If you’re like many other aspiring college students, sitting down to write a scholarship essay and trying to explain why you deserve this opportunity over countless other applicants is one of the most daunting tasks you’ll ever face. However, just because this process seems like an impossible challenge, that doesn’t mean that you’re automatically destined to fail.
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In fact, I’ve found that if you can keep yourself cool, calm, and collected as you plan out your scholarship essay approach, there’s no reason why you can’t knock this submission out of the ball park. With this in mind, here’s my top five tips for writing scholarship essays that are sure to impress the admissions team at your dream school.
1. Show How Your Brain Works
Most scholarship essays end up as a simple list that recounts awards, achievements, and extracurricular activities, which is great—if your plan is to put the person reading this submission to sleep. Yes, you want to mix this information in throughout your essay when it’s appropriate to do so, but standing out from other applicants means going beyond this basic review of your academic career.
A truly engaging essay shows how you deal with tough problems, handle unconventional situations, and think through complex scenarios. Whether you cover a hypothetical event or discuss an actual moment that tested your cognitive skills, showing how your brain works when the pressure is on is a great way to capture the attention of the person reading your submission. You’ll no doubt score some bonus points if you have any letters of recommendation that reference your ability to tackle a tough situation and think outside of the box.
2. Be Creative
Additionally, while others are sticking to generic scripts that the people making these scholarship decisions have read a million times over, you have a great opportunity to let your creative streak run wild. The only question you need to ask yourself here is, “how can I use this essay to express myself?”
Whether you frame your story from a fictional perspective that reads more like a novel and less like a resume, or you embrace some other free-form approach, this decision is all about finding the best way to show your creativity and originality. In some cases, I’ve even seen students go above and beyond by submitting a painting or some other unique creation as a supporting or supplementary inclusion.
Naturally, you’ll want to confirm that this kind of submission is acceptable with your admissions officer before you start on your project. However, once you get the go ahead, it’s time to let the creativity flow freely as you leave the competition in the dust.
3. Clarify Your Goals
Depending on the style and requirements of your essay, you might have to look beyond the past and the present so that the team behind this scholarship can see how you plan on using this endowment in the future. Should this apply to your current situation, then it’s imperative that you clarify your goals within this submission.
Listing off your plans is a nice start, but you’ll want to go deeper if possible. Explain why you’ve come to each decision point in your plan for the future so that the readers of this essay can understand the logic and thought process behind your choices. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if miscommunication or confusion enter the picture.
4. Be Professional, but also Personal
One of the biggest faux pas you can make during this process comes in the form of failing to toe the line that separates uptight or stiff offerings and submissions that provide content that is closer to casual text messages between friends. As you write out your essay, it’s okay to keep your writing style conversational and interactive; just don’t slip in any slang, colloquial abbreviations, or other unprofessional inclusions. Placing an emphasis on proper grammar and syntax is also a must.
5. Write with Focus
Finally, don’t be afraid to prioritize a focused and driven tone within your writing. I’ve read far too many scholarship essays that drift aimlessly from point to point, thereby lacking direction or structure. Having a strong framework for your writing might seem constricting at first, but this type of foundation can do wonders for keeping you on track and focused as you delve into the reasons why you deserve or need this scholarship.
As you can see, writing a scholarship essay that impresses isn’t a walk in the park. However, if you’re able to follow these powerful tips and build a unique, engaging, and streamlined submission, there’s no reason why you can’t capture the scholarship in question and watch your collegiate dreams become a reality.
As owner of the higher education website Accelerated Degree, Joy Miller researches and reviews colleges offering accelerated classes and degrees.