By the time you apply for a scholarship, your GPA and test scores are what they are, and you can’t suddenly get a teacher to write a perfect recommendation letter if your academics and participation up until the present moment haven’t earned you one. One of the things you can control is the essay you submit with your scholarship application.
The essay portion is your chance to demonstrate what kind of student you are and to highlight your passions and interests. Fortunately, there are countless essay scholarships you can apply for. Read below to learn how essay scholarships work, where to find them and how to write a winning essay.
What is an essay scholarship?
An essay scholarship is exactly what it sounds like; it is a scholarship that includes an essay component. A lot of scholarships will require at least one essay, but some may ask for two or possibly three.
Topics for essay scholarships can be serious, like describing the most difficult experience you’ve ever had, or light-hearted, like detailing how to survive a zombie apocalypse. Essay scholarships can give students a chance to sway the scholarship committee, even if they don't have the most impressive GPA or standardized test scores.
Even students who don’t like writing should consider applying for scholarships that require an essay because they represent such a large percentage of the scholarships for which they are going to be eligile. If you don’t enjoy writing, you may be tempted to use AI tools to write your essay. You should be aware that the scholarship judges may run your essay through an AI detection tool, which could cause you to be disqualified.
How to apply for an essay scholarship
You can find dozens or even hundreds of essay scholarships through our Scholarship Directory. There are dozens of different kinds of essay scholarships with various requirements. To apply for an essay scholarship, make sure you understand all of the components, not just the essay part. Start working on the application several weeks before it’s due, which should give you enough time to write a thoughtful and convincing essay.
To write a winning essay, read through the prompt and brainstorm all the points you want to make in your piece. Then, outline the essay in a clear format. After the outline is done, you can start writing the essay. Once you have a rough draft, share it with one or two adults you trust. Even if you're a stellar writer, you should still have someone else look at your essay before submitting it. Another person can point out ways to strengthen each draft.
Ideally, you should ask an English teacher, but a high school college counselor, another teacher or perhaps a coach can provide useful guidance. Make sure to give them enough time to read through the piece and provide feedback, preferably a couple of weeks or more. Implement their advice in your next essay. Then, have another person read it to make sure it’s better. If you make any more revisions, ask someone else to read the essay to check for typos and mistakes.
Frequently asked questions about essay scholarships
What are the best essay scholarships?
There are many essay scholarships that provide generous rewards with simple-to-understand requirements. The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest awards $10,000 to students who describe political courage using several primary and secondary sources. The essay should be between 700 and 1,000 words, not including citations.
The Umps Care All-Star College Scholarship gives out $5,000 per semester to students attending a four-year institution. To qualify, you must have been adopted at age 13 or later, or have been in foster care since the age of 13. Scholarship winners will also receive support from a Major League Baseball umpire and their family.
How long are essay scholarships?
Word requirements vary wildly depending on the scholarship provider, but are often between 500 and 1,000 words. However, some popular essays may have longer requirements. For example, the Elie Wiesel Prize In Ethics Essay Contest asks for an essay between 3,000 and 4,000 words.
Some scholarships will ask for a certain page length instead of a specific word count. Make sure to read through the word count or page requirements before starting. If an essay has a broad range, try to write closer to the max. Be sure never to exceed the maximum number of pages or words. Some scholarship providers may disqualify you altogether for going over the word count, even if it is only by 5 or 10 words. Follow the instructions to the letter to be on the safe side.
Can I use the same essay for multiple scholarships?
While it’s unlikely that a scholarship provider will find out if you’re reusing an essay, you should not just copy and paste one essay to another scholarship form. Make sure that the old essay fits the current prompt; you may have to make adjustments before submitting. If you’re using a recycled essay, have someone else look at the prompt to see if it still works. You may be able to keep some of the same parts and only have to write a small portion from scratch.