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.
In order to apply for the DFLA Education Fund Scholarship Essay Contest, applicants must submit a 500-word to 800-word essay based on the year's prompt. Each essay is scored based on originality, creativity, the strength of argument, acknowledgment of alternative perspectives, and proper use of grammar and spelling. Party affiliation, gender, and personal politics are immaterial. The contest [...] More
The John Sexton Scholars Program invites high school students (grades 9-12) across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to participate in the John Sexton Essay Contest. The competition challenges students to write an original and creative research essay for the following prompt: Currently, there are over 80 million displaced people in the world. Experts agree that climate change will cause a [...] More
The Center on Conscience & War is hosting a video essay contest for teens! Help us spark a real conversation and inspire a movement to end Selective Service and the draft once and for all! Recent efforts in Congress to expand the draft to women have failed. Let’s spread the word that decades of requiring young men to register with Selective Service has also been a failure and must end!
You are eligible to enter if you are enrolled in and have completed at least one quarter or semester at a college-level medical assisting program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Applicants must submit an essay in response to the prompt: "What are three personal characteristics [...] More
The Lincoln Forum Scholarship Essay Contest is held annually, with a new Abraham Lincoln related prompt each year. Applicants must be full-time undergraduate students in an American college or university during the spring semester proceeding the deadline for the year the award is offered. Entries must be between 1,500 and 5,000 words. You do not have to be an American citizen, but you do need to [...] More
One of the Chaffin Luhana Foundation’s missions is to drive down the staggering number of distracted driving accidents in the United States. The Foundation will be awarding a scholarship to a student who helps us in this fight by submitting an inspiring personal essay. To be eligible for this contest, applicants must: be currently registered at an accredited high school, college, or university in [...] More
NFWL has a long-standing tradition of supporting young women. Over the years, the scholarship has brought together some of the nation’s leading young scholars for a week of mentorship, learning, and growth. Scholarship winners have gone on to attend top universities, found non-profit organizations, and pursue their dream careers. During NFWL’s Annual Conference, winners spend extensive time with [...] More
Established by the John Conley Foundation for Ethics and Philosophy in Medicine, this annual essay contest has been administered by the AMA Journal of Ethics since 2004. Each spring, the AMA Journal of Ethics poses a question in ethics and professionalism as the topic for the contest. Essays are judged on clarity of writing, responsiveness to questions posed in the essay prompt, and applicability [...] More
The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation is hosting an essay contest for high school juniors and seniors and college students to earn scholarship money! The first-place winner will be awarded a $1,000 scholarship. To enter the contest, please write a 750-1,000-word essay answering the following prompt in Chicago or MLA style: Examine a piece of legislature in your local community, [...] More
The U.S. Naval Institute Information Warfare Essay Contest contest is open to all contributors -- active-duty military, reservists, veterans, and civilians. Essays must be no more than 2,500 words, excluding end notes and sources. Include word count on title page of the essay. Essays are judged in the blind. Do not include author name(s) on title page or within the essay. Essay must be original [...] More
FRA is first and foremost a community of the Sea Services; U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard personnel. Enlisted service in any of these branches—past or present, for a short time or for the long haul—is your passport to membership in an association that works hard for you and your family on Capitol Hill and in your local community. FRA’s guiding principles are Loyalty, Protection and [...] More
Kemper Human Rights Education Foundation Essay Contest will award three students this academic year. Essays will be judged according to how well they answer the question posed and the extent to which they are supported by research. Essays are due on or before December 10th (Human Rights Day) and should be 2500 words or less in length and be submitted as a Microsoft Word attachment.
The NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund sponsors a scholarly writing contest for grades K-12. The theme for the essay is "What Does The Second Amendment Mean to You?" Essays will be judged in two categories: Senior (grades 9-12) and junior (grades 8 and below), with separate cash prizes awarded to the winners in each category.
First place cash prizes are $1,000, $600 for second place, $200 for [...] More
Each year, ADL Midwest invites 6th-12th grade students in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota to participate in the First Amendment Freedoms Art & Essay Contest. Using a personal example or experience, describe or portray how one of the five freedoms in the First Amendment affects your daily life. Please clearly label your entry with name, school, and city on a [...] More
We All Have Mental Health… How Can Students’ Mental Health Be Supported Virtually and In-Person? For this years' topic, create a virtual mental health campaign or program, including details on how it would impact others and how you would implement it by working with school staff. Connect with your peers to understand what is needed to support their mental health during this time!
Students across the country are invited to enter the National Ag Day essay and video contest, sponsored by the Agriculture Council of America. This year’s theme is, “American Agriculture: Growing a Climate for Tomorrow?” National Ag Day’s objective is to celebrate agriculture and to help consumers better understand how farmers and the companies serving them produce abundant, healthy, nutritious, [...] More
Partners for Automated Vehicle Education is excited to partner with companies, schools, and other organizations in Albuquerque, Southeast Ohio and Washington, D.C., for an essay contest and scholarship program for high school juniors and seniors. The PAVE Essay Contest and Scholarship Program encourages high school juniors and seniors to imagine a world with autonomous vehicles and write about [...] More
To increase awareness of women’s ongoing contributions to the mathematical sciences, the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) and Math for America co-sponsor an essay contest for biographies of contemporary women mathematicians and statisticians in academic, industrial, and government careers. The essays will be based primarily on an interview with a woman currently working in or retired [...] More
The Cardinal Newman Society’s essay scholarship contest is open for submissions from high school seniors. The winner of the annual Contest will be awarded $5,000 toward the cost of attending one of the institutions recommended in The Newman Guide. Additionally, there is the opportunity for the winner of the Contest to be awarded $20,000 over the course of four years. Several of the Newman Guide [...] More
Each year, the Live Deliberately Essay Contest invites youth around the world, ages 14-18, to consider a selected Henry David Thoreau quotation and accompanying prompt. Contestants are asked to write a thoughtful essay that uses personal experience and observation to demonstrate how that year’s quotation and prompt relate to their own lives and to the world around them. Like Thoreau, these young [...] More
The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is excited to announce our 22nd Annual Student Essay Contest. This year, we are deeply interested in hearing what students think about the benefits and challenges of a non-violent, democratic society. There are four divisions: 5th – 6th grade, 7th – 8th, 9th-10th, and 11th – 12th. Prizes range from $50 - $1000, thanks to a generous sponsorship by [...] More
The ASHG DNA Day Essay Contest is open to students in grades 9-12 worldwide and asks students to examine, question, and reflect on important concepts in genetics. Essays are expected to be well-reasoned arguments that indicate a deep understanding of scientific concepts related to the essay question. They are evaluated by ASHG members through three rounds of scoring. Current ASHG members have the [...] More
We're excited to present the Queer Youth of Faith National Essay Contest for high school seniors who identify as LGBTQ+ and a person of faith. $10,000 in academic scholarships will be awarded. The top five essays will be awarded $2,000 each in scholarship awards.
Tell us why your faith or spirituality is important to you. How has your faith shaped you as a person and helped you in hard times? [...] More
The goal of the annual Kaplun Essay Contest is to encourage students to think about their heritage, reflect on their values, and better understand Judaism’s contribution to civilization and culture. We believe strongly in the value of this writing process as a way for young people to explore challenging ethical topics.
The first-place winners in Level 1 and Level 2 will each be awarded $1,800. [...] More
Students may enter the PARC Essay Scholarship Contest by submitting an original essay of 500 words or less describing their response to the following question about the North and Middle Fork American River canyons located upstream of Folsom Reservoir, in the Auburn State Recreation Area:
"What is your personal connection to the American River and its canyons, and how has a current concern, [...] More
Prompt: Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, stakeholders have been urgently working to bring what litigation challenges remain to protect and secure reproductive freedom. While FFRF has argued that abortion bans impermissibly codify a particular religious belief—that life begins at conception—in violation of the Establishment Clause, courts have been unwilling to consider that [...] More
The Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest is open to all high school juniors and seniors. There are no requirements regarding GPA, faith, after-school activities or clubs. Students with a Google Account can fill out the Google Form with essays (800-1200 words) uploaded within the form. If students do not have a Google Account, they may contact us to access a fillable PDF form with [...] More
This year, the tenth annual Star-Spangled Banner Flag House Scholar Award will be given on Flag Day, June 14. The Flag House will award the Flag House Scholarship for $1,812.00 to a Maryland high school senior to put toward the college of their choice. Please read the contest rules and response prompt carefully before submitting your entry.
Your essay must be no more than 350 words and must be [...] More
The Sacramento Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility is again hosting a scholarship essay contest for high school seniors in Sacramento County and surrounding Northern California counties with $15,000 in total awards. To enter the PSR/Sacramento Scholarship Essay Contest, students must submit an original essay of 500 words or fewer describing their thoughts about the following statement [...] More
Dalit Solidarity Forum in the USA, Hindus for Human Rights, and Indian American Muslim Council are pleased to present the second annual Essay and Art Contest on Civil and Human Rights. The theme for this year’s contest is: Intersections Between Caste Discrimination and Anti-Black Racism. We invite South Asian American students* in grades 6-12 to reflect on the intersections between caste [...] More
All essay and video entrants must be a current high school senior who both resides and attends high school, or is home schooled, in Northern Virginia (specifically the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Clarke, Spotsylvania, Stafford, King George, and Fauquier as well as the independent cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax, Fredericksburg, Manassas, and Manassas [...] More
An International GRHS Essay Contest, sponsored by the Germans from Russia Heritage Society, will be held to encourage students to learn about the history and culture of the German-Russians, people who emigrated from Germany into Russia during the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, in the USA, Canada and other countries in the Western Hemisphere, these people have become known as Germans from Russia. [...] More
Pasadena Post 13 Legionnaire Annie Bach firmly believed in the American Legion’s dedication to fostering and perpetuating Americanism. The Annie Bach Americanism Video Essay Scholarship is open to woman veterans who are residents of and attending a brick and mortar post-secondary school in Pasadena, California. All applicants must have a minimum overall GPA of 3.0 and be attending at least [...] More
TFND (Tobacco Free North Dakota) announces the annual Video Essay Scholarship Contest for all North Dakota high school seniors. TFND is a statewide non-profit that advocates for policies to prevent youth initiation to tobacco and nicotine products with the goal of creating North Dakota’s first tobacco-free generation. North Dakota High school seniors will have the opportunity to compete for a [...] More
BBB Life Lessons is a theme-based essay contest that challenges students to reflect on living a life of integrity and ethics. The essays are submitted online and reviewed by a panel of judges. The top six essays are then awarded scholarships. The BBB Charitable & Educational Fund, Inc. sponsors the contest recognizing outstanding youth that best demonstrates through reflection what living a life [...] More
The Foreign Service is an important element of the American approach to peace-building around the world. Over the last century, our diplomats have been involved in significant events in history – decisions on war and peace, reacting to natural disasters and pandemics, facilitating major treaties, and more. As AFSA looks back on their century-long history, we invite you to do the same.
The Bird Dog Foundation, Inc. has established a Scholarship Fund to promote interest in hunting, wildlife conservation, the rich outdoor heritage of the United States, and other related subjects. An annual College Scholarship Essay Contest has been held for several years now. The contest was created in the hopes that it would promote interest in and education about the aforementioned subjects and [...] More
To enter the Americans Against Gun Violence National High School Essay Contest, students must submit an original essay of 500 words or fewer describing their thoughts on the yearly prompt. Contestants must be high school students in good standing attending school in the United States or its territories. Students who entered high school on track to graduate in the current academic year but who [...] More
Essay topic is "How can IWSH contribute toward the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and what can the foundation do to best lead by example?" The purpose of the IWSH Essay Scholarship Contest is to acquaint the uninitiated with the crucial importance the plumbing industry plays in our everyday lives. To introduce students to the global impact of IWSH projects.
Each year, qualified African-American and Black junior and senior high school students participate in the Essay Contest and Issue Forum. Students are presented with a topic that embodies some of our communities’ most pressing issues and are asked to write an essay to defend their research, analyses, and opinion. Submissions are judged by a special committee of CBC Spouses. Winners and their [...] More
Dedman Scholars belong to cohorts organized by entering class, with each cohort named after a Dedman virtue: humility, sacrifice, courage, conviction, honor, compassion, integrity, and honesty. These eight virtues also reflect the character attributes that Robert Dedman upheld in his own life and identified as the foundation for his success. The Dedman Distinguished Scholars Program at The [...] More
Encode Justice (encodejustice.org) is an international organization working to advance human rights and equity in the age of artificial intelligence. The Georgia chapter of Encode Justice is launching its inaugural essay contest for high school students in Georgia. It is designed to educate and bring awareness to causes that Encode Justice champions. Students are provided the opportunity to [...] More
Our goal is to increase interest in professional opportunities in the genetics and genomics fields for underrepresented populations, including people of color, by being an active part of bridging the gap in diversity in the genetics/genomics medicine field and supporting students who are interested in, but who may not feel currently represented in the field. Eligible students must currently be [...] More
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is seeking submissions for its essay contest. The contest is open to all students currently in grades 9 through 12 from Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. Students are invited to consider and share their thoughts on the question: "In light of Meyer and later cases, may a state, consistent with the protections [...] More
The FFRF David Hudak Memorial Essay Contest For Freethinking Black Indigenous and Students Of Color is open only to Black, Indigenous and Students of Color ages 17-21, who are either high school seniors graduating in spring who will be attending a North American college or university in the fall, or who are currently enrolled in a North American college or university. If you will be graduating [...] More
The William J. Schulz Memorial Essay Contest for College-Bound High School Seniors is open to seniors who will be attending a North American college or university in the fall. Winners will be announced in July. Applicants must write a personal statement about why you trust science over faith, and why you think society should do the same. Please include an example of how religious faith has [...] More
The Michael Hakeem Memorial Essay Contest for Freethinking College Students is open to all atheist and agnostic ongoing undergraduate college students up to age 24 already attending a North American college or university. You remain eligible to enter this contest if you will graduate from college by spring or summer of the current year. Write an essay about the divisiveness of religion [...] More
The Cornelius Vander Broek Essay Contest for Graduate/"Older" Students is open to any graduate students through age 30, or to undergraduate students ages 25-30 who attend a North American college or university. You remain eligible to enter this contest if you will graduate by spring or summer of the current year. Winners may be asked to send verification of student enrollment. You may not [...] More
A Holocaust survivor who endured not only incarceration in Auschwitz, but a deadly and horrific death march to Bergen-Belsen, she turned to volunteering and education after coming to the United States. For over fifty years, she dedicated herself to the Jewish communities of Tennessee and Holocaust education efforts around the state. A twice-published author, she raised her voice in the hope that [...] More
The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) invites all high school students (9th through 12th grades) interested in the American Revolution to participate in the George S. & Stella M. Knight Essay Contest. The contest is open to all US Citizen and Legal Resident students attending home schools, public, parochial, or private high schools in that same grade range. The [...] More
Growing Up Asian in America provides a unique platform for young people to creatively explore and celebrate being both Asian or Pacific Islander and American. Applicants must be Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese or other Asian/Pacific Islander, multi-cultural ethnicity in grades K-12. Applicants must live in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa [...] More
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) is excited to announce our Stewardship Scholarship Essay Contest for BIPOC students in all areas of study. Students are invited to write a 750-1250 word essay on the topic of Land Stewardship or Trust in the More-Than-Human World for a chance to win a cash scholarship for your educational endeavors. One grand prize scholar will be awarded $1000 for [...] More
At the Better Business Bureau (BBB), we believe it is never too early to introduce and emphasize the importance of ethics. At the high school level, students begin to face ethical decisions that may impact the rest of their lives. They serve as role models whose moral compass not only guides their actions, but also influences those around them. The BBB seeks to honor ethical students for doing [...] More