Scholarship essays are similar to admission essays with one big exception. When you write a scholarship essay, you are asking an organization to give you money to attend school. Therefore, your essay must be persuasive and include content that will demonstrate your commitment to the values and purpose of the organization you wish to impress.
The first step is to assess the essay topic and/or question and try to figure out what you can say that may catch the eye of the selection committee. Don’t lie or exaggerate! It is the WORDS you will use that will impress the committee. Remember that you can do everything else right, but if you don’t address the question or purpose of the essay, you will not get the scholarship money.
Start your essay with a great opening sentence. Don’t just write “My name is Joe Smith and I go to All American High School”. Let’s say your essay is supposed to be about community service and how it has taught you lessons or had an influence in your life. You might start the essay this way “The little girl’s name was Anna, and she had the deepest, saddest brown eyes I had ever seen”. You are starting to tell a story!
Don’t try to be someone you are not. Write the essay to explain how you feel and what you know or want to learn. Don’t just talk about what you will do or have done. Talk about what you feel about these things. Make an impression! You are a unique person and only YOU had this particular experience and felt this particular way about what you learned or saw.
You don’t have to use huge words to impress the committee. Use the words you would normally use and don’t try to sound like a lawyer in court. It is great that you have an extended vocabulary but you don’t need complexity to make an impression! Write as if you were talking to the person reading the essay.
When you write your outline for the essay, write some words in the margin that depict images you want to convey. Using imagery and descriptive words to depict feelings, to explain what you saw or how you felt when you achieved something will lend clarity to your essay. What can you say that will deliver your message to the reader using sensory descriptions? Imagery is a great way to get your point across.
Use paragraph transitions to make your next point. Because essays are usually short, you want to write bullet points in your outline to be sure you capture each of the points you wish to make in the essay. Then use each paragraph transition to briefly but effectively explain that point or describe the situation you want to convey.
End your essay with a conclusion but remember that you don’t necessarily have to come up with the solution to solve world hunger. If the essay topic involves a difficult, complicated problem, you can talk about the variables and things that affect the outcome and the parties you think should be involved in the solution. If you can find a great quote from an historical figure, that might make a good ending for your essay. Just remember to summarize and draw your conclusions in the closing paragraphs. Don’t leave the reader hanging.
Don’t just put your essay in an envelope right away and mail it to the scholarship committee. Put the essay aside for a day or even a week, if you have the time. Come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes and make your final revisions. Ask one or two people you respect to read and comment on the essay and don’t accept pat answers like “It was great”. Ask if everything was clear, and how you can improve the essay. Decide whether you need another opinion. After you have made the final revisions, send the essay in for consideration and know that you have done your best!