder we deal with it all through increased skepticism and existential dread.

While I don’t have a simple solution, I believe most problems stem from ignorance. Xenophobia and racism, offshoots of ignorance, can be overcome by exposing isolated groups of people to greater diversity. This begins in the classroom. While dictators are hard to dispose of, education provides critical thinking skills, which allow citizens to make informed decisions when electing officials. Finally, developing a willingness to learn at an early age creates an instinct to continue learning throughout life. We desperately need intellectual flexibility if we are going to adapt to the planet’s needs as a world population and put a stop to industry-led fossil fuel burning.

Scholarship Essay Example (Continued)

The change I’d like to make is free, enhanced education for everyone, at every level, from elementary school to post-doctorate research institutes. To do so, I suggest defunding national militaries and channeling this spending into schools. Imagine if 80% of the 877 billion dollars the U.S. military spends annually went into learning. Combating fascism and climate change would look more feasible. And yet, no leader would agree to making their country more vulnerable by relinquishing arms and armies. Change must come from the people.

As the planet continues to heats up, and conflict over land increases, we must work together. The first step towards increased education is communicating this need for education: through journalism, on social media, in the streets. Next, I suggest lobbying politicians for incremental change. Finally, I believe a global grassroots movement to implement future-focused education, led by activists, educators, and philanthropists, would make this theoretical idea a tangible reality.

Last year, my mother, who never received a college education, decided to offer free gardening courses in our backyard. I quickly joined in. While teaching a handful of neighbors how to provide year-round food for pollinators may seem trivial, I’ve already seen positive repercussions. One conservative neighbor has set up an organization that collects and redistributes leftover produce from the markets to refugees. Another neighbor is now teaching middle schoolers how to cook and compost. These efforts have brought unusual strangers together and given visibility to our movement, #futurefocusededucation. I’ve seen it firsthand. The more we educate, the sooner we can combine our knowledge to create solutions.

Scholarship Essay Example Dissected

This scholarship essay succeeds at answering all parts of the prompt. It includes the change the author wants to make, and inevitable obstacles she’d face at the governmental and international level. These obstacles may sound insurmountable. Yet the essay shows that individuals are not powerless to enact change when they work together towards a common goal. The author provides various thoughtful steps we might take in order to prioritize education and peaceful collaboration.

Finally, the author portrays herself as someone personally invested in the political, humanitarian, and environmental state of the world. She proves that she’s already begun to make the changes she wants to see at the microscopic level. Overall, readers of this scholarship essay can see that this student is invested in bettering the world. This student would make for a proactive participant in her academic environment.

What’s Next?

Now that you have some inkling of how to write a scholarship essay and have reviewed of our scholarship essay examples, you may want to delve into more aid-related articles on the College Transitions Dataverse. You can read up on Need-Based Financial Aid Grants , and learn about Selective Colleges with Generous Scholarships . Furthermore, you may want to create your own Scholarship Timeline , in order to stay on top of the various deadlines. Good luck!

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Kaylen Baker

With a BA in Literary Studies from Middlebury College, an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University, and a Master’s in Translation from Université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, Kaylen has been working with students on their writing for over five years. Previously, Kaylen taught a fiction course for high school students as part of Columbia Artists/Teachers, and served as an English Language Assistant for the French National Department of Education. Kaylen is an experienced writer/translator whose work has been featured in Los Angeles Review, Hybrid, San Francisco Bay Guardian, France Today, and Honolulu Weekly, among others.

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How To Write A Winning Scholarship Essay (with example)

how to make a college scholarship essay

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

How To Write A Winning Scholarship Essay (with example)

Scholarship essays are an inevitable part of most scholarship applications. Sadly, many qualified students see an essay requirement, think, “I’m not a good writer,” and decide not to apply. Don’t fall into that trap! Learn how to write a winning scholarship essay today!

As a former writing instructor, I know firsthand that anyone can write a winning scholarship essay if they devote the time and effort. Follow the steps below to write an excellent scholarship essay and dramatically increase your chances of winning scholarships!

Take your time

For most people, it’s not possible to write a stellar essay ten minutes before the application deadline. We recommend giving yourself a few hours to write the first draft of your scholarship essay. Ask a friend to read it over or just take some time away, then take another hour to proofread your essay, ideally the next day.

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Start with structure.

Remember, the reader is not in your head. A solid essay structure is needed to convey your ideas effectively. Before you begin writing:

Create an outline to map out your idea

Clear topic sentences

Plan for multiple paragraphs, with each paragraph headed by a clear topic sentence for that paragraph’s main point

Transition!

Use a transitional sentence or phrase at the end of each paragraph to connect one idea to the next

Answer the prompt

Nothing will set you back like not responding to the prompt provided. It screams “this person didn’t bother to fully read the directions,” or worse, “this person doesn’t care about what we are asking.”

Read the prompt, and then read it again. This is where giving yourself plenty of time to write comes in handy. Rather than immediately starting to write:

  • Let the prompt sit with you awhile so that you come up with the best response
  • Think of the prompt as a question to be answered
  • Consider your audience while being your authentic self

Related:  How to answer scholarship essay questions about your career goals

Start with a hook

Your writing teachers were not joking about the importance of the introductory hook. There are a number of ways to hook the reader, including:

  • Using startling statistics
  • Opening with a moving sentence
  • Making a strong statement

For an example of an engaging hook, say you are writing an essay about social media distraction. Perhaps you could open with:

It might sound odd, but I love my flip phone. In fact, I feel nothing but disdain for that moment stealing villain, the iPhone .

See how you’re already interested in reading on? Effective writing is all about telling an engaging story, and a strong hook is the first step!

Go Deeper: How to start a scholarship essay (with examples)

Don’t forget formatting

Be mindful of any required formatting. This might include a word count or page limit. The application may also specify single or double sentence spacing, using certain fonts, or using a certain format, such as MLA or APA.

Related: What’s the best scholarship essay format?

Show, don’t tell

Finally, no matter what, do your best to tell an engaging story! If given the opportunity, focus on a specific challenge you’ve faced or goal you’ve achieved. As you tell your story, the qualities that make you a great scholarship applicant–your drive, your passion, and your personality–will shine through!

In conclusion?

Speaking of conclusions, don’t end your scholarship application essay with “in conclusion,” which sounds robotic on the page. Instead, think about why what you wrote matters, and remind the reader of just that.

An effective way to bring cohesion to your essay is to refer back to your hook in the closing. For example, if you used that flip phone introduction, your closing might say:

So while some people have 100s of pictures of “experiences” that they were not truly present for, I have lifelong memories stored in my own mind, no extra cloud space required.

Notice how that ending wows? It wraps up your “story” and leaves the reader with a lasting impression of who you are as a person.

Key Takeaways

  • Having to write an essay may feel intimidating, but we promise that you are more than capable of completing this step of your application
  • Give yourself plenty of time to sit with the essay prompts and then draft your response
  • Once you’ve written your essay, ask friends or family to read your work 
  • Most importantly remember to take time to read all the directions about the essay and answer the questions that they are asking you

Final thoughts

For more in-depth instructions on how to conclude your scholarship essay, you can consult our guide on how to end scholarship essays . If you are looking for additional scholarship opportunities, check out our list of top writing & essay scholarships .    

Remember, writing scholarship essays is an opportunity to show who you are in a way that test scores and rankings never can. Don’t miss out on winning scholarship awards that you qualify for. Happy writing, all, and don’t forget to apply for all the scholarships you qualify for!

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How do you write a hook for a scholarship essay, what should i write for a scholarship essay, how do i make my college essay stand out.

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  • Writing Tips

​How to Write a Scholarship Essay (With Examples)

​How to Write a Scholarship Essay (With Examples)

  • 6-minute read
  • 22nd August 2022

Writing a scholarship essay can seem like a daunting task. For many students , higher education isn’t possible without financial aid, and scholarships are especially valuable because the money awarded doesn’t have to be paid back.

Even though the stakes are high, there are a few manageable steps you can take to ensure you write a great essay to submit with your scholarship applications. We have a few top tips to help you get started, along with writing examples to demonstrate some key points. Check out our guide below to learn more.

A scholarship essay is a great opportunity to present yourself and your accomplishments in an impactful way. It is, therefore, essential to be aware of each scholarship deadline so you can allow sufficient time for the writing process, which typically includes the following:

·   Read the essay prompt and brainstorm ideas.

·   Create an outline covering the key points you want to address.

·   Write a draft and seek feedback from trusted teachers, family, or friends.

·   Make any necessary revisions and proofread before submitting your final draft.

Scholarship review committees will be able to tell if you rushed through your essay, so give yourself the best chance of winning an award by staying organized and on schedule!

Who and What?

Researching the scholarship provider and diligently reviewing the essay prompts can help you write an essay that makes you stand out as a top candidate.

1. Who are you writing to?

Learn more about the organization offering the scholarship and why the scholarship fund was created.

For instance, a scholarship may honor its organization’s founder, and the founder’s qualities (e.g., integrity, good citizenship, and leadership) might be the same values guiding the scholarship program as a way to continue the founder’s legacy.

If you identify with any of the same qualities, you can incorporate those keywords into your essay to demonstrate your shared values. Remember to remain authentic, though!

2. What are you writing about?

You must read the essay prompt carefully to identify precisely what you need to accomplish with your essay.

Some prompts ask about your career goals and how you plan to achieve them or your achievements and the challenges you overcame to reach them.

You’ll write about common topics across multiple scholarship applications – some may even be similar to your college admission essay – so you can repurpose your essays as long as you’re diligent about tailoring each one to its prompt.

Your application will likely require other items such as transcripts and test scores, but the essay is your chance to offer something entirely unique. Write about key experiences that highlight who you are and what you’ve accomplished, or you could mention something you’re passionate about.

Remember to follow any specific instructions regarding length and formatting, and be sure to answer all questions listed in the prompt. It can hurt your chances if you’re unable to show the committee that you’re detail-oriented and can follow directions.

Structuring Your Essay

Your essay should follow a standard format that includes a clear beginning, middle, and end. Typically, you should:

·   Establish your main idea in the introduction.

·   Include a separate body paragraph for each key point that supports your main idea.

·   Draw it all together and revisit your main idea in the conclusion.

Scholarship committees read thousands of essays each year. And often, there are hundreds of applicants for an award that can only go to a select few candidates. Writing a powerful introduction and conclusion gives you a chance to make a lasting impression.

1. Introduction

Write an introduction that hooks the reader and encourages them to stay engaged till the end of your essay. Don’t be afraid to add personal, tangible details and an anecdote .

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For example, if you’re writing about your career goals, demonstrate why you’ve chosen that career:

It was the biggest game of the season, and the stands were packed despite the bitter cold. My heart was beating louder than all of the cheers, and I was filled with the anticipation that one more run into the end zone would give us the championship. Everything went silent during that run when the tackle shattered both my leg and my dreams.

My world has always revolved around being an athlete – until one day it couldn’t. I spent many frustrating months rehabilitating, but I got through it because of my dedicated physical therapist, who helped me recover both physically and mentally after a devastating loss. And it was that profound experience that led me to pursue a career in the exercise sciences.

2. Conclusion

The conclusion is the last thing your reader will see, so it’s another opportunity for you to make your essay memorable.

Rather than summarizing with a general statement such as “this is why you should award me a scholarship,” perhaps explain what the financial assistance will help you achieve:

My parents never had the opportunity to go to college, and neither did their parents. I watched them work hard every day just to make ends meet, and I often questioned whether I could achieve anything more. Nevertheless, I spent four years working as hard as I saw my parents work, and I beat the odds by getting accepted to college. A scholarship could be invaluable for me, as it would allow me to attend and be successful without having to worry about finances.

Persuasive Writing

While you don’t want your scholarship essay to be overly informal, you’re certainly allowed to add some creativity and personal details to help persuade your readers.

One of the best ways to do so is by writing with the modes of persuasion ; that is, ethos, pathos, and logos.

Demonstrate your credibility. Use your real-life experiences and interesting details to establish, for example, how you’ve contributed to your community:

I saw how much bullying was impacting so many students at my school, so I founded my high school’s first anti-bullying club and organized campaigns to bring attention to the harm that people can cause one another.

Evoke an emotional response. The “show, don’t tell ” writing technique, which involves using descriptive words when discussing actions and emotions, can be especially useful here:

During one of our first awareness assemblies, the theater was completely silent as I read aloud anonymous stories from students about the scars bullying had left on their lives. Tears were stinging in my eyes as I described the struggles my classmates were facing, but I persevered to give a voice to those who didn’t have one.

Convey your point with reason and facts. Use statistics to demonstrate what you’ve accomplished:

In the first year alone, our club improved students’ feelings of safety and acceptance at our school by 53%.

Proofreading and Editing

Don’t forget the importance of proofreading your essay, as spelling and grammar mistakes can leave a bad impression on your reader. Our expert editors can help ensure your writing is clear, concise, and error-free. Give yourself a better chance at impressing scholarship committees by submitting a free trial document today!

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By submitting my email address. i certify that i am 13 years of age or older, agree to recieve marketing email messages from the princeton review, and agree to terms of use., writing a winning college scholarship essay.

If you need more money to pay for college, chances are you will be applying for several college scholarships . A great scholarship essay helps the scholarship provider understand the real person behind the application and can be the key to winning the award (assuming you meet the other scholarship criteria).

Student writing scholarship essay

Scholarship Essays vs. College Essays

Scholarship essays are very similar to your college application essays in terms of strategy. Many scholarship hopefuls will share the same grades, test scores, and ambitions: the essay is your chance to shine (and grow that dream college fund!).

How to Write a Scholarship Essay

When you’re drafting your scholarship essay, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

1. Start the essay writing process early.

Leave yourself plenty of time to produce a well thought-out entry. Take the time to brainstorm your ideas, create an outline, and edit your entry as you would for any essay writing assignment for your English class.

Read More: How to Craft an Unforgettable College Essay

2. Understand the scholarship provider’s overall mission and purpose.

Each scholarship provider is looking for students who meet certain criteria. Consider writing about an experience or interest that highlights your strong ties to the organization’s mission. Genuine passion and enthusiasm for your topic will show through in your essay writing.

3. Follow the scholarship essay instructions.

Make sure to follow all of the necessary steps and review them before submitting your scholarship essay. Trust us, some of the brightest students have missed out on the chance to earn scholarships dollars all because they neglected to follow instructions. You don’t want to fall into that category!

4. Steer clear from essay topics that focus on negativity or pessimism.

Scholarship committees would rather see how you overcame hardships and succeeded despite the obstacles in your path (or what you learned from the times you failed).

Read More: 200 Colleges That Pay You Back

5. Don’t be afraid to get personal.

Share something about who you are. This is your chance to elaborate on elsewhere on your application you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do so. Telling your story makes an essay genuine and ultimately more memorable to the scholarship committee.

6. Seek out writing advice and feedback.

Asking teachers, counselors, family members, or trustworthy friends for feedback on your essay will result in a better final product.

7. Yes, spelling and grammar matter.

Scholarship committees do notice grammar mistakes . Eveny tiny errors can distract a reader from your overall message. Before you submit your application make sure you take the time to proofread your essay from beginning to end.

8. Don’t give up!

When you’re tired, take a break, but don’t throw in the towel! Our online essay writing tutors are here for you anytime you get discouraged. We can help with everything from brainstorming and outlining to revising the final draft.

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How to Write a Scholarship Essay

What’s covered:, why do scholarships require essays.

  • Types of scholarship essays

How to write a good scholarship essay

What about scholarships that don’t require an essay.

For many, scholarships are a critical part of paying for your college education. That’s why you want to make sure your scholarship applications receive nearly as much of your care and attention as your college applications do. Essays are a huge component of this.

Many scholarships are competitive, drawing highly qualified applicants with excellent grades and test scores. Essays are a way of differentiating students, learning more about their interests, and determining to whom the organization should give the award.

Scholarships are also born out of organizational missions, and the committee wants to see how your values align with theirs. Essays help illuminate these values. 

Types of scholarship essays 

You’ll encounter several different types of scholarship essays during your search. These are some of the most common varieties you will find.

Career and education goals

Some scholarships target people with particular career ambitions and anticipated majors. This essay prompt is common for those types of awards, as well as more general ones. To approach your essay, you should be authentic, describing your true motivations and why this professional path appeals to you. Let your passion for the industry, sector, or discipline shine through.

Life experiences/qualities/group affinity

When a scholarship targets people of particular demographics, make sure you highlight your affinity with this group in your essay. Describe how these characteristics have contributed to and in some cases shaped your journey — and will continue to do so in your future.

Connection with the institution/organization

Your connection with the institution or organization offering the scholarship often plays a large role in determining winners — so much so that they may ask you to describe why that organization is important to you in your essay. It’s important to do your homework, considering why various aspects of the institution appeal to you and why you want a scholarship from them.

Past writing sample

You may not need to write a new essay at all. The organization could ask you to submit a past writing sample instead. If this is the case, choose a piece that shows your real personality and aligns with the message and mission of the organization offering the scholarship.

1. Understand your audience.

Scholarship committees want to see essays from students who share their organization’s values. Before you apply, you need to do some research to understand what those values are. Consider how your interests and experiences align with what the organization is looking for, and make them clear throughout your essay.

2. Show your personality.

You should also use your voice in your essay. Give the scholarship committee insight into who you are as a person — what drives you, what motivates you, and what interests you. This will allow them to understand you on a deeper level and see your words as genuine.

3. Use anecdotes and examples.

As with your college essays, you’ll bring your experiences to life by using plenty of anecdotes and examples. These will help ground your essay and make it more compelling for your audience.

You may encounter scholarships that don’t require essays. While the applications may be less time-consuming, for the most part, you will need to ensure that your GPA, test scores, and extracurriculars are strong because they will usually play a large role in assessing applicants.

While we’re on the subject of no-essay scholarships, we encourage you to enter CollegeVine’s weekly $500+ scholarship drawings . To get started, you just need to create a free account. Increase your chances of winning by referring friends, peer-reviewing essays, and more.

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The Ultimate Guide To Writing a Winning Scholarship Essay

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Students sitting together and helping each other with how to write scholarship essays

With the cost of higher education skyrocketing in the last few decades, it’s no surprise that many students seek out scholarships to help cover tuition. As a result, it’s a very competitive endeavor, which is why students need to find ways to stand out. We’ve put together this resource to help write a scholarship essay that will get the application committee’s attention.

How To Find Scholarships

Many students know that they want to apply for scholarships but don’t know where to find them. Honestly, this can be the most difficult and intimidating part of the process for students! Here are some suggestions for where to start. 

Ask a Guidance Counselor

One of the best resources for high school students is their guidance counselor. They are prepared to help students make academic and career plans and should be aware of scholarship opportunities to align with your needs and goals. 

Talk to the College or University

Already have a college or university picked out? Reach out to the school’s financial aid department. In addition to the many scholarships you can find online, they may offer information about funding offered directly through the school. 

Submit a FAFSA Application

Even if a student isn’t planning to accept student loans, they should definitely consider completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Not only will the resulting report inform them of any financial assistance for which they qualify, but many scholarship committees require applicants to submit a FAFSA. 

Search Scholarship Websites

There are many scholarship websites where students can find awards and applications. Sites such as Scholarships.com and Scholarship 360 allow you to use filters to narrow down your search results based on your needs and interests. 

We’ve also put together the following guides:

  • How To Get a Full-Ride Scholarship
  • Best Merit-Based Scholarships  
  • Excellent Scholarships for High School Seniors
  • Great Scholarships for Black Students
  • Scholarships for Women
  • Best Scholarship Opportunities for Future Teachers

Do an Internet Search

Head to a search engine, social media platform, or sites like Reddit to look for scholarships. You can even create posts inviting other users to share suggestions.

Ask an Employer

Some workplaces offer tuition benefits or other financial assistance for higher education. If a student is employed, it’s an option to reach out to someone in the HR department to see if they offer any programs or scholarships. 

The Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Scholarship Essay

Do: know the rules.

The most important thing anyone can do before writing a scholarship essay is this: Read all of the rules and guidelines and then reread them! Students can even ask someone else to read them too, to make sure they fully understand what they need to do. Failing to follow the rules is one of the main reasons why students are unsuccessful in getting scholarships. 

Do: Set Aside Plenty of Time

Start working on scholarship essays right away. Do not wait until a week (or day!) before the deadline. This gives students time to write several drafts of the essay if needed. Also, you never know when a technology-related issue might strike, so having a little extra time can save you from disaster. 

Do: Research the Scholarship Provider

Dig deep when applying for a scholarship. Find out who is funding the award and spend some time researching the provider. Do they have a vision or mission statement? Do they support any specific causes or types of students? Is there any way that applicants can make themselves more attractive candidates for the specific audience? Students should use this information to their advantage! 

Do: Brainstorm

Students should take some time to think about what they’ve learned about the scholarship essay guidelines and the provider. Then, brainstorm about what they want to say and share and why. Here are some questions to ask as they pertain to education and career goals:

  • Who are you? Think of yourself but also your background.
  • What makes you who you are?
  • What have you done?
  • What do you want to do?
  • How are you going to get there?
  • Why do you need a scholarship?
  • How will it make a difference?
  • Are you a first-generation college student?
  • Do you have any unique qualities or needs?
  • What makes you proud?
  • What lessons have you learned?

These are heavy questions, but finding the answers to at least some of them will help provide the substance needed to write a truly effective scholarship essay. 

Do: Find Ways To Stand Out

Many, many students are applying for scholarships. They have to find a way to stand out from the rest. Students should think of the things they learned when they researched the scholarship provider. Are there any ways they can appeal to that audience? If so, focus on those areas. 

Do: Be Honest

Do not lie on a scholarship application. Let’s say that again: Do not lie on a scholarship application. Students should remind themselves that they are worthy on their own. If an applicant is discovered to be dishonest, it can really hurt them in the long run. 

Do: Stay on Topic

When reading the guidelines for the scholarship and doing brainstorming, be sure to keep the topic of the essay in mind. Everything students share and communicate should be related to the topic. 

Do: Be Professional

Students should use their very best skills when writing a scholarship essay. They should not use slang, casual language, unconventional fonts, emojis, or texting abbreviations. 

Do: Proofread and Edit Multiple Times

It’s a good idea to prepare to write this essay at least three times. First, there’s a rough draft that should be carefully proofread. Students can ask a teacher or other professional to also look at their paper. Then students should repeat this process once or twice more until they’re happy with the results. They shouldn’t just write it and submit it all at once! 

Don’t: Brag

While students want to highlight their strengths and accomplishments, they should not brag. They also don’t want to put down other candidates or people to make themselves look good. Tell a story without embellishments. 

Don’t: Reuse a Scholarship Essay

Students put a lot of effort into writing scholarship essays, but please don’t reuse them! 

Scholarship Essay Sample Outline

Ready to get started? Having a solid outline provides a road map for the journey. Here are some suggestions for making it easier to write a scholarship essay! 

Introduction

Students should explain who they are and try to make it engaging. Hook readers by sharing a few details that will be elaborated on in the body of the essay. 

Educational and Career Goals

Students should share what they want to study and hope to gain by getting an education, as well as how it will prepare them for their future career. They should be passionate! 

Who Are You?

Student should briefly explain their background, which can include details about family, personal values, and how they got to where they are today. 

Why Are You a Good Candidate for the Scholarship?

This is where students need to really think about what they learned about the scholarship provider. What are they looking for in a candidate? Students should do their best to not only shine as a good student and leader, but also find solid ways to connect with the scholarship provider’s mission. After including some teasers or breadcrumbs in the introduction to hook the reader, this is a good place to share the rest of the story. 

To wrap up a scholarship essay, students should reiterate their commitment to their education and career. Restate how the story shared demonstrates a readiness for college and how winning the scholarship can help the applicant follow their dreams. Best of luck!

Do you have tips on how to write a scholarship essay? Share them below! Plus, check out  The Ultimate Guide to College Scholarships!

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10 Winning Scholarship Essay Examples From Real Students

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Scholarship Essay Examples

With college tuition costs rising each year, many students apply for merit scholarships to help make college more affordable. However, merit scholarships can be competitive—and that’s where our scholarship essay examples come in. By reading our scholarship essay examples, you can learn what it takes to write an award-winning essay. 

Scholarships are an excellent opportunity for students to lessen their college tuition costs. Most merit scholarships require a brief application, usually including one or more essays. Below, we’ve rounded up our best scholarship essay examples.

Reading winning scholarship essay examples, especially scholarship essay examples about yourself, can help you begin the scholarship essay process. By reviewing essay examples, you can learn how to craft a strong essay. You’ll also get a better sense of what scholarship committees look for when they review applications.

In this guide to Scholarship Essay Examples, you’ll find tips on how to write the best scholarship essay, as well as:

  • Various scholarship essay examples about yourself
  • A strong scholarship essay sample about why I deserve the scholarship
  • Scholarship essay examples about financial need, and more!

We’ve included scholarship essay examples specific to schools, including UC Berkeley, as well as specific programs, like the SHPE scholarship. We’ll also discuss the different types of scholarships you’ll find on your scholarship search. 

Now, before we jump into our essay examples, let’s learn more about getting scholarship money for college.

What is a scholarship essay?

A scholarship essay is an essay you’ll include in your merit scholarship applications. In many ways, your scholarship essays might resemble your college essays. So, the scholarship essay format should seem familiar. 

The best scholarship essays will highlight who you are and why you deserve money for college. Scholarship essay prompts will ask you to include various information, from details about your background to explanations of why you deserve a scholarship.

Crafting a compelling, well-written essay can help you win substantial financial awards to help cover your college tuition costs. However, not all scholarship essays are the same. Later on, we’ll review different winning scholarship essay examples to show you what kind of essays you’ll write in your application process.

Types of Scholarships

There are many different types of scholarships available to students. You can find a variety of scholarship opportunities on scholarships websites. The earlier you start your scholarship search, the more scholarships you’ll find. 

While some scholarship applications accept applicants of all backgrounds and abilities, some have very specific eligibility guidelines. So, you may not be eligible for every scholarship. If you’re not sure whether or not you’re eligible, you can find eligibility information on most scholarships websites. 

Here are a few different scholarship types you may come across in your scholarship search:

  • Academic scholarships
  • Merit scholarships
  • Essay competitions
  • Community service scholarships
  • Military scholarships

Scholarship essay prompts will differ across programs. As you’ll see in our winning scholarship essay examples, the prompts can vary in word count and complexity. We’ll provide you with descriptive essay examples to help you get an idea of what to expect.

Merit-Based Scholarships

Most scholarships we’ll highlight in this article are merit-based scholarships . A merit-based scholarship is money awarded by a college or community organization based on your academic achievements. 

In contrast, a need-based scholarship is awarded based on a student’s financial need. If you are applying for financial aid, be sure to check out our scholarship essay examples about financial need. You’ll find both merit- and need-based scholarships on your scholarship search.     

To qualify for a merit-based scholarship, you generally must meet specific criteria. Scholarship committees look at your grades, academic achievements, extracurriculars, and even test scores. Need-based scholarships can have similar requirements, but they’re primarily concerned with your family’s financial status.

There are many merit-based scholarships available to help students afford college, including:

  • National merit scholarships
  • Gates Scholarship
  • Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship
  • Robertson Scholarship

Check out our guides on these popular merit-based scholarships for more details. There, you’ll find tips on how to write a winning essay. Our descriptive essay examples can also help prepare you to apply to these programs After all, while prompts vary, the scholarship essay format remains fairly standard. 

Finding scholarships

In this guide, we’ll highlight some scholarships you may be eligible for. However, make sure to check out the rest of our resources to help you approach the scholarship search. 

Some scholarships we’ll discuss include:

  • QuestBridge scholarship : helps low-income students attend elite colleges
  • Park scholarships : for students attending NC State University
  • SHPE scholarship : offers financial assistance for Hispanic students interested in STEM degrees. 

Scholarship essay examples about financial need will help you prepare for your scholarship applications. For instance, if you apply for the SHPE scholarship, you’ll include a lot of details about your background. 

You can also use scholarship search portals or scholarships websites to find other scholarships you may be eligible for. 

How do you write a scholarship essay?

While scholarship essay prompts may differ, you’ll usually stick to the same general scholarship essay format. 

One resource that can help you write the best scholarship essays and find money for college is Sallie Mae. Sallie Mae is a private lender offering undergraduate, graduate, and professional student loans. They also grant scholarships and provide aspiring college students with a scholarship search portal on their scholarships websites. Here’s what they have to say about having a winning scholarship essay format.

Organization

When writing a scholarship essay, it’s best to start with a scholarship essay format that organizes your thoughts. This will allow you to follow a plan that clearly and concisely gets your points across. You should begin your essay with a solid introduction. Then, introduce your supporting arguments and add an appropriate conclusion. 

A good scholarship essay clearly states why you deserve to win money for college with evidence to back up your argument. You’ll see how to do this in our scholarship essay sample about why I deserve the scholarship. The best scholarship essays will be original and honest. It should be written in an inspirational and positive tone, highlighting your strengths and capabilities. 

When you feel like you have put your best foot forward, you should ask others for their feedback. This can be from a teacher, counselor, or one of our advisors here at CollegeAdvisor! Proofread your final essay and make sure you’ve caught any spelling and grammatical errors before submitting your application.

Up next, we’ll get into our descriptive essay examples and the different scholarship essay prompts they responded to. 

By looking at scholarship essay examples, you can learn what exactly makes a good essay. So, let’s look at some descriptive essay examples written by students looking to secure money for college. 

First, we will walk you through scholarship essay examples about yourself. Then, we’ll look at a scholarship essay sample about why I deserve the scholarship. Lastly, we will provide you with scholarship essay examples about financial need. Remember to keep these scholarship essay examples in mind when writing essays of your own!

Scholarship Essay Examples About Yourself

Let’s take a closer look at some scholarship essay examples about yourself.

Scholarship essay prompts vary quite a bit, so make sure you understand what the prompt really asks of you. That way, you can answer the question or address the prompt in its entirety.

Some scholarship essay prompts may ask how the scholarship will make a difference for you. They may also ask about any contributions you have made to your community. 

Ready to look at some winning scholarship essay examples? Check out these scholarship essay examples below.

The first of our scholarship essays is for Phi Sigma Rho. Here’s the prompt: 

How do you promote Phi Sigma Rho and STEM on your campus or in your community? (300 words Max)

Phi sigma rho scholarship essay.

In my campus and community, I strive to promote Phi Sigma Rho and STEM by promoting Phi Rho’s values and sharing my experiences and passion for Phi Rho.

My involvement in the Women in Engineering Program (WEP) and Society of Women Engineers (SWE) has allowed me the opportunity to promote Phi Rho and STEM. These activities have given me insight into how to successfully create a network that will support and encourage women in engineering to continue their careers. 

Within WEP, I served as a sophomore orientation leader (Envoy), mentoring first-year women and assisting with program logistics. As an envoy, I was able to promote Phi Rho ideals of friendship and encouragement. I was also able to informally recruit for Phi Rho by sharing my experiences and passion for the sorority.

Within SWE, I was the Internal Relations Chair my freshmen year and am the Director of Member Engagement this year. Both roles are related to member engagement, allowing me to promote friendship within engineering. Member engagement is important for creating a community among female engineers. Similar to my envoy position, my leadership within SWE has allowed me to share my love for Phi Rho.

Additionally, my volunteer experience with Engineering Ambassadors (EA), a STEM outreach group, has allowed me to promote STEM in the community. In EA, I give presentations on engineering, speak on panels, and lead hands-on activities for K-12 students. EA has taught me strategies to promote STEM to children and teenagers.

Because of Phi Sigma Rho, I have the confidence to inspire and encourage the next generation of female engineers. I hold the values of scholarship, friendship, and encouragement in the highest regard and strive to embody those in every leadership position and volunteer role. Through SWE, WEP, and EA, I have promoted Phi Sigma Rho, its values, and STEM as a whole in both my campus and community.

This is, in many ways, a scholarship essay sample about why I deserve the scholarship. The writer clearly highlights how they’ve engaged with Phi Sigma Rho and how their values align with those of the organization. The writer also provides specific examples of their leadership positions, skills, and accolades. 

The next two of our scholarship essay examples about yourself are for the SHPE scholarship. Here they are: 

SHPE Scholarship essay example #1

Essay prompt:.

Summarize your life experiences and any challenges that have impacted your path to higher education. (250 Words) 

Essay Example:

I vividly remember the first day of First Grade because I didn’t know the Pledge of Allegiance like the rest of my classmates. Growing up in a Hispanic household, I had never learned what the pledge was. This was the beginning of several years of disconnect. 

From receiving weird looks when I told classmates my family opened Christmas gifts at midnight, to my parents’ confusion when I didn’t want them to speak Spanish in public, both sides of my life never understood the other. As a result, I always felt out of place in school, like I was behind in some way because I didn’t share the same upbringing as my classmates. In contrast, academics felt like a level playing field, something we were all learning together in the same way.

While I couldn’t tell you who won the super bowl, I could do mathematics or read just as well, if not better, than my classmates. Socially, I always felt out of place, but academically I was always comfortable, and as a result, I tried to excel in that area of my life. That desire to succeed created the relentless work ethic I have today and the appreciation I have for education.

Despite the lack of emphasis from my parents on schoolwork, I developed this sense of responsibility and persistence to pursue an education. Although my family’s Hispanic culture made my life difficult when I was younger, it made me a more resilient person.

More scholarship essay examples

Shpe scholarship essay example #2.

Discuss your educational and career aspirations as well as your ability to complete and achieve these goals. (250 words)

Using a degree in engineering, I hope to work on improving sustainability and efficiency in the aerospace industry by creating cheaper, safer, and more environmentally-conscious options.

Recently, Pratt and Whitney designed an engine that is 16% more efficient and will release 3600 less metric tons per airplane per year. Excitingly, it also greatly reduces the noise footprint of an airplane. Innovations like these will allow the aerospace industry to evolve and improve while reducing negative environmental impact. I hope to work at the forefront of this innovation, pushing the boundaries of improved engine performance and efficiency. 

Last semester, I started working in the Experimental and Computational Convection Laboratory on campus to learn more about turbines. Some current projects in the lab involve new turbine cooling techniques and additive manufactured heat exchangers. Throughout the course of my undergraduate career, I hope to learn more about the barriers facing improved engine and turbine efficiency. Following undergraduate, I plan to attend graduate school to gain a deeper knowledge of these topics. Following graduate school, I may go into industry working on turbines and jet engines. Due to beginning research early, I believe graduate school is an attainable educational goal.

The potential ability to make a difference in the environmental impact of the aerospace industry is exciting. To accomplish this, I know studying Mechanical Engineering will give me the skills necessary to fulfill my career goals.

Both of these scholarship essay examples use specific details to highlight the writer’s strengths, experiences, and accolades. In reading these winning scholarship essay examples, we get a sense of who the writer is both as a person and as a student. 

Scholarship Essay Sample about “Why I deserve the scholarship”

Another scholarship essay prompt you may come across is “why I deserve this scholarship.” A good scholarship essay clearly highlights why you deserve to win the scholarship and provides evidence to support your argument. 

Below, you’ll find scholarship essay samples about why I deserve the scholarship. You can use these as a guide to help you tackle your own scholarship essays. 

Here’s the first of our scholarship essay examples, which was used for the Park Scholarship: 

The Park Scholarship is an investment in the potential of young people. It prepares scholars to make lifelong contributions to communities, states, nations, and the world. Tell us a story that illustrates your potential to make these lifelong contributions. (What have you done that should compel us to invest in you?) (Max. 3,990 characters including spaces.)

Park scholarship essay example.

Coming from a Venezuelan family, I have always been able to connect with total strangers through Spanish. Whether I’m eating at a restaurant or volunteering, I am constantly stumbling upon other Spanish speakers. The ability to converse in their language allows me to bond with them in a way I couldn’t in English, something I do not take for granted. 

Because of my experience, I believe that learning a foreign language is an incredibly important skill. Being able to speak in a second language allows a person to understand another community and reach out to people within that community. Additionally, speaking a second language assists in appreciating other cultures. This appreciation is important for fostering open-mindedness, something America as a whole struggles with today. 

In my school district, foreign language classes are not offered until late middle school. Once in high school, many students drop the class. In addition, those who stay in the class often find that the classes provide little more than a basic understanding of the language and then become discouraged in their learning. On a larger scale, this issue affects America as a whole. Second language programs often come second in terms of funding and planning and are not encouraged as rigorously as other academic courses. As a result, many Americans are ignorant to the benefits of bilingualism and are unable to understand the viewpoint of those who are multilingual.

After my freshman year of high school, my frustration with my community’s lack of priority for second language learning culminated in my desire to take some sort of action to promote foreign language education. In my sophomore year, a classmate and I created and ran an introductory Spanish program, Spanish in the Spring, at my local library for young children in the district. I spent hours at home creating lesson plans, activities, themes, and advertisements for the program. I placed heavy emphasis on cultural aspects and the importance of the Spanish language in America and the world as a whole.

My purpose for this program was to introduce children at a young age to learning a foreign language, so their desire to learn would continue throughout their life. Through the program, I was also able to share my belief of the importance of learning a second language with the children, as well as their parents. After the final day of the program, I was thrilled when one parent mentioned their desire to learn a foreign language program themself. I felt that if I made an impact on one person or family, the entire program was worthwhile. 

Unfortunately, this past spring I was unable to continue the Spanish in the Spring program due to library scheduling restraints. However, I hopefully plan to offer the program again this spring with some changes that will improve and expand the experience. One of these changes will include the immersion of parents into the experience to encourage foreign language education as a family activity.

While this program was only offered once, the impact was immeasurable, for the children, for the cause of foreign language education, and for me.

This is another scholarship essay sample about why I deserve the scholarship. In it, the writer clearly and directly answers the prompt—that is, they highlight their potential to make a lifelong impact on members of their community. 

Ready for another scholarship essay example? Here’s the next one: 

How will a ScholarSHPE impact your life and education? (200 Words)

Shpe scholarship essay example.

Receiving a ScholarSHPE will give me the gift of time and opportunities. My parents are unable to support me financially throughout college due to large amounts of accrued debt. A ScholarSHPE will reduce my financial stress and allow me to improve my overall health as a result. It will also prevent the need to work several hours a week at a part-time job to pay for tuition, books, and living expenses, which will limit what I can do academically and outside of class. A ScholarSHPE will allow me to spend more time on research pursuits, engineering extracurriculars, volunteer work, and school work, instead of long hours at a part-time job. 

This essay sample is fairly straightforward. In it, the writer follows a clear scholarship essay format, explicitly answering the prompt. 

UC Berkeley Scholarships essay examples

Let’s look at some school-specific merit scholarship essay examples. 

At the University of California – Berkeley , students can apply for a variety of merit scholarships. These scholarships can help offset the cost of UC Berkeley tuition. 

Below, we’ve included various scholarship essay examples for the UC Berkeley scholarships. These UC Berkeley scholarships can help students cover their college tuition costs. This can make the UC Berkeley tuition less of a barrier for students hoping to attend. 

You’ll find a variety of UC Berkeley scholarships that can help you afford UC Berkeley tuition. Available UC Berkeley scholarships include: 

  • Berkeley Undergraduate Scholarship
  • Fiat Lux Scholarship
  • Middle Class Scholarship
  • Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholarship

These are just a few ways to cover the cost of UC Berkeley tuition. UC Berkeley students also receive more than $10 million per year in outside scholarships to cover college tuition costs. If you are interested in exploring non-UC Berkeley scholarships, check out this list of outside scholarship resources . 

To help you get started, check out our winning UC Berkeley scholarship essay examples. The authors of these scholarship essay examples about financial need all won money to help cover their UC Berkeley tuition.

UC Berkeley scholarship essay examples

I am grateful to realize how fortunate I am today. All the loved ones around me and their acts of kindness have given me such a great life. I also realize the sacrifices that those around me have had to give up in order for me to succeed. It is because of this that I have realized what “paying it forward” truly means. I have been given the opportunity to make an impact in my community and I have fully taken advantage of this opportunity. I have been a volunteer for the Buddyball Sports Organization, which is a non-profit sports organization dedicated to providing the opportunity for children with developmental disabilities to play sports.

Growing up, watching and playing sports has been one of my greatest pleasures of life, so teaching these less fortunate kids has been something I have enjoyed doing every single weekend. On top of this, I am also both a volunteer at the South Orangetown Ambulance Corps and the Nyack Hospital. With the desire to pursue a career in the medical field, volunteering at these places has given me a great idea of what my career could look like in the near future. While all of these volunteer activities have had a significant impact on me, little did I know that this summer would truly make a lasting difference in my life. 

This past summer, my family decided to go on a vacation to India to visit my relatives. This was the first time in my life that I was going to India and this was only because my grandmother came down with Parkinson’s disease and was extremely sick. Little did I know at that time that my visit to India would be a life-changing experience. Never could have I imagined such a filthy village. Everywhere I looked, there was garbage and to make matters worse, no one seemed to do anything to try to ameliorate the repugnant image of my home country.

While I realized on my flight home that I was not going to be able to make a difference and help my community back in India, there was nothing stopping me from doing so right here in Rockland County, New York. When I was told that I would have the opportunity to help organize and direct “Make a Difference Rockland,” I joyfully accepted! Make a Difference Rockland is a free public meet and greet for all local non-profits and other government agencies in an attempt to promote different community service opportunities within the public. By gathering all the local non-profit organizations and giving them a chance to present themselves, people learn more about all of the local community service opportunities that are available to them. This way, the community will be able to recruit volunteers and will not have to suffer through calamitous conditions.

As one of the people in charge of organizing, it was my responsibility to adequately contact, invite and help prepare for hundreds of people. Once I gathered their contact information, I had to ask each one of these places if they would be interested in joining the fair. If interested, I had to also prepare a table for them to present themselves at the fair. The feeling of bringing all of these community service groups together brought me a feeling of happiness that I will never forget. 

The best scholarship essays will teach the reader about who the writer is, what they care about, and why they deserve a scholarship. The essay above does just that—it highlights the writer’s background and describes how they give back to their community. 

Next, let’s dig into a few more scholarship essay examples. 

If you’re interested in more descriptive essay examples, keep reading. 

Reading a ton of winning scholarship essay examples is a great way to pick up on what makes them winners. Over time, you’ll start to notice how the details, tone, and flow all work together to tell a story.

Below, you’ll find a few more scholarship essay examples. Our first one is from the NC Parks Scholarship. Here’s the prompt:

What do you do to serve your community? Why do you do the service that you do? What impact have you made? What challenges or insights have your service contributions given you? (Max. 3,990 characters including spaces.) 

Community-focused scholarship essay example #1.

“What are the boys like in high school?” “Is it easy to get a boyfriend?” Sighing, the other frustrated leaders and I look at each other as we read the questions posed by the younger girls. Every year at Girls’ Night Out (GNO), a program that introduces and prepares eighth-grade girls for high school, the girls question the leaders about relationships and dating ad nauseum, irritating other leaders to the point of ignoring the questions. 

Giving each question a careful and deliberate answer is often difficult, but instead of disregarding the issue, I try to offer my most sincere and honest advice. Originally, when I began as a group leader in the program I would give the same response, “You shouldn’t worry about boys. Instead, enjoy your friends, and do things you enjoy.” While that advice is true, it is often not the answer that will satisfy the girls. Through many years in the program, I have learned that advice is not “one size fits all”; it must be individualized to the person’s needs. Now, when faced with a question about dating, I respond with more questions before giving “words of wisdom”.

Many times I am able to understand the perspective of the middle school student, allowing me to give advice accordingly. Supplying proper advice about sensitive topics is one of the most impactful parts of GNO. As a role model and positive influence for the girls, I largely impact their ideas and perception of the environment when entering high school. In addition to teaching the students valuable lessons, volunteering at GNO has taught me that various perspectives may present themselves identically. To better understand those around me, it is important that I look beyond the surface for the other person’s viewpoint.

Beyond understanding other viewpoints from GNO, I have learned from other service that understanding a person’s situation is essential for providing exceptional assistance. Through Key Club, I volunteer many times a year at the local food pantry. As a volunteer, I help the recipients “shop” at the small grocery store using a point system. The process takes up a lot of time because shoppers do not always know what they want. Originally I  thought this was a poor design. I believed it would be much more efficient to just hand out the food rather than giving out points and shopping with the food pantry recipients.

Upon expressing my opinion to one of the adult food pantry staff, he explained to me that the grocery store aspect of the store taught the recipients life skills. Additionally, by giving them autonomy over what food they “bought”, they retained a sort of independence, an important skill to have if they find themselves above the income level required to use the food pantry.

The next time I volunteered I took note of the skills presented. Budgeting of points, deciding whether or not they needed something, determining the quality of the fruit, and decision-making of choosing extra food or toiletries, were all skills that those above the poverty line have ingrained. For those who have been using food pantries and other assistance for prolonged periods of time, these skills are not so natural. As a result, teaching the people means after they no longer need the services of the food pantry, they have valuable skills necessary for their independence.

From this experience, I learned an important lesson: helping people is not just giving them what they need at the moment, but understanding what they will need in the future and providing that as well. After realizing this, I emphasize the abilities that the food pantry teaches whenever I dedicate my time. By doing that, I am positively affecting the development of those skills. 

When reflecting on the various ways I have served my community, one thing stands out to me: I always understand another viewpoint or gain a new perspective afterwards. For me, the ability to look at something from different angles is an unparalleled talent, and one of the most important skills a person can have.

Describe your volunteer or community experience with SHPE or other organizations and any internships you have held.  (250 Words)

Community-focused scholarship essay example #2.

In SHPE, I have been involved in planning the Penn State College of Engineering STEP-UP (Student Transition Engineering Program at University Park) Program as a chair. The STEP-UP program helps students from Penn State branch campuses smoothly transition to the University Park campus through a 3-day program in the spring. The program introduces them to engineering resources, other engineering students, and provides professional development. Due to COVID-19, this year it was held virtually. 

Within the Society of Women Engineers and the Women in Engineering Program, I have volunteered at different STEM events in the community for elementary school students. I am also currently serving as an Envoy (a mentorship and logistical position) for the Women in Engineering Program Orientation. Additionally, I participate in many of SWE’s service events, such as donating and collecting donations, cleaning up areas on and around campus, and visiting nursing homes.

On campus, I am also involved with Engineering Ambassadors (EA), a group that does STEM outreach around Pennsylvania from the elementary school to high school level. EA goes virtually or in person to schools, does engineering presentations and activities, and answers questions.

Prior to COVID-19, I had secured an internship with Pratt and Whitney, however, they had to cancel their internship program. As a result, I was fortunate enough to obtain a Process Quality Engineering internship at Brentwood Industries for summer 2020.

Both of these scholarship essay examples highlight how the writers have given back to their communities. These winning scholarship essay examples highlight the writers’ strengths. In doing so, they highlight why these writers deserve help with college tuition costs. 

Reflecting on scholarship essay format

As important as the content of your essay is, your scholarship essay format is equally important. As you write, be sure to adhere to the scholarship essay format guidelines provided to you. 

However, there are some things all of the best scholarship essays have in common. Here are some general tips, tricks, and outlines to help you in your own writing process.

Three scholarship essay writing tips:

  • Word counts are hard to adhere to, but the other applicants must adhere to them, too. Make sure every word counts. 
  • When you write a solid essay, you can repurpose some of your key points, including specific anecdotes and details, in other scholarship applications.
  • Writing a good essay helps you solidify who you are and what you want. This sets you up for success in the scholarship application process and beyond. 

Three essential elements to include in your essay:

  • State your goals. Scholarship committees are investing in your future and your potential. To take a chance on you, they need to know your plan and what you want to do with your award. 
  • Establish an implicit or explicit link between your goals and the scholarship you are applying for. Describe to the committee how the specific scholarship will help you attain your goals. Give them a tangible reason as to why you deserve their investment. 
  • Share your story. Use personal details about your experiences that highlight your identity and objectives. How have you pursued your goals and prepared for your future? How will the scholarship help you going forward? Get personal and be honest.

Storytelling in your essay

Some of the best scholarship essays utilize good storytelling strategies. You should share the details of your personal story in a narrative, using a logical order. Remember, telling personal details about yourself and your goals does not mean simply restating your resume!

By the end of the essay, the scholarship committee should have an in-depth sense of why you applied. You should reveal:

  • When and how you arrived at your future goals
  • Your motivations to accomplish these objectives
  • What traits or skills you have developed along the way
  • The meaningful experiences that drive you to your goals
  • Any personal challenges you have faced and how you have overcome them
  • What has shaped you and your worldview

These details humanize you and show your complexity as a person and an applicant. It’s helpful to use anecdotes and personal experiences to give life to facts and details about yourself. Sharing real-life experiences will help make your essay more interesting and more fun to read.

Creating your scholarship essay format

Once you have thought about what you want to say, start thinking about your scholarship essay format. You may start by making a list of what your reader may be interested in:

  • How you spend your time
  • Your accomplishments
  • What your passions are, etc.

Start by brainstorming everything you may want to include in your essay. Then, think about whether the stories you include support your arguments. Ask yourself, “What did I learn?” or “How did this get me closer to my goals?”. These reflections help the reader connect to your purpose for writing. 

Make sure to organize your thoughts in a narrative order. However, there isn’t just one way to write an essay. So, don’t limit yourself to one version of your story. You may find yourself writing multiple drafts before you get to your final scholarship essay format.

Editing and proofreading your essay

When you think you have finished, be sure to proofread and edit to ensure it’s ready to be submitted. Check that you’ve adhered to all the scholarship essay format guidelines (like the word count). 

Reviewing also includes getting input from others! An outside reader’s opinion can help you confirm your essay effectively communicates your ideas.

Tips for scholarship essays

You may notice some similarities between the scholarship essay examples about yourself we’ve provided. That’s because the authors of the best scholarship essays all use similar strategies to make their essays great. 

Here are 5 tips from U.S. News to help you make all of your scholarship essays stand out:

Tips for writing stand-out scholarship essays

1. get personal and be specific.

The best scholarship essays will share an authentic story with impactful details. The key is to be yourself and not shy away from personal details. The more the committee gets to know about you, the more likely they are to invest in your future. You want your essay to offer a genuine, in-depth look into who you are as a person.

2. Tell a story

Your essay should be more than a collection of facts—it should tell a story. That means having a solid introduction that grabs the reader’s attention from the very start. Then, you should include a logical flow of experiences or details. By the end of your essay, you want your reader to have learned something valuable about you.  

3. Tailor the scholarship essay to the prompt

Some of your scholarship essay prompts may be similar across different scholarship applications. However, it’s important that your essay is specific to each prompt and answers the question entirely. While you can repurpose an essay you’ve already written as inspiration or a starting point, be extra attentive when doing so.

4. Don’t tailor yourself to the reader

Many students fall into the trap of telling a story they think scholarship foundation committees want to hear. Instead, stay true to yourself as you craft your scholarship application essays. Don’t tell your reader what you think they want to hear—just tell them who you are. 

5. Follow directions

This final tip may arguably be the most important. Above all else, students should follow instructions. This means adhering to the scholarship essay format guidelines and word count. It also means answering the essay prompt in its entirety. Application readers can be easily frustrated by a student’s failure to follow directions. This could reflect poorly on you and your essay in the long run. 

Use these tips to guide you as you approach the scholarship essay format. 

Scholarship Essay Examples – Final Thoughts

We hope our roundup of scholarship essay examples has shown you how to approach your scholarship applications. With rising college costs, scholarships should be a part of your college financial planning process. Take the time to do your own scholarship search based on your specific interests. You can find plenty of scholarships to apply to on scholarships websites and college financial aid pages. There are many different scholarships websites to help you with your search. 

Save this guide

Feel free to save this guide and review our scholarship essay examples about yourself and about financial need. You can always look back on our scholarship essay sample about why I deserve the scholarship when writing your own essay. 

Start with an outline that organizes your thoughts. Then, make sure your essay is clear and concise. Be original and honest, and include personal details and anecdotes when appropriate. State why you deserve to win the scholarship. Then, support your claim in a way that makes a scholarship committee invested in your future. 

We’re here to help

Don’t forget to proofread your essay and ask others for their feedback. When in doubt, reach out to our advisors at CollegeAdvisor. Our team is always here to help support you find and apply for scholarships!

This article was written by Bailey Bennet. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.

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how to make a college scholarship essay

how to make a college scholarship essay

How to Write a Scholarship Essay - The Complete Guide

Student writing scholarship essay

Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 12/8/23

If you’re a student hoping to secure a scholarship, it’s vital to understand how to write a scholarship essay. Keep reading to learn how. 

Scholarship essays provide an opportunity for students to showcase their aspirations to scholarship committees and serve as a platform to demonstrate academic achievements, leadership abilities, community involvement, and future goals. 

They play a crucial role in determining the recipients of financial assistance , as they allow committees to assess candidates' suitability for the scholarship. By carefully crafting a compelling scholarship essay, you can significantly increase your chances of getting funding for your education and opening doors to your future.

There are a ton of diverse scholarships to choose from, including many full-ride scholarships , providing students with ample opportunities to pursue their education without the burden of financial constraints. Some excellent scholarships include the Fulbright Scholarship and the National Merit Scholarship , among many others. 

If you’re seeking guidance on how to write a good scholarship essay, you’ve come to the right place! We’ll go over everything you need to know and show you examples of successful scholarship essays. 

10 Tips to Write a Successful Scholarship Essay

female student writing on paper

Crafting quality scholarship essays requires careful planning, thoughtful execution, and a deep understanding of what scholarship committees are looking for. Here are some key strategies and scholarship essay tips to help you create a standout essay:

Understand the Prompt

Start by thoroughly understanding the essay prompt and any specific guidelines provided. Pay attention to the key themes, requirements, and expectations outlined.

Research and Personalize

Researching the scholarship organization is crucial. Understand their values and goals, and ensure your essay reflects them. Show genuine interest and connection.

Thorough research helps tailor your essay, aligning with the scholarship's objectives. It demonstrates dedication and sets you apart.

Research also provides compelling information, supporting your arguments and boosting credibility. A well-researched essay effectively communicates your qualifications and motivations.

Tell Your Unique Story

Your essay should reflect your authentic voice and experiences. Share personal anecdotes and impactful moments that highlight your character, resilience, and achievements. Make it compelling and memorable.

Be Clear and Concise

Write with clarity and precision. Use simple and concise language to effectively convey your ideas. Avoid unnecessary jargon or complex sentences that may confuse the reader. Taking care of both writing simplicity and conciseness at once may not be easy for some of you. If you are one of them, then get some help from a summarizer . It will quickly make your given essay both simple and short by removing all the unnecessary words and phrases.

Structure and Organization

Develop a well-structured essay with a clear introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Ensure a logical flow of ideas and maintain coherence throughout the essay.

Planner and cup of coffee

Address the Selection Criteria

Explicitly address the selection criteria specified by the scholarship committee. Showcase how you meet and exceed their expectations, emphasizing your academic excellence, leadership skills, community involvement, or any other relevant qualities.

Proofread and Edit

Always proofread your essay for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and clarity of expression. Edit it to improve sentence structure, coherence, and overall effectiveness. Consider seeking feedback from teachers, mentors, or peers.

Stand Out and Be Memorable

Capture the attention of the reader with a strong opening and a compelling conclusion. Be creative, passionate, and genuine. Make your essay memorable by showcasing your unique perspective and contributions.

Follow Instructions and Deadlines

Ensure that your essay adheres to all the guidelines and requirements set by the scholarship program. Submit your essay well in advance to avoid any last-minute complications.

Be sure to look into specific guidelines and instructions to avoid scholarship displacement . Always read the fine print!

Revise and Refine

Continuously revise and refine your essay. Seek feedback, incorporate suggestions, and make necessary improvements. Aim for a polished and refined final draft.

Remember, writing a winning scholarship essay takes time and effort. Stay true to yourself, express your aspirations, and demonstrate your potential. With careful attention to detail, you can write an engaging essay that sets you apart and increases your chances of securing the scholarship you desire.

person writing on paper with pen

Mistakes to Avoid in a Scholarship Essay

It can easily fall into certain common traps when writing your scholarship essays. Here are some errors that you need to stay far, far away from! 

  • Not Answering the Question or Prompt : Don’t let your essay wander off-topic; it makes you look thoughtless and absent-minded. To show that you’ve read the instructions and care about writing a good essay, stay focused on what the prompt asked you to write about. 
  • Using Quotes : Not only are quotes often cliche, but they also take up valuable space in your essay. You only have a certain number of words to play with, and your readers want to know about you , not Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. 
  • Repeating Your Application : Your scholarship essay is a place for you to provide new information that can’t be found anywhere else on your application. Use it to talk about your passions, motivations, and future goals - things that the committee couldn’t otherwise know about. 
  • Telling, Not Showing : Use examples and anecdotes to show the committee who you are. Don’t just say, “I’m a very determined person.” Instead, share a story about a time you demonstrated determination to prove it.  
  • Not Proofreading : Avoid grammar and spelling errors at all costs! Almost nothing makes you look less professional than a typo. Proofread your work several times. You can even ask friends or family members to read it over for you, too. 

Male student reading paper

Scholarship Essay Format

The scholarship essay format plays an important role in effectively conveying your story to the scholarship committee. While specific requirements may vary, there are some common elements to include in your essay.

Introduction

Begin with an opening that grabs the reader's attention and introduces the main theme or topic of your essay. The introduction is an important part of a scholarship essay as it sets the tone and serves as your first opportunity to make a strong impression and engage the scholarship committee. 

A well-crafted introduction should provide a clear overview of your essay's main theme and establish a sense of your unique voice and perspective. Your introduction should compel the reader to keep reading.

Personal Statement

Your personal statement is a chance to share everything that shapes your academic journey. To write a strong one, it’s always helpful to draw inspiration from personal statement samples . They can help demonstrate how to stand out by highlighting achievements and lessons learned.

Scholarship committees seek academic excellence, leadership, and community involvement. Align your values with the scholarship's mission and show how you'll contribute positively to your field or community.

person writing on paper

Goals and Aspirations

Clearly articulate your educational and career goals, explaining how the scholarship will contribute to your future plans and how you intend to make a positive impact in your chosen field.

Clearly expressing your goals in a scholarship essay allows the scholarship committee to understand your commitment and aspirations. It shows you have a clear plan for your future and that the scholarship funds will be used effectively to support your educational and career endeavors. 

Articulating your goals also helps the committee assess how well the scholarship aligns with your ambitions, increasing your chances of being selected as a deserving candidate.

Relevance to Scholarship

A key part of grasping how to write a scholarship essay is understanding how to make it contextually relevant. Connect your experiences, goals, and values to the specific scholarship you’re applying for. Explain why you’re an ideal candidate and how the scholarship aligns with your academic, professional, or personal aspirations.

blank notebook with pen

Let's say you’re applying for a scholarship that supports students pursuing environmental science. In your essay, you would want to demonstrate your passion for environmental conservation and your dedication to making a positive impact in this field. 

You can start by sharing a personal anecdote about a formative experience that sparked your interest in environmental science, such as participating in a community cleanup or witnessing the effects of pollution in your hometown.

Next, you can highlight your academic achievements and extracurricular activities related to the environment, such as taking relevant coursework, conducting research on sustainable practices, or volunteering for environmental organizations. 

You can emphasize specific projects you’ve worked on, such as creating a recycling initiative at your school or organizing a tree-planting campaign.

You should also directly address how the scholarship aligns with your goals and aspirations. For example, you can mention how receiving the scholarship would enable you to pursue advanced studies in environmental science, conduct research on climate change, or develop innovative solutions to environmental challenges. 

It’s helpful to emphasize how the scholarship will not only support your academic journey but also empower you to contribute to the scholarship organization's mission and make a meaningful difference in the field of environmental science.

By weaving together your personal experiences, academic achievements, and future goals in a way that directly relates to the scholarship's focus on environmental science, you can create a scholarship essay that resonates with the scholarship committee.

how to make a college scholarship essay

Supporting Evidence

If you're wondering how to write a good scholarship essay that still feels like you, remember to tie in your own experiences. A key part of doing this effectively is providing evidence to support your narrative. 

Provide examples, anecdotes, and specific achievements to support your claims and demonstrate your qualifications. Use vivid language and storytelling techniques to make your essay engaging and memorable. Consider including the following to strengthen your essay.

  • Academic achievements
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Volunteer and community service
  • Work experience
  • Personal challenges and growth
  • Research or projects
  • Excerpts from letters of recommendations

Summarize your key points, reiterate your passion for your chosen field, and express gratitude for the opportunity to be considered for the scholarship.

Remember to adhere to any specific formatting guidelines provided by the scholarship committee, such as word count limits, font styles, or document structure. Proofread your essay carefully for grammar, spelling, and coherence.

It’s also a good idea to consider seeking feedback from teachers, mentors, or writing centers to enhance the overall quality of your essay.

Two men sitting at desk talking

Common Scholarship Essay Prompts

The following scholarship essay prompts are courtesy of the University of Alaska . Use them to brainstorm how you’ll approach your own scholarship essays. If you land a scholarship interview , you’ll likely face similar questions to these as well. 

Looking closely at these prompts will help you understand how to write a scholarship application essay. 

Tell Us About a Mistake You Made or a Time You Failed and What You Learned. 

Mistakes happen to everyone—it's a fact of life. But here's the thing: acknowledging your mistakes shows maturity and readiness for college. It's not just about admitting you messed up; it's about explaining what you learned and how you've grown as an individual. Interviewers value self-awareness and a willingness to learn from slip-ups.

Scholarship providers understand that perfection doesn't exist. They're interested in how you've learned from failures, whether they were academic, professional, or personal. Break down the failure, its reasons, and how it ultimately made you a better person.

Additionally, share a valuable lesson you've gained, like how you would approach similar situations in the future or how that experience transformed your life. This is your chance to showcase your ability to learn and persevere, leaving a lasting impression.

Female student working on computer

Tell Us About a Time When You Had a Belief or Idea Challenged. 

Have you ever been abroad or taken a family trip to a foreign country? You may have had an eye-opening conversation with a teacher, religious leader, or friend. Here's something to think about: recall a moment that pushed your beliefs or ideas to the edge–or maybe even changed them completely.

Start by explaining your initial understanding of the idea, then dive into that moment when it got challenged. Where were you? Who were you with? What were you feeling? Share all the juicy details!

Afterward, talk about how it impacted you. Did it make you question everything? Or did it open your mind to new possibilities? Scholarship providers love to see reflection and growth, so make sure to paint the whole picture in your essay.

What Is Your Greatest Strength? 

If you're a skilled performer, talk about how much you loved your high school drama class or share your approach to tackling a monologue. If math is your thing, share a story about how you helped someone get a handle on the quadratic formula. This is also a good question for an athletic scholarship essay. 

For the writers out there, let them know about your talent and how it has brought positivity to your life or how you use it to assist others. No matter what your strength is, be specific and provide examples to back it up. Show them why you're exceptional in your field, and let your skills shine through.

Man flexing muscles

What Is Your Biggest Weakness? 

When discussing your weaknesses, it's important to present them in a positive light. Let's say you struggle with time management. Instead of simply admitting this, you can explain how you recognized the issue and took proactive steps to improve. 

For example, you could share how you implemented a daily planner or started using time management apps to stay organized and meet deadlines effectively. Be honest about the initial difficulties you faced, but emphasize the strategies you adopted to overcome this weakness.

By demonstrating your proactive approach and growth mindset, you show that you're committed to personal development and constantly striving for improvement.

Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years? 

You don't need to have your entire future figured out, but the scholarship committee wants to know you have some sort of plan. What are your goals in college? And what do you see yourself doing after graduation? 

Show how this scholarship can help you achieve those goals and give you a head start. Maybe you’re hoping to pursue a specific career or make a difference in your community. 

Talk about how this opportunity will give you the resources, support, or experiences you need to succeed. Let them see your vision and how this scholarship fits into your game plan. 

Man writing on paper

Scholarship Essay Examples

You can find real-life samples of successful scholarship essays below, provided by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Penn State . Use them as a source of inspiration and to guide you in your own writing journey. 

These scholarship letter examples will offer insights into the content and writing style that can help you craft a compelling essay that stands out among the competition.

Scholarship Personal Statement Example A

Feet like lightning. Arms pressed to the sides. Instruments sounding like nothing I had previously heard. The airing of Riverdance on PBS was my first introduction to anything that could be considered “traditional Irish.” At that time, I had been dancing since I was five years old, so this newfound form of dance was naturally intriguing. My interest in dance and the arts continued to grow and at the age of nine, I began to play the flute. Almost immediately, music was my passion, and I knew someday I wanted to perform. For years, I focused solely on concert flute repertoire, assuming I would become a concert performer. During high school, though, I had the opportunity to collaborate with a hammered dulcimer player who gave me notated Irish music to read, and my interest skyrocketed. I began to listen to traditional Irish groups such as the Chieftains and “Celtic rock” groups such as Seven Nations. During my sophomore year as a flute performance major at Mythic University, I realized study in Ireland was the only way for me to properly learn traditional Irish music and culture.

Fall 20xx was my semester in the Junior Year Abroad (JYA) program at University College Dublin (UCD). Because the JYA program required two areas of emphasis, chose Music and Celtic Civilization. Before arriving in Ireland, I knew the music department at UCD did not offer lessons with private instructors, so I contacted Mr. Bill Dowdall, professor at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and principal flautist of the National Concert Orchestra. Mr. Dowdall was willing to give me “classical flute” lessons, but he did not play traditional Irish music (often called “trad”). As my main reason for going to Ireland was to learn trad music, I had to find a teacher. With the help of Mr. Adrian Scahill, my “Irish Traditional Music” lecturer at UCD, and Mr. Dowdall, I found an Irish flute teacher, Mr. Seán Ò Broin.

At least once every week during my time in Ireland, I went to McNeill’s Traditional Music Shop on Capel Street in Dublin to take a trad lesson with Mr. Ò Broin. Irish music is an aural tradition—meaning that in order to perform it authentically, one must learn tunes by ear. Being trained classically, I was used to reading notes on a page, but one cannot analyze Irish music from a classical viewpoint. Trad is a separate and unique art form with its own set of special rules. I learned that lesson firsthand and through an ethnomusicology course at UCD.

Since returning to the United States, I have observed that most people who play Irish music read from “fake books,” which tend to approximate and simplify the complicated, time-honored tradition. Irish music must be learned aurally and personalized by each player with her own ornamentation, nuances, and interpretation of her teacher’s style. I realize that when it comes to seriously studying traditional Irish music, I have only scratched the surface with one semester of lessons. I must return to Ireland if I am to continue the pursuit of knowledge that was begun.

During my graduate study in Ireland, I plan to attend the Irish World Music Centre (IWMC) at the University of Limerick to attain the MA in Irish Traditional Music Performance. The Centre is the only one of its kind in the world, and the degree is unique to this university. Although University College Cork offers a one-year MA in Music, and NUI Maynooth offers a one-year MA in Music (Performance and Musicology), the IWMC is the only school to offer Irish Traditional Music Performance. At my target University of Limerick program, advanced instrumental tuition is provided by world-renowned traditional performers and tutors, and the examinations of repertoire sources and styles of performance are supplemented by important modern non-performance skills such as music business and music technology. The IWMC offers other specialized courses besides my proposed MA, and elective modules in the program will allow me to pursue some of my other interests.

I believe other interests are an integral part of my education and plan to continue gaining more knowledge in each area while studying abroad again. Classes offered through the Irish Traditional Dance and Contemporary Dance Performance programs at the IWMC will allow me to further my dance knowledge outside my world of ballet. Mr. Niall Keegan, Course Director of my prospective MA program, tells me there will be

opportunities to continue my concert studies in ensembles. Not only do I plan to continue with concert flute studies, I also intend to teach private classical lessons. My first ethnomusicology experience at UCD whetted my appetite for exposure to diverse musical cultures and inspired me to apply for the newly approved International Arts Minor at Mythic University. Classes through the Ethnomusicology program at the IWMC will teach me more about other cultures and their special musical traditions. Irish language studies will broaden my understanding of Irish music traditions, and I look forward to beginning these classes while in the country.

Eventually, my goal is to perform in ensembles that incorporate varying musical styles, especially Irish traditional music. Since returning from Dublin, I have led workshops, given recitals, performed a jury for the Mythic University woodwind faculty, and spoken with many people about my Irish learning experiences. My joy comes from educating people about trad music through performance and conversation. I am determined to follow my ambition to share this passion. When my JYA semester ended with my first experience studying in Ireland, I realized how much more I needed to learn about traditional Irish music and culture. I do not merely want to study in Ireland; I must study in Ireland if I plan to pursue my passion. Now, with the Mitchell Scholarship and its many benefits, mastery of Ireland’s distinct musical art form and immersion in its culture are within my grasp. It is an honor to be considered for this perfect opportunity.

girl with flute

Why It Works 

This scholarship sample effectively communicates the applicant's passion for traditional Irish music and their dedication to pursuing a career in the field. The essay starts with an engaging opening anecdote that introduces the writer’s interest in Irish culture and the development of their passion for traditional music. 

The essay also highlights their specific goals, such as participating in the unique program at IWMC, and how this experience will contribute to their growth as musicians, artists, and performers. It also demonstrates the writer’s drive and ambition through the story of how they needed to search for a teacher.  

This essay does a good job of emphasizing the applicant's passion, determination, and resilience, as well as their reliance on the Mitchell Scholarship to make their educational goals a reality. Overall, the essay combines personal experiences, career aspirations, and financial need to make a compelling case for the scholarship.

Scholarship Personal Statement Example B

“I have enough faith in human nature to believe that when people are both economically secure and aware of the value of biological wealth they will take the necessary measures to protect their environment. Out of that commitment will grow new knowledge and enrichment of the human spirit beyond our present imagination" - Edward O. Wilson 

The Earth and every tiny microbe that dwells here is my inspiration, and the intricate functions of a single cell are the only proof I need to believe that the spirit lies in life itself. My one goal is to do anything I can to protect the purity of life.

I am astounded by the rate at which we destroy what can never be replaced, but I have not lost hope. Since I have been at Ohio University I have explored many different areas of study, always pursuing a way to defend the defenseless. 

Through our environmental group at school, Campus Greens, I began to realize the Earth needs scientists who are willing to speak for it. Our latest goal has been to stop long-wall coal mining in Dysart Woods, a virgin forest in Ohio. Many people believe the mine will destroy the woods. 

However, there is not enough evidence to back up that claim. I feel the only way to end the destruction of the forests is through evidence of its importance. During my junior year of high school, I studied in Israel for a quarter. This was the single most important experience of my life.

I saw how diverse life is and how beautiful all of those differences are. In three months my world expanded halfway around the globe. I began to realize that there were millions of species I knew nothing about. 

This idea is what draws me to Costa Rica. I would love to study the amazing diversity of life that the rainforests offer and the communities that they support. What intrigued me the most about Israel was the way Zionists had managed to grow food in a desert. They came and transformed a barren land into a garden.

 Digging into deep rocks to find aquifers and developing elaborate drip irrigation systems to conserve water permitted the beginning of a new culture with new crops. The entire society grew from a dream of living in peace with enough food to eat. 

When I learned about this I decided that after graduating I would like to go into the Peace Corps. My goal is to help improve agriculture in third-world countries, without imposing cultural assimilation. I feel this program would give me insight into rural communities that thrive without submitting to Westernization. 

Eventually, I would like to become a professor of Tropical Agriculture. Since I have been at Ohio University, I have realized what an impact one instructor can have on future generations. Last year I took a class entitled, "Plants and People". We learned about various plants, their origin, and how they have affected humans. 

While the subject was interesting, it was the professor that inspired me. Her lectures came to life with slides of trips she had taken and stories of collecting cassava with local shamans. Her passion is what led me to pursue Tropical Agriculture. I feel that the best teachers are those who can share their own experiences.

I also feel that knowledge gained through experience is of greater value than hours of reading. When I am able to meet the people and smell the plants that I am learning about, the lesson becomes my reality. It is hard for me to comprehend the full beauty that lies in Costa Rica. 

Hopefully, this program will give me the opportunity to explore what textbooks have only begun to explain. 

palm trees

This scholarship essay does a good job of emphasizing the applicant's deep commitment to environmental conservation and their determination to create a meaningful impact on the world. 

The essay begins with a powerful quote that sets the tone for the applicant's commitment to protecting the environment. It highlights their involvement in environmental activism, such as their efforts to stop long-wall coal mining and their belief in the importance of scientific evidence in environmental advocacy. 

This essay also demonstrates the applicant's global perspective gained through studying in Israel and their aspiration to join the Peace Corps to improve agriculture in developing countries. Additionally, it emphasizes the applicant's desire to become a professor of Tropical Agriculture and their belief in the value of experiential learning. 

Overall, this scholarship essay combines personal experiences, environmental advocacy, and career aspirations to make a compelling case for the scholarship.

FAQs: Writing a Scholarship Essay

Are you still wondering how to write a scholarship essay? Here are some frequently asked questions and expert guidance on writing good essays that will increase your chances of securing scholarships.

1. How Do You Start a Scholarship Essay?

To start a scholarship essay, begin with a captivating introduction that grabs the reader's attention and clearly states your purpose. Introduce yourself and provide background information relevant to the scholarship. 

Consider using a compelling anecdote, a thought-provoking question, or a powerful statement to engage the reader from the very beginning.

2. What Is the Format for a Scholarship Essay?

The format for a scholarship essay typically follows a standard structure, including an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Your introduction should both grab your reader’s attention as well as introduce the topic. 

The body paragraphs should present your main ideas, provide supporting evidence, and showcase your achievements and experiences. The conclusion should then summarize your main points and leave a lasting impression on the reader. It's important to adhere to any specific formatting guidelines provided by the scholarship organization.

3. What Not to Write in a Scholarship Essay?

When writing a scholarship essay, it's important to avoid certain pitfalls. First, avoid sharing irrelevant or unrelated information that does not contribute to your application. Second, steer clear of excessive self-promotion or bragging.

Instead, focus on highlighting your accomplishments and experiences with humility. Make sure to avoid controversial or sensitive topics that may offend or alienate the reader. Lastly, be cautious about using clichés or generic statements that don’t highlight your unique qualities or perspectives.

Now that you have a solid understanding of how to write your essay, you can get started. If you ever need a refresher, simply refer back to this guide. 

Mastering the art of writing a scholarship essay can open doors to numerous educational opportunities and financial support. By following the complete guide we've provided on how to write a scholarship essay, you now have the tools and knowledge to understand exactly how to ace your essay.

Remember to carefully plan your essay, focus on highlighting your strengths, and demonstrate your passion and commitment. With practice and dedication, you can craft a scholarship essay that sets you apart and increases your chances of getting the scholarship you deserve. Best of luck on your scholarship essay journey!

Final Thoughts

Writing a scholarship essay gives students a chance to potentially secure valuable educational opportunities, like getting into prestigious Ivy League schools . It also helps to reduce the high costs of education and is a great option for students who are on a tight budget or are applying from out of state . 

Be sure to follow our guide on how to write a scholarship essay, and make sure you have a clear understanding of the essay prompt before highlighting your personal experiences and achievements in your responses. 

Remember to proofread your essay and seek feedback for that extra polish. So, start writing, believe in yourself, and you’ll make a lasting impression with your scholarship essay. It's your time to shine and secure that scholarship!

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How to Start a Scholarship Essay

Last Updated: April 20, 2024 References

This article was co-authored by Jake Adams and by wikiHow staff writer, Jessica Gibson . Jake Adams is an academic tutor and the owner of Simplifi EDU, a Santa Monica, California based online tutoring business offering learning resources and online tutors for academic subjects K-College, SAT & ACT prep, and college admissions applications. With over 14 years of professional tutoring experience, Jake is dedicated to providing his clients the very best online tutoring experience and access to a network of excellent undergraduate and graduate-level tutors from top colleges all over the nation. Jake holds a BS in International Business and Marketing from Pepperdine University. There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 91,725 times.

College scholarships can be incredibly competitive and most of them have an essay component. While you may dread writing these essays, they're nothing to fear—the scholarship committee just wants to know a little more about you. With a strong introduction that hooks your reader, you're halfway there! But how do you start a scholarship essay? Here, you'll find some great ideas for how to start, along with some general writing strategies that you can carry through to the rest of your essay.

Sample Introduction and Template

how to make a college scholarship essay

Include the 3 key elements of an introduction.

Get your readers' attention, give an overview, and list a thesis statement.

  • A great intro sentence could be something like, "I never thought I'd have to raise my siblings," or, "On April 7, 1997, my life completely changed."
  • Your overview sentences could go on to say, "My parents struggled to look after us, so I become the only constant in my brothers' lives. I had to grow up fast, but I also learned a lot about myself in the process."
  • Your thesis statement might look like this, "I realized that I have a lot to offer and I'm starting a career in social work. This scholarship will give me the financial support that I need to start my educational journey."

Open with an element of surprise.

Use a surprising or shocking fact about yourself to draw in the reader.

  • For example, you might write: "If you looked at my parents' mantle, overflowing with trophies and medals, you'd probably conclude that I was an athlete. But what you wouldn't know is that I was born with only one leg."

Compare yourself to the scholarship's namesake.

Show what you have in common with the person for whom the scholarship is named.

  • For example, you might write: "Mary Lewis dedicated her life to improving her community with public vegetable gardens. Last year, I worked with fellow disabled students to create a sustainable vegetable garden at our school that was accessible to others with disabilities."

Raise a question.

Ask your readers a question to stir their curiosity about the answer.

  • For example, you might write: "For the past 4 years, I've volunteered with my local hospice. Why would a healthy, athletic young woman want to volunteer with people who are dying? Because I, too, have faced death. I know what it's like to be told you only have a few days to live."

Set the scene dramatically.

This option works well if you have a strong, compelling personal experience.

  • For example, suppose you're writing an essay about rescuing an injured dog and how that made you decide to become a veterinarian. You might write: "I could smell him before I saw him. Small and frail, he limped toward me. His fur was matted and he trembled. His large eyes were full of fear. He pleaded with me for help."

Include quotes with caution.

Use famous quotes only if you can quickly tie them to personal experience.

  • For example, you might write: "Nevertheless, she persisted." I never really understood the meaning of that rallying cry until, at 14 years old, I stood in front of the principal of my school to speak on behalf of myself and other disabled students."

Use buzzwords from the essay prompt.

Highlight important nouns and adjectives that apply to you.

Include a roadmap of your essay.

Share tangible, real-world examples that directly address the prompt.

  • For example, you might write: "My compassion for and special connection to animals spurred me to pursue a career in veterinary medicine." Then, in your essay, you would provide an instance that demonstrated your compassion and another that demonstrated that special connection.
  • Your roadmap doesn't necessarily have to be a "spoiler." For example, if the prompt is to "discuss a book or experience that made you want to be a writer," you might write: "While I'd always loved reading, I never considered writing stories myself until my 7th grade English teacher gave me a book for an extra-credit report." In your essay, you would then go on to discuss the report and name the book. [11] X Research source

Close your introduction with your thesis statement.

Your thesis statement tells your reader the purpose of your essay.

  • For example, if the prompt is to describe what sparked your interest in veterinary medicine, your thesis might be: "My experience rehabilitating stray dogs sparked my interest in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine."

Write in your own voice.

Let the reader know who you are from the first line.

  • Focus on standing out, not writing like everyone else. Although you can look at samples of other winning scholarship essays to get ideas, make sure the words in your essay are your own.
  • Your own perspective is key. For example, if you're a person of color, don't try to "whitewash" your essay. Scholarship committees like diversity, so if you try to cover up your identity, you're only hurting yourself.

Make your sentences active and concise.

Use short sentences and action verbs to make your writing pop.

  • For example, you might write: "I strive to demonstrate my passion for the environment every day. In my sophomore year, I started the recycling program at my school. As president of the environmental club, I teach fellow students what they can do to help save the world we live in."

Expert Q&A

Jake Adams

  • Have friends or family read your essay—they can give you tips on how to make it stronger. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Make your introduction short and sweet. The general rule is that the introduction should be about 10% of the total word count of your essay—this usually isn't many words! Most scholarship essay introductions only have 3-4 sentences. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

how to make a college scholarship essay

  • Typos can ruin an otherwise beautiful essay! Make sure you proofread carefully. [16] X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

You Might Also Like

Write a Statement of Purpose

  • ↑ https://scholarshipowl.com/blog/apply-for-scholarships/scholarship-essay-introduction/
  • ↑ https://www.owens.edu/writing/scholarship/
  • ↑ https://www.nitrocollege.com/blog/how-to-start-a-scholarship-essay
  • ↑ https://www.thecollegemonk.com/blog/scholarship-essay-introduction
  • ↑ Jake Adams. Academic Tutor & Test Prep Specialist. Expert Interview. 20 May 2020.
  • ↑ https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/ways-to-make-your-scholarship-essay-stand-out
  • ↑ https://www.internationalstudent.com/essay_writing/scholarship_essaysample/
  • ↑ https://online.maryville.edu/blog/how-to-write-a-scholarship-essay/
  • ↑ https://www.southuniversity.edu/news-and-blogs/2013/05/8trickstowritingstandoutscholarshipessays

About This Article

Jake Adams

To start a scholarship essay, open with an interesting story, experience, or anecdote to draw your reader in. Then, connect your opening to the broader topic or question you'll be addressing throughout your essay. If you need some inspiration for a good introduction, read the essays written by the previous winners of the scholarship you're applying for. Just make sure you use your own voice and experiences to write your essay so it comes across as authentic. To learn how to conduct research for your scholarship essay before you write it, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Home / Blog

How To Write a Scholarship Essay

February 15, 2019 

how to make a college scholarship essay

Image Source 

Paying for college is a top concern for many students in America today. Even just a generation ago, a student’s primary concern was more about getting into the college they preferred, instead of about being able to afford college at all. Now, young students are trying their best to budget and save up in order to afford a college education, and are planning ahead for how they will pay off their student loans.

As important as FAFSA is for most students , there are other options available to help students pay for their college education: mainly scholarships and grants. The best thing about these options? They don’t require repayment plans.

Debt.org notes on scholarships for students: “Each year, an estimated $46 billion in grants and scholarship money is awarded by the U.S. Department of Education and the nation’s colleges and universities. In addition, about $3.3 billion in gift aid is awarded by private sources, including individuals, foundations, corporations, churches, nonprofit groups, civic societies, veterans groups, professional groups, service clubs, unions, chambers of commerce, associations and many other organizations.”

But how can you take advantage of this $49.3 billion dollar (and growing) pool of grants and scholarships? Scholarships require either proof of academic excellence or that students meet a financial threshold, as well as completion of an application and, usually, a scholarship essay. Just as some colleges and universities require an entrance essay to apply, many scholarships also require an essay along with the application.

Writing an essay for school is one thing, but writing an essay to help you pay for college is another. Financial stability is on the line when it comes to scholarship applications, so writing a winning essay is key to impressing those granting the scholarships you’re applying for. Here are some tips to help you better prepare for your scholarship application and essay.

What Is a Scholarship Essay?

Scholarships are a form of student financial aid that do not require repayment, as long as you meet the terms of the award and use it as directed. They are often gifted based on merit, either through academic excellence, financial need (also known as “need-based” aid), or by meeting specific requirements set by the organization awarding the scholarship; such as specific scholarships or grants for women .

Aid may come from federal scholarship funds, state or local scholarship funds, or private organizations, such as churches, nonprofit groups, and more. Additionally, almost every scholarship will require an accompanying essay along with the application.

The scholarship essay varies depending on the requests of the organization granting the essay. It may require a specific word count, or be based on a prompt. Whatever the requirements are, it is essential to follow the guidelines presented in order to qualify for the scholarship. Preparing your essay is like writing a resume for financial aid, and depending on which scholarship you’re applying for, the competition may be anywhere from minimal to fierce. It’s important to write an essay that can stand out amongst the crowd of applicants.

Grant vs Scholarship

Although the terms “grant” and “scholarship” often refer to a similar idea — student financial aid that doesn’t require repayment — they are two fundamentally different awards. The key difference lies in how they are awarded, and where the funds are originating from.

Grants , such as Pell Grants, are typically awarded by the federal government and are generally awarded based on need rather than merit. There may be minimum requirements that recipients are required to live up to, such as family financial status limits, but these are often less specific than scholarship requirements are. Additionally, colleges and state agencies may also award grants based on need.

Scholarships on the other hand are often awarded based on merit. They may require that students meet (and sustain) a specific GPA in school, or that students with athletic excellence join the college’s sports team. Most scholarships will have rules that recipients are required to follow in order to continue to qualify for that scholarship. Many scholarships are funded by colleges, private organizations or donors, and some state or local programs.

Both grants and scholarships may require an accompanying essay with the application, although there are some rare cases of scholarships and grants that don’t require essays and are easier to obtain. Be cautious of fraudulent scholarships or online scams associated with “easy to obtain scholarships”, as they are becoming increasingly common online.

Steps for Writing a Scholarship Essay

Just as when applying to colleges, scholarship applications may require that you to send in your grades, academic achievements, test scores, and ambitions for the future. As such,  scholarship essays offer you the chance to speak to these accomplishments and ambitions. Here you can shine and win over the organization granting the scholarship.

Once you’ve found a scholarship that you qualify for or that interests you, it’s important to read over the instructions thoroughly to understand what is expected of you. Then, follow these steps to write the perfect application essay for the scholarship of your choosing:

The prompts can be anywhere from basic — “What was a challenging experience you faced in high school and how did you overcome it?” — to more complex or specific — “How has coffee helped you study for your SAT or ACT test?”

The prompt should help you start to formulate ideas on how you want to construct your essay. Be sure to fully understand what is expected of you by reading the instructions, and do your best to not stray from the topic being covered. Some essays may have a word or page count, while others may only request you answer the prompt.

Brainstorming is an important step to ensure your idea fits with the prompt and properly expresses what you are trying to communicate through your essay. You also want to make sure that you express what is meaningful and relevant about yourself that can help your essay stand out from all the others.

One of the best ways to start constructing and organizing an essay is to create a comprehensive outline. They serve as an essential tool to help you avoid structural mistakes, repetition, and to help you cover all your bases and ideas without rambling.

Your outline should read like a barebones argument for why you deserve this scholarship and how your idea relates to the prompt given. Once you start writing the essay in full, you can fill in more of the details needed to explain your point, or to describe yourself and your situation.

Scholarship Essay Formatting

Additionally, outlines can help you properly format your scholarship essay. Here are some essential tips for your scholarship essay format:

  • Introduction that ends with a thesis or idea
  • Explanation that supports and proves your thesis
  • Conclusion that reiterates your argument and thesis
  • 12 point font
  • Times New Roman, Arial, Courier, Helvetica, or Georgia font (whatever is standard on your preferred writing system, nothing too stylized)
  • Double spaced
  • 1 inch to 1 ½ inch margins
  • If there is no required word or page count, as a general rule, aim for ¾ to 1 full page in length.
  • Be sure to include your name and the name of the scholarship you are applying for near the top of the page (either as a header or simply above the optional title).

Once you’ve brainstormed and outlined your article, you can officially start writing the piece. Be sure to follow your outline and cover all of the key ideas that you came up with while brainstorming. Be concise, avoid rambling, and ensure your point is clearly stated. Also ensure you’ve formatted your essay correctly and stay true to the word or page count, if applicable.

Take a Break

Once you’ve completed your first draft, you should take a break from writing. Go outside and take a walk, or spend some time cleaning — anything to help you get your mind off the essay so that you can return later with fresh eyes. If you find it hard not to think about the essay, wait a day (or even a few days) before coming back to reread it.

In general, spending time away from your work can help you clear your mind. When you do come back, you may be more likely to notice mistakes or see gaps which require elaboration. For any essay you write, this is always a helpful tip.

As you return to your essay, go through and nitpick your work. Use your fresh mind to rewrite sections or include more (or less) context, as needed. Ask yourself if the core idea that you came up with during your brainstorm is still apparent in the article. Are you communicating your ideas clearly?

Additionally, keep an eye out for grammatical mistakes, such as missing or too many commas, misspellings, or other typos. If you notice repetitive words, utilize a thesaurus to find acceptable replacements. Once you’ve gone through your essay, you can submit it as is, or you can follow the optional next step.

Peer Review

For many people, it can be hard for them to revise their own work because they hold biases about their writing or are unaware of personal mistakes. Asking another person to review your work may help you refine your essay even more. Additionally, having another person read over your essay can help you determine the clarity of your point: do they understand the flow of your piece, or are they confused by any information? Does the context you provide make sense to the overall idea, or does the reader still have questions?

If you have a friend, relative, mentor, or peer that has editing experience — or that is simply a voracious reader — ask them if they can take a moment to look over your piece and make comments or suggestions. You may be surprised at what they find that you missed!

Scholarship Essay Tips

Your scholarship essay is going to be your primary (and sometimes sole) form of communication with the organization granting the scholarship. That’s why it’s so important to communicate directly and clearly through your essay in order to attract their attention and garner their support. Here are some additional tips to help you better communicate your intentions through your scholarship essay:

How To Start a Scholarship Essay

First impressions matter, and your introductory paragraph will serve as your first impression to the scholarship organization. Refer back to your brainstorm to help identify your message and consider how to attract the attention of the reader through your introductory paragraph. For some people, it may also help to construct or outline the body of the essay before you construct the introduction, so as to better understand how to concisely get your message across.

Once you’ve properly outlined the entirety of your essay, you can start writing. In your introductory paragraph you’ll want to state in clear and succinct language who you are, why you are interested in college and this scholarship (or your hopeful direction), and what the reader will find in your essay.

Be Personal

Another important point to keep in mind while you’re writing is that this essay isn’t a book report (unless otherwise stated in the prompt); this essay is about you. Don’t write impersonally, but take a personal tone: use “I, me, myself” or other personal pronouns and avoid general statements unless they relate to your situation.

Through your writing you should also be revealing some of your motivations pertaining to why you’re going to school and why you’re seeking out this scholarship. Discuss how you will become an effective student in the coming years, and how you’ll make good use of the money you may be awarded. You may have more freedom to write about yourself in detail for some scholarship prompts, and less of the same freedom for others. Use your discretion.

Stay Focused

When you originally brainstormed your essay topic, you should have been able to narrow down your topic to just a few key points that you could communicate and cover in detail. As you fully flesh out your essay, you should ensure that you stay focused on these core ideas. Try not to ramble or get side tracked. Every sentence in your essay should be related in some way to one of your core ideas. If it’s not, delete it or rewrite the sentence so that it does relate.

Be Succinct

It’s important to keep in mind that your essay most likely won’t be more than a page, double spaced. Since you don’t have a lot of room for fluff or non-essential information, it’s important to stay focused, to the point, and brief.

Additionally, the organization that is awarding the scholarship is most likely going to be reading hundreds (sometimes thousands) of scholarship applications and essays. Everyone will most likely be working off the same prompt, so you’ll want to ensure that your essay stands out, gets straight to the point, and doesn’t waste any of the reader’s time.

Follow Instructions

Finally, the most important tip is to simply read and reread the instructions multiple times to ensure you understand the prompt, what is expected of you, and all of the other essential guidelines pertaining to your essay.

While you should be sure to do this before you start writing, you should also do this after you’ve written the piece. Simply double check your work against the requirements set by the scholarship organization, and make sure you’re following the instructions to the letter. Essays that don’t follow instructions will most likely be thrown out first, and you don’t want your hard work to go to waste simply because you forgot something in the instructions.

Scholarship Essays for Online Students

If you’ve decided to pursue your education through an online bachelor’s degree or master’s degree program , it can be even more important to communicate effectively through your scholarship essay. It is entirely possible that you will never meet your collegiate benefactors or professors in person, and will only communicate with them via your writing online.

Luckily, there are some unique scholarships out there that are aimed just for online or “distance learning” students. Keep in mind, even some of the smaller scholarships (such as those for $50-$500) can still help you pay for books, online texts or subscriptions, or other essential learning materials.

Writing an imaginative and thoughtful scholarship essay can help you pay for online schooling for either a bachelors or masters degree program. It can also get you started on the right foot to have a solid financial aid foundation to pursue your college dreams.

Whether you’re writing one scholarship essay or many, these tips will help you make a solid first impression, and hopefully will win over whichever scholarship organization you’re targeting.

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How to Write a Scholarship Essay?

31 July, 2020

15 minutes read

Author:  Elizabeth Brown

College years are a beautiful season. That being said, we have to admit that it is also quite pricey. Young people spend long hours working part-time during college and full-time after the graduation just to get out of the student loans. However, there is a bright side to all this...

Scholarship Essay

A high-quality scholarship essay can keep your pockets full. The truth is that you have a chance to qualify for financial aid from your college. And all it takes is an essay for scholarship crafted in accordance with the college’s requirements.

Already wondering how to get an essay that will help you grab a piece of that multi-billion scholarship pie?   Handmade Writing has it all covered!

Game f Loans: The interest is coming

Not only we’ve gathered several scholarship essay examples but also created a list of scholarship essay format styles that will make the writing much easier and way more fun.

So, let’s get this show on the road!

Scholarship Essay Outlines

Like any other piece of academic writing, this paper requires a specific structure and outline. They help you keep your thoughts organized while walking the reader step by step through your paper.

Don’t view outlines as a boring routine part of the job. When done correctly, it can take your writing to a new level!

Related Post: Essay outline guide

Typically, a scholarship essay consists of three main parts: an introduction, main body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Each one of these parts has its own purpose and value. Thus, none should be ignored or underrated.

An Introduction.

When working on an introductory paragraph to your scholarship essay, consider three of its main parts: a hook, a thesis statement, and an engaging sentence to grab readers’ attention. The thesis statement for scholarship essay writing is at the core of a successful piece. It helps the audience understand what this text will focus on and how relevant it is to the main idea of your paper. It is in your best interest to make it as exciting as possible. If you want to find out more on how to craft a quality thesis statement, check our  thesis statement guide .

Main Body Paragraphs.

Each main body paragraph should begin with an argument that supports the thesis. Next comes the evidence that backs up the author’s position. And last but not least is a conclusion that briefly summarizes this paragraph’s main idea.

A Conclusion.

Even though it stands at the end of your piece, a conclusion plays a vital role in the overall success of a scholarship essay. It might be the only thing readers remember in the long run. So, you’d better make it memorable. Remind the audience of reasons to choose you a winner of their scholarship essay contests and promise they won’t regret it.

Remember that you don’t have to write too many details in an outline. Your only goal at this stage is to create a certain structure you will stick to while writing. Throw more ideas later on, while brainstorming or developing the first draft.

Vital elements of a scholarship essay outline

Now, let’s look at each part of an outline closer. We’ll show you tips for writing scholarship essays in practice.

By the way, check out our  process essay guide  to learn how to craft the best process papers ever!

How to Start off a Scholarship Essay?

If you don’t know how to start a scholarship essay, here is our first tip: identify the main idea of your essay. Here is what we mean.

Read the scholarship essay prompts carefully, preferably several times. Make sure you understand what exactly the admissions board wants you to focus on.

If there are no prompts, brainstorm answers to the following questions:

  • What makes me a perfect candidate for this scholarship?
  • Why should the college help me financially?
  • What achievements should I talk about when requesting the scholarship from this college?

These answers will help you find the best way to start a scholarship essay. They will guide you. So, open your essay with an answer to these questions. Present it in the thesis statement and move on to the next part.

Main Body Paragraphs

Now comes the time to learn how to write a personal statement essay for scholarships. Once you introduce the audience to the purpose of your essay, start the presentation the main point of which lies in creating a personal statement.

Depending on the size of your essay, you might split this part into several paragraphs . Each of them can have a headline and a short paragraph explaining it.

One of the worthy personal statement for scholarship sample essays we want to introduce you to is by University of Minnesota. It has everything a good scholarship application essay needs: a personal perspective, an engaging introduction, the clear structure, answers to the questions mentioned above , etc. So, give it a read and use the author’s example to apply to your writing.

To put it short, every paragraph should start with an argument that supports the thesis statement you talked about in an introduction. Next comes the evidence for the argument. In the case of this type of writing, it should base on your personal experience, achievements or aspirations. Finally, wrap up with a short conclusion to each individual paragraph.

How to End Your Essay?

All good scholarship essays follow this structure. Now that you are working on a conclusion remember that it might be the only thing the admissions board members will remember after finishing your piece. So, you’d better make it memorable.

Proper college scholarship essay conclusions restate the thesis statement and all the arguments you used to support your position. Don’t make it too long. Just remind the board of what you were talking about above and move on to call them to action . In your case, an action you want to call them too is giving you the scholarship. Don’t sound pushy, yet don’t hesitate to remind about your request in the end.

Here is what the  University of Minnesota presented on their website as a good conclusion to a paper. It’s written by a determined single mother willing to study at their university. And it goes as follows:

“As a single parent with inconsistent child support, the Carol E. Macpherson scholarship would be of great assistance in supporting my goal to finish my degree. I work 25 hours a week and have chosen not to work full‐time to avoid daycare costs and to be there to provide guidance for my children after school. The Carol E. Macpherson Scholarship provides a chance for people who are struggling to return to school, to become the exception and succeed. I hope to become one of those special people.”

It sounds convincing and goes along with the overall message . We definitely recommend reading this scholarship essay and learning from it.

Scholarship Essay Examples

Now, we understand that learning the theory is important. But seeing real-life examples is a better way to learn.

That is why we’ve gathered a list of good scholarship essays  we’re sure you will find useful too.

There might be several ways on how to write a good scholarship essay. It all starts with winning scholarship essay topics.   

“Why I deserve this scholarship” essay mainly focuses on your strengths. Your goal here is to present your strengths so that the admissions board understands how hard-working you are and how valuable your input into college life is. Thus, brainstorm ideas on how you make this college a better place or what you have done or want to do to strengthen the image of a particular educational establishment.

Here is one of amazing  college scholarship essay examples  presented by the San Diego State University.

“As an undergraduate student, I dedicated my best efforts toward my education, and as a result, I graduated with high honors from the University of California, Santa Barbara earning a B.A. in Communications. I soon attained full-time employment with the San Diego Center for Children, a residential treatment program for children with severe emotional disturbances. My main responsibilities are to aid children in learning and carrying out daily living skills, counsel them in their relations with peers and adults, serve as a responsible role model, and to work closely with other members of the treatment team, such as therapists and social workers implementing the Center’s programs.”

Here the author mentions what he is currently doing well and what makes him a #1 candidate for the scholarship. He is currently working hard in this area aiming to make a difference in the lives of people that need it the most. These are our “Why I deserve this scholarship” essay tips. But this is not the only topic you can opt for.

“How will this scholarship help you achieve your goals” essay is completely different at its core. This written piece should focus on how your college can help you achieve your personal or career goals. Even though here you should talk about your strengths and aspirations too, you should mainly focus on ways this particular educational establishment can help you.

The University of Michigan-Flint has offered the following example on their site.

“My life has been a struggle at times, but my hard work, determination, and enthusiasm for my education and my community has brought to UM Flint where I can pursue my dreams. I am the oldest of four children being raised by a single parent. My mother, Charlene Jackson, is a hardworking woman who struggles to keep food on the table; I work two jobs to help support my family, but we barely scrape by. Because my mom is endeavoring through these hard times, I try my best to keep my grades up, knowing that I have opportunities that my mother never had.”

The message is short and to the point. The author is an A-grade student who wants to obtain a degree but doesn’t have enough funds for it. In his case, the university can help him a lot.

You can also craft a study abroad scholarship essay. In it, you must explain why y ou deserve to get a scholarship to study abroad. While most students want to go abroad just to travel, this is not a good enough reason for the admissions board to pick you. Instead, you should do a background check on the educational establishment, curriculum, and extracurricular activities offered by the college and explain why you so desperately want to be a part of them.

“I am an undergraduate student of the ABC University. My major is English Literature with the focus on the Victorian and Post-colonialism authors. With literature being my passion, I am overwhelmed with an opportunity to participate at XYZ program. From the curriculum, I know that a significant part of our time at college will be dedicated to ABC, and I’m sure it’ll be not only a great experience but also a fantastic investment into my future career. I am hoping to write a dissertation after attending this program. That is why I am applying for the scholarship.”

Finally, there is another thing you cannot afford missing your essay to get a scholarship. This thing is a proper scholarship essay format.

Related Post: Argumentative essay topics

How to Format a Scholarship Essay?

If the format style is not specified by the university, opt for these scholarship essay guidelines:

Scholarship essay format guidelines

However, often the choice of the format for your essay depends on the university you apply for. Check out the requirements posted by the admissions board to make sure you are applying proper formatting.

Four most common formats for such an essay are  APA, MLA, Chicago, and Harvard format styles. To learn more about each of these format styles for a scholarship essay, check out our  essay format guide .

Scholarship Essay Tips

Keep these tips to writing a scholarship essay in mind when working on your piece:

  • Focus on your own experience. This essay should explain what makes you stand out from other applicants and why this particular scholarship should be yours.
  • Keep it short. Eliminate unnecessary details not answering the question of why choose you.
  • Use proper structure. The structure can keep you organized. So, don’t underestimate its importance.
  • Edit and proofread your essay. There is nothing like poor grammar or embarrassing spelling mistakes to kill a winning scholarship essay. So, once you finish working on the piece, consider proofreading it or asking friends or parents to help you out with it.
  • Don’t postpone it till the last minute. Don’t risk the success of your project by writing it the last night. This is an important task, and you should dedicate enough time and effort to working on it.

Education is an expensive pleasure. However, you can always save some money by crafting a winning scholarship essay and getting financial support from the college of your dream. So, use tips by HandMadeWriting essay writer  and write the best paper ever!

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6 Awesome Scholarship Essays That Worked

When it comes to paying for college, scholarships are the best form of financial aid, since they offer students free money that never needs to be repaid. But let’s face it: completing scholarship applications, especially the essays, can feel overwhelming. The scholarship essay is arguably the most important part of the application and should be well-thought-out. In this article, we’ll walk  through five scholarship essay examples and explain why they worked, so that you can write your own winning scholarship essays .

Here are 6 winning scholarship essay examples that worked:

Why this scholarship essay example worked:, how could this essay have been better , want more resources on writing your scholarship essay, get started with your scholarship essay.

The essay is your chance to let your personality and life experiences shine through, giving you the opportunity to stand out from other applicants.

The best way to get an idea of what scholarship committees are looking for is to look over scholarship essay examples from past winners. Take some time to analyze the writing style, think about the strong points, and consider how you can improve. Below, we’ll show you just how you might dissect a scholarship essay.

Searching for scholarship essay examples

1. Going Merry Scholarship Success Story by Gabby DeMott

What’s a winning scholarship essay look like? Check out this Going Merry success story with Gabby DeMott.

ESSAY PROMPT: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

“There were only a few minutes to go and our eyes were glued to the screen. On the edge of our seats, clutching whoever happened to be next to us, we watched as the referee blew his whistle and the German players took their free kick. The ball was hit with precision and skill; it flew up over the Swedish players, past their goalie, and was caught safely in the back of the opposing team’s net. We all jumped up and screamed, a mixture of German and English, of excitement and relief, of pride and anticipation.

We stood, enraptured, for the last several minutes of the game as Germany kept its 2-1 lead over Sweden. The horde of us, Germans and Americans alike, hugged and cheered and made our way out onto the balcony, where we chanted “Deutschland! Deutschland! Deutschland!” for the whole village, the whole country, the whole world to hear. Never have I felt so accepted while being an outsider, so proud of a country that isn’t even mine, so part of something I didn’t really belong to.

My German friends didn’t care that we were from different countries; they didn’t care that we would only be staying for three weeks. They accepted us into their homes and their daily lives, their traditions and their celebrations. In watching that World Cup game, it didn’t matter that we were from different places; we were all cheering for the same team. The acceptance I felt in Germany extended beyond that living room. I came to the country on a three week exchange with ten other students from my school.

We each stayed with host families and attended the Wildermuth Gymnasium, which was surprisingly accommodating to a gaggle of loud American teenagers. The teachers were friendly and welcoming, the students treated us like ordinary peers, and even the people I interacted with in public were understanding.

Before coming to Germany I feared judgment based on my level of the language (which is nowhere near as good as the German students’ English) and American politics. It was intimidating to be in a country with limited knowledge of the language and the customs, even though everyone was welcoming. People did ask myself and the other students about the US’s political climate, but no one blamed us for it. They recognized that we were outsiders, that the place we came from had flaws, and they accepted us anyway.

Since that trip, I’ve found myself trying to provide that acceptance to people in my own country. For example, I work at a canoe livery and we receive a lot of visitors with limited English. Some of my coworkers will avoid such customers because they don’t want to take the time to explain things, to exercise patience with someone who may not understand them. If people had done this to me in Germany, my time there would have been much less enjoyable; in fact, I would have been offended.

So now when someone walks up to me at the livery and asks a question in English that isn’t perfect, I smile and welcome them. I take my time to make sure they understand, that they can have a good time, and that they feel accepted. It’s a small action, but I know firsthand that it can make a big impact, at my place of work and in the world. “

  • It shares a personal story of realization. Gabby’s essay throws us right in the middle of the action in her story, from her perspective. She paints a clear picture of where she is, how she feels, and what her goals were in that moment. She then goes on to explain the unity of the German and American students to introduce other people in the essay. LESSON TO TAKE : When including additional people in an essay, introduce them early on so you can continue telling your story in an organic way.
  • She reflects on her previous fears and explains how she’s moved past those to grow. In the fifth paragraph, Gabby shares how she feared judgment due to her level of the German language and American politics. As Gabby became more familiar with the host families and her German friends, she realizes they accepted her, and she relaxes. LESSON TO TAKE: Sharing a story in sequential order can help illustrate personal growth and how your character changed for the better.
  • She answers the prompt and demonstrates how she’ll put her newfound knowledge in action. Once Gabby realized her German friends and host family accepted her, regardless of her fears, that sparked a realization for her when she returned home to America. Gabby concludes her essay by explaining how she’s providing that same acceptance she received in another country to acquaintances and people in her country, to be patient, help them enjoy themselves, and to welcome them.  LESSON TO TAKE : Consider concluding your essay with a wrap-up of what you learned, and how you plan to apply that lesson in your life.

2. Who is a “Good” Doctor? by Joseph Lee

Below is a winning essay from Joseph Lee, Rush Medical College for the Giva Scholarship.

ESSAY PROMPT: Who is (or what makes) a good doctor?

“Had you asked me the same question one year ago, my answer would have been vastly different to the one I will give today. In the summer of 2012, with my first year of medical school completed, I embarked upon my last official summer vacation with two things in mind: a basketball tournament in Dallas and one in Atlanta. My closest friends and I had been playing in tournaments for the past 10 summers, and it was a sacred bond forged together in the name of competition. However, two weeks before our first tournament, I became instantly and overwhelmingly short of breath. Having been born to Korean immigrant parents, I was raised to utilize the hospital in emergency cases only, and I knew this was such a case. A few scans later, doctors discovered numerous pulmonary emboli (PE), caused by a subclavian deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and just like that, I was lying in a bed of a major hospital for a life threatening condition.

Fast forward a few months, and I am lying in a similar bed to treat the underlying cause of the subclavian DVT: a first rib removal. There is little that can adequately prepare someone physically, emotionally or spiritually to undergo surgery; and my thoughts continued to race in the days following. In addition to the expected physical pain, isolation, fear and frustration were a few of the emotions I experienced in the four day ordeal. The procedure went according to plan thanks to a skilled surgeon and his team, but the attributes that made the doctor “good” went far beyond his ability to operate.

“Wow. I’m glad you are feeling better” and “I can’t believe you went through that” are common reactions people have when they see the scars on my upper chest. Quite frankly, the past nine months have been difficult, literally full of blood, sweat and tears. But through it all, I have been able to maintain my positivity and gratitude knowing that I have gained the invaluable experience of being a patient and discovering the vulnerability and trust that patients give their doctors. Patients indulge information to doctors that they may have never told anyone in their life and in doing so, place a great deal of trust and responsibility in the hands of a doctor. Many patients will not understand the mechanism of disease behind their condition and anticipate that the doctor will explain to them and their family why it is that they are feeling the way they are and ultimately heal them. And that is precisely what my surgeon understood: the privilege of being able to care for patients and the intimacy of the doctor-patient relationship. And as I awoke to the care of my worried parents, the first thing they wanted to discuss was the details of the procedure that was methodically and patiently explained to them by my “good” doctor.

In study after study, patients have reported dissatisfaction with their medical care, not because of lack of knowledge or health outcome, but because their doctors did not show enough warmth in the encounter or listen to the patient’s questions and concerns. There are few times where a patient and their loved ones are more vulnerable and in need of compassion than when dealing with a hospitalization. And for some doctors, a patient may be another item on a checklist, but that patient is someone’s mother or father, son or daughter, sister or brother. My “good” doctor understood this and would often say “If you were my son…” when discussing treatment options, reflecting on the type of care he would want for his family and treating me similarly. Such ideals are rooted in love and compassion for patients, not as clients in the health care system, but as fellow human beings striving to make something of themselves and the world around them (I).

Unfortunately, the ordeal of living with a chronic illness or undergoing a major operation extends beyond the confines of the hospital. Whether it is creditors harassing patients for medical bills, prescriptions that need to be refilled, or lifestyle modifications that need to be made, the health care experience doesn’t end when a patient walks out of the hospital doors. It often takes merely a minute, as in the case of the “good” doctor who told me that as a student I could apply to get the procedure financially covered by the hospital. Such foresight in anticipating financial concerns and directing me on the next steps to be taken provided relief in the surmounting stress.

Lastly, the “good” doctor understands that as our patients are human, so are we. This means we will make mistakes, some of which can result in life-threatening consequences. With that said, the “good” doctor practices humility and honesty, apologizing and sharing as much information with patients as possible. Although no one strives to make mistakes, they will happen, and how one reacts to them is a distinguishing feature of the “good” doctor (II).

Of all the qualities I tried to explain in what makes a “good” doctor, there was no emphasis on skill and knowledge. And while being able to fulfill the duties of making the correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment plans is expected, the intangibles of love, compassion, foresight and honesty is what makes a doctor, “good”. I learned such lessons in the purest manner possible, by being a patient myself, and will use them to guide me in all future patient encounters, as I strive to be a “good” doctor.”

  • It tells a captivating story. This essay immediately pulls the reader in, immersing the audience right in the story. . We want to know how Joseph’s definition of a good doctor changed and why it did so. Hooking your reader from the first sentence of your essay or even the first paragraph is a surefire way to keep your reader engaged in the story you’re telling. The story itself is also told really well, with good pacing and just enough detail to elicit empathy without causing boredom. (He could have easily given too much scientific/medical detail!)  LESSON TO TAKE : When telling an anecdote, consider how much detail is the right amount, to make it engaging.
  • It’s a list, without you realizing it’s a list. After the first 2 paragraphs (which are mostly story-telling), the rest of the essay is effectively a list of ways that doctors are “good”: they recognize the intimacy and trust involved in the doctor-patient relationship (paragraphs 3-4), they anticipate future sources of patient stress (paragraph 5), and they exercise humility (paragraph 6). Joseph could have easily structured the essay simply by saying “There are 3 main things that make a doctor good” and then explaining each idea. However, that would have been much more boring! Instead, he expertly hides the list format, by couching it in an engaging story. LESSON TO TAKE: Not all list-type essays need to feel like lists.
  • It’s personal and believable. Joseph takes a negative personal experience, shows what he learned from it and how it caused him to grow as a person. Sometimes essays about singular, defining moments or experiences can seem blown out of proportion and thus not credible. This one feels right: a big ordeal in his life that has therefore shifted his perspective.  LESSON TO TAKE : Consider which personal stories to tell, and make sure the “size” of the story feels right.

3. Life Happens Scholarship by Emily Trader

Here is an example of a moving scholarship essay on the topic of family loss by Emily Trader for the Life Happens award.

ESSAY PROMPT: How has the death of a parent or guardian impacted your life financially and emotionally? Be sure to describe how the loss of your parent/guardian impacted your college plans, and explain how the lack of adequate (or any) life insurance coverage has impacted your family’s financial situation.

“When I was seventeen years old, my father lost his battle with kidney failure and cardiovascular disease. As long as I shall live, I do not believe that I will ever forget the first moment I saw my father’s once vibrant face in that cold and unforgiving casket. I won’t forget his lifeless and defeated hands, or how his pale lips would never utter another joke or speak to his grandchildren. Even though the day of his funeral was undoubtedly the worst day of my life, I wish I could relive it just to be with him one more time. Since that moment, I have felt as if all of my grief and longing resides underneath my skin with nothing to relieve the pressure. On September 8th, 2016, I lost my voice of reason, my confidant, my cheerleader, and my best friend.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had lost so much more. Upon my father’s passing, he left us with funeral and medical expenses that his insurance would not cover. Because he did not have any form of life insurance, the financial burden of his death was now the responsibility of my mother and me. Even though my mother works night shifts as a neonatal nurse and her commute is nearly two hours, she was forced to pick up extra shifts to support my family. Though I already had a job and I worked about ten hours a week, I now work anywhere from twenty-five to thirty-five hours a week, and I am also a full-time high honor student. Even though the death of my father forced me to realize the importance of cherishing time with my family, I do not see them very often because of our busy schedules. I also sacrificed my social life and the joy that every senior in high school should experience. Instead of football games and homecoming, I had to deal with mourning and the possibility that I would not attend college because of my family’s financial troubles.

If my father had a life insurance policy, we would not have to work ourselves to the bone and sacrifice our physical and emotional well-being to keep up with expenses. I would not have to worry so intensely about the future of my education on top of the crippling grief that I have felt over the last five months. If this devastating experience has taught me anything, it is this: financial planning for these situations is absolutely invaluable. I will not soon forget the stress and despair that I have experienced, and I now realize that to have a life insurance policy is to throw your surviving family members a crucial lifeline. Though no one can ever prepare you for the trauma of losing a parent, life insurance allows you to grieve without the constant stress of financial burden, and for that reason, it is an absolutely essential precaution.

I love and miss you so much, Dad. Thank God I will see you again.”

  • She answers the prompt . It would be easy to write an essay that just spoke to her grief, or to what her father was like and how much he meant to her. But the essay prompt asks applicants to reflect on how the loss has affected the student emotionally and financially. Emily does a great job of this, by connecting the financial parts (she and her mother needing to pick up extra hours of work), with the emotional (due to the work schedule, the family not being able to spend as much time together). She also addresses how this might affect her college plans. LESSON TO TAKE : 
  • She provides (beautiful) detail. The first paragraph immediately pulls the reader in because of the detailed description she provides (“ his lifeless and defeated hands”, “pale lips” ). Similarly, the specificity of how her family is shouldering the financial burden (e.g. her working 25-to-35-hour weeks) make it feel more real rather than generic.  LESSON TO TAKE : Use details and descriptions to make something feel more emotional and tangible.
  • She knows her audience . This scholarship is funded by Life Happens, an organization formed by seven leading insurance providers, in order to educate the public about important insurance planning topics. Clearly Emily researched the provider and understood that an essay that spoke to the importance of insurance planning would be well-received by the essay readers. LESSON TO TAKE : Research the scholarship provider and adjust your content to fit the organization’s or company’s mission statement (or business model).

4. Going Merry Scholarship Success Story by Jesus Adrian Arroyo-Ramirez

Jesús Adrian Arroyo-Ramirez wrote a winning scholarship essay (and video!) that he submitted on Going Merry . He earned an outstanding $40,000 through the Golden Door Scholarship.

ESSAY PROMPT: What differentiates you from the hundreds of DACA students who apply to our scholarship? Use one of those opportunities to tell us something else we cannot see just by looking at your grades, test scores, and transcripts.

“I always knew I was different than my friends in some way. Growing up, I struggled to speak English while everyone else had little to no problems. I needed extra help in school while my friends coasted by with ease. My friends would hop on planes and travel all around the world while I had to stay at home. At the age of 13 all of my friends started driving while I still couldn’t.

I built up the courage and asked my mother why I did not have access to the simple liberties everyone else did. My name Is Jesus Adrian Arroyo-Ramirez, and I was illegally brought to this country when I was just six years old. At the time I had no clue that I was breaking any laws, and I did not realize the fact that my life was going to change forever. Growing up with a different citizenship situation than my peers was and still is the biggest challenge I have to face in my life.

Looking back there is not a single thing that I would change. Knowing that I had to work harder than everyone else lead me to be the person that I am today. I took that fire inside of me, pushed myself, graduated first in my class with a cumulative 4.0 GPA, became a Kansas Scholar, and graduated High School with a semester’s worth of college credit. In November of 2016, everything began to look up for me. I received a work permit and a social security card all thanks to the DACA program. I was finally able to get my license, get a job, and most importantly attend college.

I plan to continue my success in the classroom and do everything to the best of my ability as I know that under my current circumstances it can all be ripped away from me at any moment. Growing up with my situation has taught me to not take advantage of a single opportunity. There has been continued support around me past and current and I know there are people out there rooting for my success. I will strive to be the first generation in my family to graduate from an American University and I will set a stepping stone for my future family so they will not have to struggle as I did. My citizenship is not a setback, it is a mere obstacle that I will always learn to work around if it means giving my future children a better life, just like my mother did for me.”

  • He shares how hardships made him who he is today. Right off the bat, Jesus sets the tone for his essay by sharing how he struggled to speak English and that he was not given the same opportunities as his peers. He shares his mother’s explanation on why he lived a different life, along with his honesty in the challenges of growing up with a different citizenship situation than the teens around him. LESSON TO TAKE : Share personal details (as you feel comfortable), and consider including a defining memory or conversation hat contributes to your story. This can help paint a picture of your beginnings or your inspirations.
  • He includes emotional details. Although Jesus grew up with hardships, he persevered and mentions he wouldn’t change anything. It may have taken a little longer than his peers to get his license, but he also excelled in school, pushed himself to graduate first in class, and take college courses on top of all that. LESSON TO TAKE : Tell your story with details, feelings, thoughts and emotions to explain where you came from and where you are now.
  • He plans for the future . Jesus shared his personal story with us, and then explains how he plans to continue his success without letting anything get in the way of his path. He goes on to say his citizenship is not a setback, and that he works to provide a better life for himself and for his future children. LESSON TO TAKE : Include your plan at the end of the essay. Consider how you’ve grown and how you will bring these lessons learned with you to help your future.

5. Why College Is Important to Me by Nicole Kuznetsov

Here’s an example of a simple yet creative and heartfelt essay on the popular prompt, Why is college important to you?

ESSAY PROMPT: Why do you want to go to college? Why is it important to you?

“As a child, my life had structure. Coloring books had lines, letters took on very specific shapes, and a system of rules governed everything from board games to the classroom. I found comfort in the fact that my future had an easy-to-follow template: elementary, middle, and high school, college, job, family retirement, “happily ever after” ending. When I graduated from elementary school I was told I completed 25% of my education. During my middle school graduation, I was told I was halfway there and I know I’ll be told I’m 75% done when I throw my cap in the air this June. College was always factored into the percentage and the overall formula for life. And I never questioned its importance. I always figured it is important because it is necessary.

Going to college makes sense. From helping my parents land stable jobs after coming to America to giving my brother the chance to gain work experience at some of the top financial firms, college educations have shown their worth in my family. Yet I didn’t think about what actually goes on inside the magical universities until I entered high school. Applying to the Academy for Math, Science, and Engineering was the first time I had actively made a decision in my education. With the encouragement of my parents and favorite science teacher who recognized that I would excel in the challenging environment of like-minded students, I applied. Four years later, I can confidently say they were right.

My class of twenty-six has shown me the benefits of a collaborative rather than a competitive environment, especially the impact that camaraderie with my peers has on our collective learning experience. Each student has an inspiring level of passion and motivation that made me excited to learn, work on projects, and participate in discussions both in and out of the classroom. I used my education to gain skills and open doors for myself such as an internship at my local hospital. I gained confidence in my abilities to communicate with individuals from strangers my age to practicing professionals. I was thinking longer and harder than I ever had before to solve individual problems and large-scale challenges. In all honesty, I was having fun.

Looking back on my years at the Academy I realize how big of an impact the school made on how I view education. I wasn’t coming to school to mark another day off my calendar and inch closer to finishing the next 25%. I came to school to learn and question and push myself. Now, as a senior, I’m excited. I’m thankful for the sample that my high school gave me of what learning is supposed to be like and thankful that it left me wanting more. I’m entering college in August with a new understanding of its importance. It is important because it is what I want for my future.”

  • It finds structure through chronology . This essay is basically structured like a chronological timeline: As a child, I believed this. Then I applied to this high school (my first active academic decision). Then the high school changed me. Now I’m a senior and I believe this. Not all stories are best told in time order, but the simplest stories often are. And simple stories provide structure, which scholarship committees love. LESSON TO TAKE: Consider structuring your essay like a timeline, emphasizing the milestones along the way that have led you to where you are today. 
  • It is simply told . While the essay is descriptive, it doesn’t try to get fancy with overly flowery language or unnecessarily long SAT words. And that’s the strength of it. For instance, this passage [“ College was always factored into the percentage and the overall formula for life. And I never questioned its importance. I always figured it is important because it is necessary” ] explains her child’s logic in a really clear and well-written way. 
  • It’s got (mostly) great topic sentences . We here at Going Merry love a good topic sentence– that is, a sentence at the beginning (or end) of a paragraph that summarizes the rest of the paragraph. It helps “signpost” the most important parts of your essay. Here, three of the four paragraphs (1, 2, and 4) have strong and concise topic sentences. “As a child, my life had structure” sets up the rest of the paragraph to explain what these structures and unquestioned rules were. “Going to college makes sense” sets up why college made sense to her parents. 

6. Financial Literacy for Hispanic Women by Rosaisha Ozoria

The inaugural Founder’s Scholarship supported by the New York Women’s Bond Club in honor of Michaela Walsh goes to two New York City public high school students who won an essay competition writing about their hopes for the future of women and girls worldwide . Winners of this scholarship won a trip to accompany Women’s World Banking to Amman, Jordan for their biennial gathering of WWB network members.

PROMPT: Write about your hopes for the future of women and girls worldwide.

WINNING ESSAY:

“Twice a week I head down to volunteer at the Los Sures Social Services office, situated next to the local senior citizen home, to help at the food pantry. We distribute food to people in my neighborhood. Many are familiar faces. Many are middle-aged Hispanic women with children dangling from their hips like grass skirts. These women are there as a result of their culture and lack of financial knowledge. In our Spanish culture, patriarchy prevents women from preparing for themselves as much as they should. This leads to Hispanic women having little or no money management skills. Financial illiteracy is a major issue in my neighborhood, and that is why I hope to give Hispanic women a chance for a better future through financial education.

While I was volunteering I met a woman who happened to live in the same building as my aunt. Unemployed with two young children, and a husband earning minimum wage at a fast food restaurant, she struggled to get by every day. I thought to myself – many in my community are just like her. Then I realized I could do something to help. How? I can start a financial literacy program, which teaches Hispanic women to earn and manage money. Once a woman becomes financially literate, she is capable of making good personal and professional decisions, empowering her to improve her family’s financial well-being. Moreover, such a program will help Hispanic women become competitive employees, even in a slow recovering economy such as the one we are experiencing now.

Participating in the 2013 Women’s World Banking Global Meeting in Amman, Jordan gives me access to invaluable resources that will help me achieve this goal. I hope to find mentors from a roomful of inspiring, experienced leaders who will offer me their guidance. Also, meeting accomplished women from other countries means access to new ideas and unique perspectives. And if I am lucky, I may even come across individuals who can provide financial support to jumpstart my financial literacy program for Hispanic women. Lastly, I will tell my idea to everyone I meet in Jordan, a baby step to help Hispanic women rise from poverty.

The world continues to change rapidly, especially with globalization. It is about time that Hispanic women strive for gender equality. Thus, it is essential that Hispanic women increase their roles and knowledge in finance. The women in my neighborhood shall no longer be left out. I will task myself to help these women become better, stronger and most importantly, take control of their lives. I want to be involved so that they can save themselves from any unforeseen financial crisis. This is a tremendous goal, but for me, it is an opportunity to make a difference – in my neighborhood and for my Spanish community.”

  • There is clear structure . Right off the bat, the introduction summarizes what the reader can expect to find in the body of the essay. In particular, the closing line of the first paragraph (“ Financial illiteracy is a major issue in my neighborhood, and that is why I hope to give Hispanic women a chance for a better future through financial education”) works as an effective topic sentence, tying together the anecdote and the reason she’s interested in networking with the scholarship provider, Women’s World Banking. The last 2 paragraphs also serve clear, independent purposes: the penultimate one establishes what she would do with the scholarship (the trip to Amman), and the final paragraph explains why her particular interest is important for the larger Hispanic community. LESSON TO TAKE: Clear structure helps the reader follow your point better (especially if they’re skimming, which scholarship essay readers almost definitely are!) So include a summarizing topic sentence at the beginning or end of your first paragraph, and make sure each subsequent paragraph serves a purpose that moves forward your argument or story. 
  • The author’s passion shines. Rosaisha, the scholarship winner, is clearly passionate about serving her Hispanic community of women.  And rather than simply saying that, she shows us how she cares by using personal examples from her volunteer work. LESSON TO TAKE : Show, don’t tell. Use specific personal examples, and don’t be afraid to show your emotions.
  • She stays positive.   Even though Rosaisha discusses what might be considered a  difficult and personal topic, she keeps the tone light and inspirational. She expresses hope and her desire to make a change in the world, answering the essay in a positive tone.  It’s important to make sure your essay is not too depressing to read. (Essays about personal trauma are a bad idea.) This is a scholarship provider, not a therapist! 

While this was a winning essay, we note that it did have two points of weakness: 

  • The second paragraph lacks a bit of structure. Her point ends up feeling a bit generic, and it’s unclear what she is thinking versus planning or actually doing . For instance, she realized she could start a financial literacy program. Did she then do so? It’s unclear. 
  • The last paragraph is again a bit general. Often scholarship committees want to see what concrete steps will be taken, using the scholarship award. Here she speaks in lofty terms about what goals she hopes to accomplish, without explaining ways she might accomplish this goal. 

For more information on writing a killer scholarship essay, check out our list of helpful tips .

Also check out these related blog posts: 

  • 6 tips for writing scholarship essays about academic goals
  • How to write the best personal statement, with examples
  • How to write an awesome essay about your career goals

Scholarship essay examples that worked

You can start writing your winning scholarship essay today and submit it to thousands of scholarship applications, all in one place. Sign up for Going Merry today to put your pro scholarship essay writing skills to practice. Going Merry is your one-stop scholarship shop to search and apply for scholarships to get you on the right foot for funding your future.

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Introduction

Scholarships are a great way to help offset the expense of paying for college. Yet writing a winning essay might seem like an arduous task. Not to worry! The Writing Lab is here to assist you with penning a winner.

According to faculty members who sit on the scholarship committee, the number one way to increase your chances of winning is to answer the essay questions in a concise manner. Make sure each answer you write addresses the question(s) completely.  For more ways to create a memorable essay, check out the list below. 

  • 5 Ways to Make Your Scholarship Essay Stand Out Provides five useful tips to write an amazing scholarship essay.
  • How to Write a Scholarship Essay and Win Big Offers eighteen tips on how to write a winning scholarship essay.
  • Writing a Winning College Scholarship Essay Gives eight quick tips on how to write a stellar scholarship essay.
  • 6 Awesome Scholarship Essays that Worked Shows six winning examples of scholarship essays.
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College Applications: How to Begin

Find the right college for you..

Applying to college is a big job. It can feel overwhelming. However, you can make the process much easier by breaking it down into small steps. Here's how.

How to Start Applying for Colleges

The good news is that most U.S. universities follow the same standard application process. If possible, begin the following four-step approach several months before the submission deadline.

  • Understand the common terminology you'll see during the application process. Learning how to apply to college involves having a good grasp of such things as frequently used acronyms, supporting documents, and government departments.
  • Review the appropriate application timeline you should follow when signing up for college. Every school has its own deadlines, but you may have certain milestones to hit during your senior or even junior year.
  • Discover the individual components of a complete application . For example, schools usually ask for supplemental application materials like letters of recommendation, transcripts, and written essays.

how to make a college scholarship essay

  • Create a real and a virtual folder for storing documents.
  • Print a checklist to track your progress on each part of the application.
  • Build a spreadsheet to stay on top of submission deadlines.
  • Your Social Security number.
  • Your high school code.
  • A copy of your high school transcript.
  • Your score report from a college admission test.
  • Make sure you’ve included all required information and that the information filled out on the forms is accurate and spelled correctly.
  • Confirm that any required attachments are the correct files and have been properly uploaded.
  • Double-check that you filled out all fields and followed all instructions.
  • Take a deep breath. Click submit !

Where do I start with college applications?

The first step is to do your research. Knowledge is power. Knowing what to expect from the application process makes a difference. Research the schools you're interested in applying to. Learn as much as you can about their admissions process.

What are the steps in the college application process?

Keep in mind that signing up for college is a multistep process. Among other key steps, you must fill out a standard application, acquire crucial support documents, and write personal essays. Although schools have different requirements, here are the main steps of the college application process:

  • Create a list of colleges you're interested in.
  • Research and visit schools to narrow down the list.
  • Fill out the FAFSA®, and consider finances and scholarship opportunities.
  • Get letters of recommendations, if required.
  • Take college admission tests.
  • Write your college application essay, if required.
  • Complete your online application(s).
  • If any of your target schools have their own institutional applications, complete those.
  • Check and recheck your application documents before submitting them.

What should I do before I fill out my college application?

How do you apply for college without wasting time? Advisers often recommend gathering relevant documents before you begin. You can knock out the informative sections in one go, reducing your chances of making an error. Some of the basics you need include:

  • Identity cards and Social Security number.
  • School transcripts.
  • Test scores.
  • List of extracurriculars.
  • List of awards and achievements.
  • Recommendation letters, if required by the college.
  • Application and school portal login credentials.

What are the most important parts of a college application?

College admissions officers consider many factors when reviewing applications. Among the most important factors are your grades and the courses you took.

The best approach to have when completing applications is to treat every part as important. Put your best foot forward in all areas. Make every part shine.

Now you're informed, inspired, organized, and ready to begin. For more on the college admissions process, visit Applying to College: FAQs .

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Scholarship Essay

    Yes, but make sure your essay directly addresses the prompt, respects the word count, and demonstrates the organization's values. If you plan ahead, you can save time by writing one scholarship essay for multiple prompts with similar questions. In a scholarship tracker spreadsheet, you can group or color-code overlapping essay prompts; then, write a single essay for multiple scholarships.

  2. 14 Scholarship Essay Examples That Won Thousands 2024

    Scholarship Essay Example #5. Questbridge Finalist essay earning $3,000 in application waivers plus $3000 in local scholarships by Jordan Sanchez. Prompt: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it.

  3. How to Start a Scholarship Essay (With Examples)

    The first sentence of the essay is what makes the reader want to continue reading. Engage the reader by appealing to the senses. Create a sense of wonder in your essay, making the reader want to learn more about you. Keep the ending of the essay in mind as you craft the beginning.

  4. How to Write a Scholarship Essay and Win BIG (2024 Edition)

    Start a new paragraph. Short paragraphs are much easier to read through than long ones. Always end your essay with a good closing. Don't simply finish your last thought and call it a day or write "The end.". Leave the reader with something to hold onto, like what you would do if you won the scholarship or why education is important to you.

  5. How to Write a Scholarship Essay (with Examples)

    Furthermore, most scholarship essay prompts more or less resemble standard supplemental essay questions. The trick then is to make your scholarship essay stand out. The following article and scholarship essay example will offer up pointers for anyone striving to win a college scholarship. Organizing Scholarship Essays by Prompt

  6. How To Write A Winning Scholarship Essay (with example)

    There are a number of ways to hook the reader, including: Using startling statistics. Opening with a moving sentence. Making a strong statement. For an example of an engaging hook, say you are writing an essay about social media distraction. Perhaps you could open with: It might sound odd, but I love my flip phone.

  7. How to Write a Scholarship Essay: Complete Guide + Examples

    Two ways you can go with this: Approach #1: Use the resources above to write a great essay that spells out your big dreams, then end with 1-3 sentences describing specifically how you'll use the scholarship money. (We'll call this the "I have big dreams and you can help" approach.) Approach #2: Explain your financial situation in detail ...

  8. How to Write a Scholarship Essay (With Examples)

    Structuring Your Essay. Your essay should follow a standard format that includes a clear beginning, middle, and end. Typically, you should: · Establish your main idea in the introduction. · Include a separate body paragraph for each key point that supports your main idea. · Draw it all together and revisit your main idea in the conclusion.

  9. Crafting Compelling Scholarship Essays: An In-Depth Guide to Making

    Absolutely, it can be extremely beneficial to have others review your essay. They can provide constructive criticism, catch any typos or grammatical errors, and provide an outside perspective to ensure your message is clear and compelling. Creating compelling scholarship essays can help you win college scholarships to pay for your education.

  10. Writing a Winning College Scholarship Essay

    How to Write a Scholarship Essay. When you're drafting your scholarship essay, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind: 1. Start the essay writing process early. Leave yourself plenty of time to produce a well thought-out entry. Take the time to brainstorm your ideas, create an outline, and edit your entry as you would for any essay ...

  11. How to Write a Scholarship Essay

    2. Show your personality. You should also use your voice in your essay. Give the scholarship committee insight into who you are as a person — what drives you, what motivates you, and what interests you. This will allow them to understand you on a deeper level and see your words as genuine. 3.

  12. How To Write A Winning Scholarship Essay

    3. Find a Topic You're Interested In. If you're planning to major in chemistry and you look for scholarships related to your field of study, this could be a chance to prove to yourself it's ...

  13. How To Write a Winning Scholarship Essay: The Ultimate Guide

    It's a good idea to prepare to write this essay at least three times. First, there's a rough draft that should be carefully proofread. Students can ask a teacher or other professional to also look at their paper. Then students should repeat this process once or twice more until they're happy with the results.

  14. 9 Scholarship Essay Examples

    Scholarship essay examples about financial need, and more! We've included scholarship essay examples specific to schools, including UC Berkeley, as well as specific programs, like the SHPE scholarship. We'll also discuss the different types of scholarships you'll find on your scholarship search. Now, before we jump into our essay examples ...

  15. 5 Ways to Make Your Scholarship Essay Stand Out

    Tell a Story. A standout essay hooks the reader from the first sentence, says Monica Matthews, author of the scholarship guide, "How to Win College Scholarships." Think about the structure of the ...

  16. How to Write a Scholarship Essay

    Follow Instructions and Deadlines. Ensure that your essay adheres to all the guidelines and requirements set by the scholarship program. Submit your essay well in advance to avoid any last-minute complications. Be sure to look into specific guidelines and instructions to avoid scholarship displacement.

  17. 12 Ways to Start a Scholarship Essay

    Make your sentences active and concise. Download Article. Use short sentences and action verbs to make your writing pop. Compelling writing carries your reader along. Maintain the active voice throughout your essay to show, rather than tell, your reader why you're the best choice for the scholarship. [15]

  18. How To Write a Scholarship Essay

    1 inch to 1 ½ inch margins. If there is no required word or page count, as a general rule, aim for ¾ to 1 full page in length. Be sure to include your name and the name of the scholarship you are applying for near the top of the page (either as a header or simply above the optional title).

  19. How to Write a Scholarship Essay: Guide with Examples

    Provide specific examples and details to showcase your qualities and achievements. Avoid vague or unclear writing. Relate your experiences back to the prompt and how they align with the scholarship's goals and values of the organization awarding the scholarship. Finally, write a conclusion for your piece.

  20. Scholarship Essay Format: Guidelines, Structure and Examples

    Scholarship essay format at a glance. Read the scholarship essay format guidelines carefully, to check if the scholarship includes instructions. If you're submitting your scholarship essay outside of the Going Merry platform, set up your document with a 1-inch margin. Aim for a 12-point font. The best font to use is Times New Roman.

  21. How to Write a Scholarship Essay

    An Introduction. When working on an introductory paragraph to your scholarship essay, consider three of its main parts: a hook, a thesis statement, and an engaging sentence to grab readers' attention. The thesis statement for scholarship essay writing is at the core of a successful piece. It helps the audience understand what this text will ...

  22. Top 10 Scholarship Essay Prompts: How to Answer + Infographic

    4. Tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it. Scholarship providers understand that no student is perfect, and they want to know how you learned from a failure - this can be an academic, professional, or personal failure. Break down how you failed, why you failed, and how it made you better.

  23. 6 Awesome Scholarship Essays That Worked

    Why This Scholarship Essay Example Worked: 4. Going Merry Scholarship Success Story by Jesus Adrian Arroyo-Ramirez. Why This Scholarship Essay Example Worked: 5. Why College Is Important to Me by Nicole Kuznetsov. Why This Scholarship Essay Example Worked: 6. Financial Literacy for Hispanic Women by Rosaisha Ozoria.

  24. Information Guides: Writing & Citing: Scholarship Essay Writing

    According to faculty members who sit on the scholarship committee, the number one way to increase your chances of winning is to answer the essay questions in a concise manner. Make sure each answer you write addresses the question(s) completely. For more ways to create a memorable essay, check out the list below.

  25. When to Start Applying for Scholarships

    The General Rule of Thumb. For most scholarships, it's recommended to start the process at least a year before you need the funds. This isn't just a truism; it is based on the time it takes to research, apply, and then wait for decisions. For instance, if you're a high school senior planning to attend college straight after graduation, you ...

  26. How to Apply to Colleges: Tips to Get Started- BigFuture

    Create a real and a virtual folder for storing documents. Print a checklist to track your progress on each part of the application. Build a spreadsheet to stay on top of submission deadlines. Gather the Necessary Documents. Your Social Security number. Your high school code. A copy of your high school transcript.