Writing your scholarship essay Create a message your readers remember
Let’s say you’re competing for a university scholarship…
Language/word choice • …would you use slang, jargon, or swear words when addressing an academic professional?
Content • Although your audience will expect to read about a personal experience, think about the impression you want to make. • How would your readers react to a story about your Habitat for Humanity volunteer experience as opposed to a story about your third drunk driving arrest?
Tone • If you want to be taken seriously, use a serious tone. That doesn’t mean you can’t reveal any sense of humor. It just means this scholarship is important enough for you to make a powerful effort.
Personal story Scholarship essay topics are probably as varied as the scholarship essay writers. HOWEVER: Most scholarship essays include a personal experience.
Sample questions What accomplishment are you most proud of? Why? What quality or skill makes you different from anybody else? Describe a movie, book, or other work of art that has powerfully influenced you.
Questions, contd. How would your friends describe you? What have you done outside of school that shows qualities that universities value? What are some of your extracurricular or community activities? What motivates you to be involved in them?
Questions, contd. How would you describe a successful life? How would this scholarship help you create your successful life? What other elements will you need to be successful?
Once you’ve got a focus… …you’ll want to start prewriting.
Use a scrap piece of paper Jot down your thoughts as they come to you. Figure out what your main idea is. Think about what key ideas should come first, second, third, etc. You don’t have to hand this in, so write whatever you want.
For example: “Hmm. What have I done for my community? Well, I once helped at my aunt’s church, sorting clothes for people who needed them. I didn’t think much about it until people came in to get the clothes. I was really surprised. They weren’t bums like I thought they’d be. In fact, they didn’t look much different than my family and me.”
From there, you might create a working thesis statement: “Helping sort clothes for people in need made me realize that difficult times can happen to any one of us.”
Then think about your “big” ideas What I had assumed: I thought people who needed free clothes were “bums.” What I learned: Lots of hard-working people have lost their jobs and need all the help they can get.
Develop each big idea as one or more paragraphs: Example: “I had assumed anyone who needed free clothing was just lazy. But then I saw Sheryl, a woman who’d worked at GM for 20 years and was just let go. She wanted a winter coat to keep her four-year-old grandson warm during the cold months…”
Make a plan! Once you “crack the code” of essay writing, you can complete your work by taking one step at a time. Consider the following points:
1. Follow directions! It doesn’t matter how strong a writer you are. You need to clearly respond to the question if you want to be taken seriously.
2. Make an outline An outline lets you see the essay as a “whole.” It helps you make sure your ideas are clear and well-organized.
3. Be original Remember: Even if you live an “ordinary” life, no one has a perspective exactly like yours! For example: Instead of writing, “I’ll never forget the day I started high school,” you might write, “When I woke up at 6 a.m. on that crisp, sunny morning, I thought I’d feel different, look different, act different. After all, I was now a high school student.”
4. Be genuine A heartfelt, personal experience will make more of an impact than a lifeless list of activities and accomplishments.
6. Focus on the body of your essay first Once you’ve developed your key ideas, the introduction and conclusion will be easier to write.
7. Spend time on your introduction Scholarship essay readers spend one to two minutes on each essay. Get their attention right away! A. Use a colorful comparison. B. Include a startling example.
Introduction, contd. C. Share a story. D. Add an unusual fact or statistic. Remember: The thesis statement (sentence stating main idea) usually goes at the end of the introduction.
8. Spend time on your conclusion This is your last chance to make a powerful impression on your reader. Some tips for a strong conclusion: 1. Summarize your key points 2. Link your conclusion to your introduction. 3. Show why your point is important
9. Ask others to read your work Questions for your reader: Have I used transitions well? Have I used a variety of sentence structures? Do I use imagery often? What parts of the essay are unclear? Could anyone else have written this essay?
10. Revise! Scholarship essays have a word limit, so you want to make sure every word counts. A powerful, memorable essay may require several revisions. It’s worth the time!
A careful, thoughtful revision can make the difference between a scholarship essay that’s accepted and one that’s not!
A successful scholarship essay… Is focused Is logical Is clear Is well-organized Grabs the reader’s attention immediately Does not pad with “fluff” Provides details and evidence
It’s worth the effort! A lot is riding on your scholarship essay. You take one giant step toward your future by: Developing your ideas fully Writing to your audience Getting feedback on your work Revising carefully
ReferencesEssay writing tips. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.bestessaytips.comHacker, D. & Sommers, N. (2010). The Bedford handbook (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.
References, contd.Scholarship essay writing tips. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.internationalstud ent.com/essay_writing/schol arship_essay.shtmlScholarship writing essay tips. (n.d.) Retrieved from http:www.gocollege.com/financial-aid/scholarships/apply/essay-how- to.html