Top 5 Tips for College Scholarship Application Essays

Right now, scholarship applicants everywhere are tempted to tax their brains and wring out the perfect essay, which they will then show to 10 people who will transform the words into poetic prose that not only won’t resemble the original, but probably won’t resemble the writer. Don’t do it. Yes, it helps to have proofreaders, but scholarship panels are not looking for a lyric novel. They want to know about you, your character and your aspirations. Here are some tips for finding the right balance of personal and persuasive for your scholarship application essay.

Just be you

Screeners reading scholarship essays know you are young. They want essays that read as though a teenager wrote them. Rather than focusing on trying to impress the panel, just be authentic self. If you are outspoken and funny in real life, let that shine in your essay. If you are quiet and studious, your essay may be more reflective and personal. Authenticity is crucial to winning scholarship dollars.

Answer the prompt carefully

Often, applicants use the same essay response for multiple scholarship applications. But the essay prompts are different, so each essay should be, too. Read the prompt carefully, and then think about your answer. Creating an outline that covers the nuances asked in the prompt is a great first step and really helps move along the writing process. Don’t just ramble without a point in mind.

Be reflective

More than anything, scholarship application screeners want to know you put thought into your response to the prompt. They should be able to tell you carefully considered the question and all the possible responses. It’s OK if you write about something that was only a minor blip in your life; at least that you were thoughtful in choosing that instance to highlight. Consider using phrases such as “upon reflection” or “in hindsight.”

Highlight your positive traits or characteristics

Don’t forget, the essay is a sales pitch of sorts, and the product is you. Just make certain your pitch is authentic. You can do this by giving readers insight into your personality and positive character traits. Don’t worry about include accomplishments and awards in the essay—there’s usually a separate section in the application to list those. Focus on genuine stories that showcase who you are as a person and demonstrate something meaningful about you.

Proofreading is key – to a point

Although scholarship applicant screeners expect essays with good grammar and punctuation, they understand that not every student has that skill set. Your essay should have no spelling errors, “text speak” or misused words, but it doesn’t have to be so fine-tuned that it no longer sounds as if a 17- or 18-year-old wrote it. A misplaced comma can be easily overlooked as long as the essay includes evidence of meaningful reflection.

Want to learn more about WOU scholarships? We’ve got scholarship listings for incoming students, videos about how to fill out the application online, information on scholarship scams, and much more on our scholarship website. Keep in mind that scholarships are competitive. The application for most scholarships available to incoming students is due March 1. 

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