How To Get A Scholarship? A Winning Scholarship Essay Recipe

blog img
John Milovich
John Milovich
ScamFighter Expert
Former college customer turned freelance writer, shares insider insights on the essay industry.

Writing a scholarship essay takes time and effort if you want to win. You need to grab the reader’s attention and keep them hooked until the end, at the same time showing you meet the requirements of the awarding organization. It is usually impossible to submit one essay for several scholarships as each paper is unique when written properly. To improve your chances of winning, we’ll share the best scholarship essay tips tested by hundreds of successful students.

Read Between The Lines Of The Essay Prompt

Before you start drafting and writing, read the prompt carefully until you are sure you understand what the jury expects. Even the most obscure topics for scholarship essays have a second layer. If the prompt calls for a discussion of the book that influenced you most during your high school years, read between the lines. You need not retell the plot of “1984” or “Lord of the Rings”, instead, concentrate on the WHY and the HOW. Why did this book have such a strong impact on you? How did it change the way to see yourself and the world around you?

The scholarship board wants to learn more about you through the prism of the essay prompt, so YOU are the main topic, though the theme may vary from your close friendships to family, travel experience or hobbies.

Be Sneaky And Run A Background Check

To have a better chance of getting the scholarship, learn more about the organization that offers it. Study available materials online, read the news, press releases, and previous winners’ essays. Make a list of the keywords using the organization’s values and mission. Add these words to your essay without being obvious.

Create another list, comprising the key points you wish to include in your writing. These might be:

  • Academic honors or awards
  • College level or AP courses
  • Online courses, internships, and other extracurricular activities
  • Special skills or knowledge
  • Financial circumstances that prompted you to apply for the scholarship

Get Inspired By Winners

How can you answer why you are applying for the scholarship if you have never written an application essay before? The writer’s block along with the fear of making a mistake and wasting time can make you stare at the blank screen for hours and days. If you’ve fallen into this trap, successful scholarship essay samples should kickstart your writing. Look for them at the websites of the scholarship awarding organizations, online libraries or databases.

The problem with this step is that it can do more harm than good. First, you can fall into the rabbit hole of skimming through the essays and waste valuable time. Second, you might see how good other students’ writing is and be discouraged to continue. Third, you could unintentionally borrow ideas, style, and even sentences from another’s work.

To prevent these problems, use scholarship essay examples carefully. Identify the samples that could answer the scholarship prompt and make a list of 3 to 5 essays you will read. Practice active reading, answering multiple questions along the way. Which parts of the paper are strong and weak? Which points make the most sense? How can you emulate the style without resorting to blatant copying?

Outline Before You Write

It is tempting to dive head first into writing, especially if you are short on time. However, if you want to learn how to start a scholarship essay like a winner, begin with a rough plan. Writing about your life, choices, and achievements is difficult. An outline will help you stay on track and implement everything you have learned during the preliminary stage.

Start with a short and intriguing story that will provide a glimpse into your life and mind. It will be a perfect hook to get the jury’s attention. Go on to discuss the main topic and finish with a concise conclusion. A scholarship essay format does not differ from other papers you’ve written throughout high school and college. The trick is to note which paragraphs should include the key facts and words you’ve compiled before. You can introduce them within the topic sentences of each passage.

Fill In The Gaps

With a clear structure in mind, writing the first draft should not take long. You can use the same document and expand each topic sentence to form a full paragraph. At this point, you don’t have to slave over a thesaurus carefully selecting each word. Instead, write as quickly as you can, while your spirits are high, and your inspiration hasn’t run out.

If you can’t think of an attention-grabbing introduction, start with any main body paragraph you like. You don’t have time to torture yourself over complicated parts, and you can always return to them later. If you have created an outline, you won’t be tempted to veer off course and ramble aimlessly.

Dedicate enough time to the thesis statement. It is the most critical part of your essay as it embodies the primary topic of the paper and the essential points you will make. Every sentence you write should bring the reader back to the thesis, and the conclusion should logically make a full circle and repeat the claim you make at the beginning.

Revise And Rewrite Until Satisfied

Now is the time to let your inner perfectionist have a field day with what you’ve written. But allow yourself a day to rest first. Reread a personal statement for a scholarship you’ve created, and make sure it sounds like you, not a thesaurus or a dictionary. It is not a scientific article or a dissertation, so let go of the long words, but make each of them count. Use strong verbs and delete adverbs that do not enhance the meaning.

Perform a quick check to ensure the essay meets the scholarship requirements. It should be the required length and style, answer the essay prompt, and include the keywords you have identified.

Finally, edit and proofread the paper. Ask a college admissions counselor or your English teacher to read the essay and point out mistakes and weaknesses. Pay close attention to inconsistencies and illogical transitions they point out and correct them first. Provide them with an essay prompt to ensure they understand what you were trying to say. If you can’t find anyone willing to edit your scholarship essay, look for professional editors online, either among freelancers or academic writing agencies.

Proofreading is the final step in refining the essay. Besides the standard spell check, use specialized software or seek a professional proofreader to find and correct punctuation and grammar errors along with typos. Read the paper out loud to locate sentences hard to pronounce. Try reading the text backward or turn the paper upside down to better concentrate on each word and find mistakes faster.

Writing a scholarship essay is not an easy feat. You need to be patient and passionate, ready to pursue your goal and devote much time and effort to the cause. Remember our tips and tricks, and your hard work is sure to be rewarded.