Even with financial aid, paying for college can be an enormously daunting task. Scholarship money can help you chip away at the cost of tuition, books, and room/board. Luckily, there are plenty of easy scholarships out there to apply for, but even the easiest don’t come without a little work. The scholarship essay is part of nearly every application process, and many find it to be the most daunting part. However, when you know what to avoid and what the judges are looking for, it is much easier to write a winning scholarship essay.
What to Avoid
Hopefully, these are obvious, but scholarship essays should never include:
- poor spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.
- plagiarism of any kind
- lies of any kind
Less obvious, you shouldn’t waste space in your essay including information that is already found in some other part of the application process. Most scholarships ask for some basic information and the inclusion of fact sheets about the applicant like a resume. Yes, it’s important that the judges know about awards you have won or volunteer work you’ve done, but there is no need to jam it down their throats. The only exception, of course, is if the essay is on a specific topic related to one of these pieces of information.
What to Include
- something that makes you stand out as unique or exceptional
- your own tone and voice – the judges should get to know YOU through your writing
- humor and/or real emotion – be passionate!
- clear, concise language – no need for big or flowery words
Read and follow the directions! Every scholarship essay does not ask for the same thing or have the same requirements. You may be able to re-purpose an essay for more than one scholarship, but you should never just use the same essay for every application. You will have the best chance of winning if you don’t try to re-purpose at all, but write a completely original essay for each scholarship. The judges will be reading many copy-and-paste essays from other applicants, so make sure they know you are not just another applicant but the one who deserves to win. Proofread carefully and always have someone else proofread the essay as well. Finally, for easy scholarships and more complex scholarships alike, start early. Don’t wait until the last minute! Time for planning, writing, rewriting, and proofreading is vital. The more people you have read your essay, the more polished it will be, and the more likely you are to win.