How to write a killer scholarship essay

Who doesn’t want free money for college? Applying for scholarships can be a fantastic way to help pay for classes and textbooks. And with WOU’s general scholarship deadline of March 1, it’s time to get busy. The application process is competitive. Many scholarship programs require you to write an essay along with your application. Making sure that your scholarship essay is as strong as it can be helps to ensure that you will stand out from the crowd.

Writing a killer scholarship essay is easier than you would think. By keeping some of these pointers in mind, you’ll have a piece that shows you mean business.

Get familiar with the requirements

You wouldn’t write a paper in English class without knowing what your teacher wants, right? The same thing goes for any other essay you might write. You’ll want to do your research and familiarize yourself with the scholarship requirements.

One, do you qualify to apply in the first place? You don’t want to spend valuable time applying for something you’re not eligible for. For example, a lot of scholarships are for students considering certain majors. If you’re an English major, a scholarship that’s only for biology and chemistry majors isn’t for you.

Make sure you fit any GPA or SAT/ACT requirements and so on. If you’re someone who hasn’t taken either test, there are always plenty of scholarships out there that are test-optional or don’t require a score at all. The key when setting out to complete any application is making sure you’ve done your research.

Then you’ll want to see what the scholarship is asking of you.

If you’re asked to write an essay, you’ll almost always be told how many words the essay has to be and what kinds of topics you can write about.

Word counts are important to consider. They exist for a reason. You want a scholarship essay that’s not too long and yet not too short. When an organization lists a specific word count they want all essays to fall under, consider it set in stone. Not only does it help make sure that every applicant’s submission is a manageable length but it helps show the judges of your application that you understand the essay requirements.

Figuring Out to Write About

But what goes into writing a scholarship essay? Financial Aid counselor Natasha Roman suggests taking a more personal approach as you figure out what to write about.

“I always tell students to start their essay with what they are passionate about and then relate that interest to the question being asked,” says Roman.

Taking a personalized approach can add a unique angle to the essay, showing what you’re all about.

Think of times in your life when you did something for the community or you were able to achieve a goal you’d been working on for a long time. By using your personal experience, you’ll be able to find a lot of strong material to work with. And your passion will come through loud and clear. Roman adds, “If you are enthusiastic about what you are writing, chances are the person reviewing your essay is going to be interested in what you have to say.”

If you’re not sure what to write about, brainstorm. Spend a few minutes writing down potential ideas. You might find it helpful to list out potential ideas as they come to you or draw out a bubble map. Either way, you can then start narrowing down a more specific topic once you’ve made up a list you can work with.

Drafting Out (And Editing) Your Scholarship Essay

Just like any other essay, you might have to write out multiple drafts. You want to make sure your scholarship essay is as perfect as possible.

This is why it’s important to start writing your essay early. You want to give yourself time to edit. It can also be helpful to have a friend or family member (as long as they’re good with giving honest feedback) look over your draft and give you pointers.

Also, word of advice. Never, ever write your entire essay through the scholarship site. Save your own copy on your computer. Nothing’s worse than losing all of your hard work. Don’t let that happen to you.

As you write out each draft, make sure you’re asking yourself these three questions:

  1. Does your essay meet the scholarship’s requirements?
  2. Does your essay stay on topic?
  3. Is it engaging and enjoyable to read?

This is why feedback comes in handy. It can sometimes be hard to tell what needs to change or be improved on your own. Sometimes, when someone who isn’t attached to your work like you are reads your stuff, they’ll often identify places where you can improve your writing that you never even spotted in the first place.

Proofread your essay before you send it out into the world. And watch out for these common mistakes. “Some of the most common mistakes I have seen are misspelled words, poor grammar, not addressing the question, and giving a generic or incomplete answer. Good scholarship essays require a significant investment of time and energy,” says Natasha Roman.

Sending it Out Into the World

Once you’ve made sure that your essay has been proofread, is engaging, and that it meets the scholarship’s requirements, it’s time to send it out into the world.

Hard as it may be, all you can do now is wait. But engaging essays that meet the scholarship’s requirements will always work in your favor, making you much more likely to be considered for your dream scholarship.

And don’t just stop at one. Be sure you’re applying to as many scholarships as you can, including WOU’s own scholarships. Keep applying and good luck!

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