You’ve found a great scholarship opportunity that requires an essay. You may see this as a discouraging roadblock, another thing to add to an already packed to-do list. But scholarship essays help you find (and earn) additional money for college. Your goal is to stand out from other applicants and allow the judges some insight into who you are.
Each scholarship that requests an essay has its own requirements, and each panel reviewing the submissions has their own set of criteria they are scoring the essay on. However, there are certain things that every panel will look for that could be the difference between winning and not.
Here are our top five tips for writing a scholarship essay that will get you noticed.
Make sure you thoroughly understand the essay prompt and requirements prior to starting. Outline your essay (a good habit to begin with) and compare it to the prompt to ensure you’ve touched on the correct theme without getting off focus. Then, before you submit your essay, compare it to the requirements and make sure you’ve met them all, such as word count, topic, format, etc.
Even if what you are asked to write about is a common topic, look for the angle that makes it unique to you. For example, if you’re answering a question about how you’re preparing for college, provide insight that shows how you, personally, are tackling the issue. (ScholarshipPoints used this as an essay prompt. Read about how one of our $2,500 scholarship winners sells homemade pickles to help pay for college.)
Close attention to grammar and punctuation could be the deciding factor that puts you in the winner’s seat. Don’t let typos or poor grammar distract from the message of your essay. Ask someone with solid writing skills to review your work. Make any corrections needed and proof your work again. Trust me, the judges will notice!
Set reminders to ensure you don’t miss important deadlines. All of the effort you put into your essay won’t matter if you don’t submit your scholarship application on time. If you’re applying to several scholarships, it may be helpful to use a spreadsheet to keep track of submissions and deadlines. You may even want to print this and plaster it someplace where you’ll be reminded of it every day.
It’s not uncommon for essays to be screened for plagiarism. If you’re applying to multiple scholarships and have to write multiple essays, you may be tempted to “borrow” too heavily from another source. Don’t. No matter how great the rest of your application is, plagiarism will likely disqualify you.