8 Tips for Writing a Winning Scholarship Essay

Sasha Feldmann / Student Ambassadors

When it comes to writing a scholarship essay, many of us don’t have a lot of experience. We aren’t always taught how to do this in school, but that doesn’t mean it has to be an intimidating task. Follow these steps to make your essay as simple and successful as possible.

1. Pay attention to the prompt

You have to know what the scholarship committee is looking for in a candidate. Following the guidelines and staying on topic can make or break your essay; you don’t want to give them any reason not to accept your best work. But don’t let that stress you out. Just remember, before you start and after you’re finished, review the prompt and ask yourself: Am I doing what they asked?

2. Look for examples

The internet is full of resources that can help you with a scholarship essay. One of the best ways to learn how to do something is by example. Spend time reading other scholarship essays and pay attention to what you should emulate and what you should avoid. Some helpful websites are pesb.wa.gov and collegefund.org.

3. Write an outline

The writing process is all about planning. If you don’t plan out what you’re going to do, you make things unnecessarily hard for yourself. Get all your main ideas on paper and create an outline to help guide you through it. It can also be helpful not to get too caught up on writing the whole thing in order. Getting stuck on one part can prevent you from getting ahead and writing what you know. The best advice I’ve ever gotten was to work on the body of an essay before the introduction. It’s not easy to introduce something that doesn’t exist yet.

4. Don’t put it off

I know, I know, it can be so tempting to save things for the last minute; however, this just isn’t something you can rush through. Not only are the stakes high, but the less time you have to write, the less time you have to revise (which is crucial). Work on it a little bit at a time, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Just don’t get into the habit of letting anyone write it for you.

5. Make it personal

When it comes down to it, this essay is about one person: you. Adding information and stories about people in your life can be beneficial, but remember that you’re the one who’s getting the scholarship. It’s important that you let your own voice come through and that you’re passionate about your topic. You can always make sure it’s not too informal in the editing process. Your essay should make the committee think I’d love to get to sit down and have a conversation with this person.

6. Be proud, but don’t boast

When you’re writing about yourself, it can be difficult not to slip into bragging. After all, the whole purpose of the essay is prove you deserve a great opportunity. The best thing to remember is that the committee doesn’t want someone perfect, they want someone human. Don’t be afraid to admit that there are times when you’ve failed. The best candidate is someone who has struggled but found a way to come out on top.

7. Get a second opinion

After you’ve reviewed, edited, and reviewed your work again, it’s time to get a second opinion. Sometimes, when we look at the same material multiple times, we don’t catch things that a fresh set of eyes could. Choose someone you trust, preferably someone with good experience. Teachers, counselors, and even people who’ve won scholarships are a great place to start.

8. Would you choose yourself?

Ask yourself the hard questions: What makes your essay special? Why do you deserve this scholarship? Most importantly, if you were on the scholarship committee, would you choose yourself? This is one of the most personal forms of writing in the academic world. You are your own advocate here, and that has to come through in your essay. You could be an amazing writer, but ultimately if you don’t believe you’re worthy of that scholarship, the committee won’t either. So, be confident, and let them know exactly why you’re the right choice.

Meet our Ambassadors!

If you are interested in getting involved in our Student Ambassador program, contact Erin Pettus at erin@collegesofdistinction.com.

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The Mount offers more than 40 undergraduate degree programs as well as graduate programs in business, education, health sciences, and religious studies (as well as doctoral degrees in physical therapy and nursing). A variety of career development options and a supportive environment enable students to thrive as they define their impact on the world. Students at the Mount are immersed in their education as they build the skill set of the future: critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, digital literacy, and entrepreneurship.

One of the most important things about going to college is being open. Open to possibilities and creativity. Open to opportunity and experiences. Mount St. Joseph University is the ideal environment for such a receptive frame of mind because it offers an atmosphere of guided and unguided discovery; students are encouraged to explore and encounter—widely and deeply—by design and by chance. What’s the result? Each student’s own personal definition of success along with the skills to achieve it.