While the scholarship application is long and arduous, and wanting to avoid writing yet another in a long line of essays is understandable, hoping that high GPAs and strong SAT/ACT scores will land you a scholarship is nothing but a pipe dream. In fact, most scholarships organizations, especially the most prestigious ones, don’t just give out scholarships for good grades and high test scores. They might not even consider them at all. What the scholarship judges really want to know is whether or not you’ve been active in your school, taking advantage of the academic and leadership opportunities your school offers, and making a difference for the benefit of your community. They want to know how you’ve been working to improve yourself and everybody around you.
Here is where the essay, exasperating though it may be, asserts its usefulness. The best way to show the judges that you’re more than just a set of numbers and statistics is through a well-written, personal essay. Many people cringe and stay away from scholarships that require essays because they don’t like writing or think it’s too much additional work. More often than not, the essay either makes or breaks your application. We’ve compiled the following tips to help you write an essay that will grab the judges’ attention and hopefully win you some money for college!
If you want to win a scholarship, you have to have confidence that your story is compelling enough to snatch their attention from the very first line. The point of this is that you need to show the scholarship judges that you understand what skills you bring to the table. We don’t suggest being conceited or egotistical; it means that you believe in what you have done and how it’s molded you into the person you’ve become. The key is your passion. You want your fire to come through when you’re writing your essays. Some students leave out the most impressive parts of their stories because they want to be modest and not sound like they’re big-headed. In the world of scholarships though, you might as well tell the judges that you don’t really want the scholarship. If you don’t tell the judges what you’ve done, how are they going to know? You can be proud about what you’ve accomplished without sounding like a showoff. Be confident in what you’ve achieved.
On the other hand, an essay that seeks sympathy or financial help due to past mistakes is not going to win a scholarship unless you’ve radically changed the way you handle things for the better and proven it to the selection committee. Keep in mind that scholarships are monetary prizes given to students who have demonstrated the core values of the organization (more than just getting good grades and test scores) and demonstrated that they are worth the investment. What have you done to change your situation? Scholarship organizations are looking for students who have taken full advantage of the opportunities presented to them and/or overcame impediments in their path to achieving their goals.
Stand Out From the Crowd
You are not the first student to wonder how on earth one goes about winning a scholarship. The first step is to develop your drive and your ambition. Have you ever noticed that the people who win the most awards are the ones who pushed themselves harder and longer than most people would? How did you push yourself? How did you stand out in the crowd? Our advice is to find something that speaks to you or that you’re passionate about and find a way to get involved. Start early in high school so you have more options when you become a senior; likewise, start early on in college and find activities to which you can dedicate several years. You don’t have to overwhelm yourself, but find a few different routes so you can strengthen your scholarship profile and, in turn, your essay.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
If you find yourself at a complete and utter mental roadblock, don’t be afraid to turn to your most informative resources! Your friends, counselors, teachers and parents can probably help you with ideas or even just a starting point. Nobody’s ideas are so great that they can’t be enhanced with some constructive criticism. Your teachers at school, especially English teachers, are great tools for you when it comes to writing scholarship essays and what’s more, they want to be used. They will be able to help you strengthen your essays if you ask them to help you.
Also, find out who previously won the scholarship you’re applying for. Talk to them; ask them if they can give you any advice or if they have some tips for you. Work with them on your essays so you can use their direct knowledge of key words and phrases that the judges might be looking for and that will help make your writing stand out. Going through the extensive process of writing essay after essay and filling out form after form may seem like a job in itself, but it can be well worth it. If you’re serious about applying for scholarships, you’ll be able to see that these skills can be utilized again and again as you continue to apply for scholarships throughout your college career. As you continue applying, remember: make your story personal, show them you are worth their time and money, and it will be your essay that makes you a favorite with the judges.