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How to Write a Scholarship-Worthy Essay

Writing a scholarship essay isn’t that different from writing an essay for school. The fundamentals of the writing process are the same – but the stakes can be much higher. When you want to know how to write a winning scholarship essay, look no further than these tips.

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Geting Started

Brainstorm

Get out a pencil and paper and go to town thinking about your subject. This means you should write down everything that comes to mind. Even ideas that seem disconnected should be jotted somewhere so that you can refer to them later if you discover a logical way to use them. When you brainstorm, brilliance shines through. Too often, by censoring ourselves, we toss out our best ideas. Put a stop to this before you get to college. Think critically; don't be critical of your thoughts.

Organize

When you are done brainstorming, organize your ideas into the most logical order. From these ideas, you should be able to see an outline for your paper. Pick your strongest argument as your thesis. A compelling thesis answers a question proposed by the essay topic, then explains why that answer works.

Research

You've established which brilliant ideas have made the cut, so support them. Textual support from noted experts, sources, or literary texts is always helpful. Use their ideas to add commentary onto your own. Just be sure to cite your sources.

Format

If a scholarship contest asks for essays in a particular font family, font size and line spacing, following those requirements is necessary to even being considered for the award. The format of an essay makes a strong first impression – if you use the wrong font or have inconsistent spacing between paragraphs, your readers will notice right away.

Write

Be Enthusiastic

Your interest in the topic you are writing about will shine through. If your writing says, "My mom made me write this essay and my hand hurts," it will not distinguish you . If you don't know your subject, involve yourself in it by doing research.

Share Information

When you write, you give the reader access to your thought life. For many people, this is why writing is so intimidating; if you can get past the intimidation, however, and be entirely honest with your audience, something magical happens — your voice/thoughts become something of interest to another human being. Rely on that human connection to create a deep connection to your reader.

Teach Your Audience

By sharing with your audience, you create an opportunity to teach them. You've got their attention; after all, they believe you are a credible individual with interesting insight. Now they can learn. And guess what that makes you? Their teacher. So spare the details and focus on what is truly interesting about what you have to share.

Avoid an Unconventional Essay Format

Now is not the time to test out your creative abilities. If you are serious about the scholarship you are applying for, focus your creative energy into your synthesis of ideas. By playing with the formatting too much, you detract from your writing abilities. A traditional scholarship essay format will guide you in starting, developing and finishing your essay. Your scholarship essay should include:

Introduction

Include your thesis within the introduction. If you are a talented theses writer, it can extend into two sentences. Keep your introduction short and punchy. A long artistic introduction is tempting, but resist the urge. You have a point (and likely a word limit) to get to.

Body

Make at least three discernible points within the body of your essay. Each point should be in a paragraph of its own so that it can be easily identified by the reader. Additionally, weave sources into the body of your essay if possible. It will make your writing stronger and also show that you committed yourself to researching the topic at hand.

Conclusion

"In conclusion," statements are out. Lead into your conclusion clearly and gently. The body of the piece should work towards the conclusion, so your final comments should be captured your own reflections. A conclusion should not appear to be the introduction regurgitated — your reader will catch on to this.

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Last Reviewed: January 2021