A Guide to Writing a Scholarship Essay

A Guide to Writing a Scholarship Essay

Although writing a scholarship essay may be a difficult task, it is your best chance to make the case for why you should receive a scholarship. It will be what makes you stand out from all the other applicants that have similar grades, goals, and activities. It could mean the difference between receiving a scholarship or not.

What you want to accomplish with your essay is to make your audience, the scholarship reviewers, feel like they know something about you and care what happens to you. You want them to know how your life experiences have shaped you and your plans for the future.

When you are writing your scholarship essay, keep asking yourself if you would find the essay compelling if someone else had written it and you were on the committee that reads it. You want to make it clear that you are a unique individual and your essay should convey your experiences, ambitions and personality. This is your opportunity to make a strong and lasting impression.

This guide will help you write an essay that is worthy of winning that extra money for college.

Know Your Audience

When you write a scholarship essay, think about who will be reading it. They are not just a group of faceless individuals but are human just as you are. Just like you they have hopes, goals, dreams, and passions. As you write your essay give them an idea of who you are and what is important to you. Your essay should evoke emotional connections and leave the reader wanting to meet you in person.

Follow the Essay Instructions

When instructions are given regarding the format or subject of an essay, always make sure to follow them. Sometimes the directions can clarify the intent of the question. Adhering to guidelines makes it easier for the committee to read the essay and shows them that you can follow directions.

Understand the Question

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not answering the question. Don’t go off on a tangent and avoid rambling. Write in a way that shows your personality and represents you positively. It is crucial that you answer the question completely.

Give Your Honest Answer

Sharing honest answers and real experiences help readers get to know and understand you. Don’t embellish your achievements. It is fine to be the copy editor of the school newspaper or the treasurer of your group instead of the president. Not everyone has to be the star at everything. You cannot fool the readers into thinking you are someone you’re not. Judges are looking for essay answers that are genuine. Write something on the level that reveals something about yourself. Your most passionate writing will be about events that actually occurred.

Write an Interesting Essay

A good essay is often compared to a story. A truly interesting essay will engage the reader and attract attention. Make your essay personal and passionate. Include vivid details and examples that support the points you are trying to make. Simply answering the question is not enough. Develop and share stories from your life that will help the reader get to know you. Your stories should exhibit growth, critical thinking, and positive characteristics.

Your essay should have the following points:

  1. An Introduction—Begin with a strong introduction. You want your essay to stand out from the others. Be sure your introduction captures the readers’ attention and compels them to learn as much as they can about you.
  2. Body Paragraphs—Create a picture in your readers’ minds by offering details, anecdotes, description, and context. Make sure the paragraphs relate to your introduction. Creatively choose your words and sentence structure to enhance the topic. Use specific experiences, achievements, and accomplishments.
  3. Conclusion—This is the last chance to persuade the readers or impress upon them that you should be awarded a scholarship. Your conclusion should make your readers glad they read your paper. Your conclusion gives your reader something to take away that will help them see things differently or appreciate your topic in personally relevant ways.


Read through your essay. Does your essay address the topic? Does it convey who you are and why you should receive a scholarship beyond the fact that you need the money? Is the essay interesting? Does it provide examples of your skills and abilities? Check your essay for correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. Revise it as needed. Have others read and edit your essay. Roommates, friends, family members, teachers, professors or advisors all make great editors. When others read your essay they will find errors that you missed and may make suggestions for improving the essay. Editing is essential but you do not want someone to alter your work too much. Your writing needs to by your own.