How to write a Winning Scholarship Essay for any School

author By Mary Boies

You recently saw a scholarship opportunity that could change your life. You confirmed that you met all the requirements and even started your application. You have already entered all the crucial details and uploaded all the essential documents. The only thing remaining is for you to write and submit your scholarship application essay.

writing a scholarship essay

If you are like many scholarship applicants, you are probably freaking out right now. And this is totally okay because a quality scholarship essay could win you that amazing scholarship opportunity and change your life forever. However, there is no need to panic. This is because there are things you can do when writing your scholarship application essay to make it an impressive piece of writing. A remarkable piece of art that will significantly increase your chances of winning the scholarship of your dreams.

In this post, we will share all the essential things you can do when writing your scholarship essay to make it an excellent essay.

What is a scholarship essay?

Most college scholarship applications require applicants to write an essay as part of their application. This essay is known as a scholarship essay or a scholarship application essay. It is similar to a profile essay about yourself so that the scholarship committee can get to know you better. 

Writing and submitting a quality scholarship essay can significantly increase your chances of getting selected as a scholarship winner.

15 Tips for Writing A Winning Scholarship Essay

scholarship essay tips

Follow the tips below to write an excellent scholarship essay.

1. Do not wait until the "last minute" to write your essay

Many scholarship applicants have a habit of waiting until the "last minute" to write their essays. They usually do so, hoping to think of something inspiring to write before the deadline. This may sound like a strategy, but it is not a good strategy.

Waiting until the last minute to write your scholarship essay will rarely result in an excellent essay. This is because you will most probably wait until such a time when it is too late, leaving you with little time to draft something high-quality.

So do not wait until the last minute to write your essay. Instead, the moment you read the scholarship essay question or prompt, you should start brainstorming ideas and thinking about what you will write about in the essay. After doing this, you should create an outline and attempt to finish the essay as soon as possible.

Doing this will give you plenty of time to write your first scholarship essay draft and edit it as many times as possible to make it perfect.

2. Make sure you follow the instructions carefully

Scholarship essays always have several instructions. First, there is usually the essay question itself and then the word count, the format, and so on. You need to read the instructions carefully to understand them and follow them to the letter. Only by doing this will you develop an acceptable essay for the scholarship committee.

If you don't do this, you will end up with an essay that the committee will quickly dismiss along with your application. Remember, your application is probably one among thousands. So you must ensure it follows the instructions to be considered favorably.

3. Identify and stick to the main theme

When reading the essay prompt in your essay, you should note down the important terms in the questions. These terms are the ones that you should focus on in your essay. The main term you have to focus on in your essay is also the main theme. For example, suppose the main term you've identified in your essay is leadership. In that case, you should ensure your essay focuses on your leadership experience and qualities.

The more you understand the main theme of your scholarship essay, the better your essay will be. So make sure you identify and stick to the main theme of your essay to increase your likelihood of winning the scholarship.

4. Create a detailed outline

Before you begin writing your scholarship essay, you should create an outline. Many college applicants do not do this because they think creating an outline is a time-wasting activity. However, creating an outline before writing an essay is never a time-wasting activity.

Why? Because creating an outline is the best way to organize your thoughts and give your essay a nice flow. If you do not create an outline, your scholarship essay will not be well-organized. It also won't have a nice flow.

To create an outline, you first have to brainstorm the essay question. Next, think about the question and how to answer it. Then, note them down once you have gathered ideas that could answer the question. After noting them down, decide which ones you will include and list them from the most significant to the least significant.

Outline them nicely to ensure your essay will have good organization and flow.

As with the standard essays, before you start developing your scholarship essay, you should create a detailed outline. A detailed outline will help you to write a well-organized essay. In other words, it will help you to create a flowing essay. And there is nothing scholarship committees like more than a free-flowing and easy-to-understand essay.

So make sure you create a detailed outline before you start writing your essay. The outline should have a five-paragraph format featuring an introduction paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph.

You should brainstorm what to include in each paragraph, including the introduction paragraph's thesis statement and the key supporting point for each body paragraph. Of course, they should be in line with the theme of your scholarship essay. Once you decide on all these things, put them in your outline.

5. Try to tell a story

The easiest way to write a simple yet excellent scholarship essay is to try to tell a story. Imagine you are telling your best friend the same thing you are telling the scholarship committee through your essay. You would surely use simple words, get personal and try to make your story interesting, wouldn't you? This is exactly what you need to do in your scholarship essay – you need to make it simple, personal, and interesting.

Try as much as you can to make the other person see the true you. Don't exaggerate or overhype experiences. This will make your essay seem as if you are trying too much. All you need to do is be personal, truthful, and human. This will earn you a favor rather in the eyes of the reviewer rather than exaggerations.

6. Make sure your introduction is solid and engaging

The introduction of your scholarship essay is what the scholarship committee will see first. So it would help if you made it as strong and engaging as possible. You will hook the committee to read the rest of your essay if you do this. And this will put you in an excellent position to get a perfect score for your essay, which could be what your application needs to win the scholarship.

If your introduction is not good, your scholarship essay could get dismissed within moments of appearing on the computer screen or the review desk. So spend a good time making sure your introduction is catchy and attention-grabbing. Even if it isn't.

And as you write the introduction, open with a great hook statement to grab the attention of your reader. However, avoid using quotes, definitions, or generic clichés. Rather, say something original that will show the committee that you are a king of storytelling.

7. Use examples generously

In your scholarship essay, you will need to put your best foot forward to show the scholarship committee that you are what you say you are. When doing this, you should use real-life examples generously. For example, don't just tell the reader you are a good leader, show them you are a good leader using real-life examples of your leadership experiences.

Doing this will make your scholarship essay more convincing. This is because it will give it a personal touch and make it more credible. So spare no chance to use a real-life example in your essay.

8. Edit your essay thoroughly

scholarship application success tips

After you are done writing your essay, edit it thoroughly before submitting it. This is what will make it an excellent scholarship essay. However, suppose you do not edit your scholarship essay. In that case, it will be an ordinary essay regardless of how good you are as an essay writer.

You can do it in three ways to ensure your final draft is absolutely perfect. First, use software such as Grammarly Premium to proofread your essay. Doing this will help you identify and eliminate basic grammar and punctuation errors. Check out our essay editing checklist for further details on how to self-correct your essay for the best outcomes.

Second, give your essay to a friend and ask them to proofread it for you. Tell them to highlight all the mistakes or issues they identify and explain them to you. This will help you identify the remaining errors and mistakes in your essay. Lastly, read the essay yourself. And when you are doing it, look for errors and also for vague statements. Eliminate or rewrite all parts of your essay that make little sense.

After editing your essay as recommended above, it will be absolutely ready for submission.

9. Do not forget that the essay should market you

When writing a scholarship essay, you should never forget that your main goal should be to market yourself.

A scholarship essay prompt is basically an advert for the most worthy students to present their credentials for consideration.

So, make sure you clearly highlight qualities that make you unique. Qualities that would make the scholarship committee conclude you are the best suited for their scholarship opportunity.

10. Be passionate in your essay

In most cases, scholarship essays allow you to really express yourself. If this is the case for you, you should take full advantage of the situation to write about something you are really excited about. This will make your essay naturally appear passionate and engaging.

An excellent example of a scholarship essay that allows you to express yourself fully is one that simply asks you to describe your proudest or biggest achievements. Such an essay enables you to discuss anything you consider an accomplishment in your life. It could be your volunteer experience, community service, academic prowess, or sports prowess.

Just about anything you participated in or did that resulted in something you consider an achievement can be discussed in such an essay. So do not limit your mind to discussing boring stuff in your life in your scholarship essay if the essay prompt has given you free rein. Instead, think far and wide to find something exciting to talk about in your essay if you've been given a chance to talk about anything.

11. Do a bit of digging before you start writing your essay

Before you start writing your scholarship essay, you should do some digging to find out more about the scholarship. You should particularly try to understand why the scholarship is given, the mission of the organization, and the objective of the scholarship. If you do this, you will know the motivations of the scholarship. With this knowledge at the back of your mind, you should be able to write an essay that stands out for the scholarship committee.

For example, if you are writing a scholarship essay for a scholarship opportunity sponsored by a clean energy firm, you should try to show how you have always been pro-clean energy if you have been. You should also show how winning the scholarship will contribute to the clean energy scene.

12. Search online for winning essays from previous rounds

how to successfully complete a scholarship essay

If you are applying to win a scholarship opportunity that has been around for ages, there is a high likelihood that winning essays of earlier rounds are available online. So Google winning essays for the scholarship opportunity you are applying for.

If you find a winning essay from previous rounds, you will benefit in several ways. First, you will see that even award-winning essays are typically pretty simple and straightforward. This will give you the inspiration you need to write your own essay. Second, you will notice that award-winning essays tend to have no errors. This will encourage you to proofread and edit yours thoroughly to make it error-free.

Lastly, seeing an award-winning scholarship essay from a previous scholarship round will enable you to see what the judges are looking for. This is usually clearer when you see two or more award-winning scholarship essays for the same opportunity. And knowing what the judges are looking for is the secret ingredient you need to write your award-winning scholarship essay.

13. Do not lose focus

Do not lose focus in your essay. When you are writing your essay, you could easily end up writing too many details about something in your life rather than how it affected or changed you.

What most scholarships officer want to see are not the details about what you did or how you did it. Instead, they want to know how a particular experience or event changed you or affected you. Therefore, do not spend too much time discussing boring details in your essay.

Instead, hit the nail on the head throughout your essay to make everything clear and straight to the point from the first paragraph to the last paragraph. This will make every part of your essay more interesting/engaging.

14.  Get Constructive Feedback

Assuming you have confidently written your scholarship essay, and you now have the first draft, never be tempted to submit it as it is. Rather, ask a friend, parent, teacher, or professional proofreader or editor with strong writing and editing skills to go through your essay. Their feedback will give you a perspective you never had before.

These set of second eyes will most likely spot mistakes and errors that you assumed. Sometimes because we write subjectively, end up with awkward sentences, wrong punctuations, and even wrong word choices due to personal bias.

However, when someone independently looks at our work, they can bring a new perspective that helps realign ideas and thoughts, and reimagine the flow of words.

When you get such feedback, you should use it to transform your writing. Revise your essay based on these insights so that you are guaranteed that you have a bulletproof scholarship essay.

15.  Imagine how the scholarships officer will feel

how to write a scholarship essay like a maven

This is an important thing to do, especially when proofreading your essay. This is because it will turn you into a critic when you are proofreading your essay and give you the drive to rewrite it extensively. Most people do not want to make extensive changes in their essays when proofreading.

However, this is never the case when they put themselves in the shoes of a scholarship officer when proofreading their essays. Because they become more critical when they do so. So do it yourself to rewrite everything that would appear wrong or erroneous to you as a scholarship officer. Doing this will help make your essay extremely easy to read and understand. And this is precisely what scholarship officers want to see when reading scholarship essays.

Final words

Anyone is allowed to choose the course of their dream. Sometimes, getting scholarships to make life easier because they help you solve your financial burden and focus solely on education. However, scholarships are given based on merit. Scholarship essays are a standard method to assess who gets the scholarship and who misses out.

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Writing a winning scholarship essay is not a walk in the park. It is something that requires a lot of hard work, time, and patience. If you are not a hard worker or do not have time or patience, you will find writing a quality scholarship application essay difficult. Nevertheless, you do not need to worry.

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