As a student you have written a lot of essays. And let's be honest—most were probably on topics you didn't care much about. You might be tempted to approach the scholarship essay in the same way that you did when writing about the Roman Aqueducts, but this would be a tragic mistake. The last common feature of all winning essays is that they are written on subjects about which the author is truly passionate. It is very difficult to fake passion for a subject. (Just try to be excited throughout your Uncle Larry's hour-long slideshow of his tonsil operation.)
But when you are genuinely enthusiastic about something, it does not take much effort for that energy to naturally show in your writing. Therefore, when you are choosing a topic, be sure it is something you truly care about and are interested in. Without even trying, you will find that your sentences convey an excitement that the reader can almost feel.
A common mistake in essay writing is to use general statements instead of specific ones. Don't write, "Education is the key to success." Instead, give the judges a slice of your life that shows them how education has impacted your life in a single experience or realization. If you are writing about your desire to become an astronaut, you might explain how this started when your father bought you a model rocket for the Christmas you were five years old. Focusing on a specific example of your life will help readers relate to your experiences and ensure that your essay is memorable and (as a bonus) original.
It sounds obvious, but make sure that your essay has a clear point—many students' essays don't. Whether you are describing the influence of your father or the effect of World War II on race relations, you must have a central idea to communicate to the reader. To see if your essay has a central thesis, try this simple exercise. Ask yourself, "What is the point of my essay in a single sentence?"
Here are some answers that would satisfy the question for essays on independence and drug addition, respectively:
"Growing up in the country taught me to be independent."
"Treatment of addiction is the only way to win the war on drugs."
If you cannot condense the point of your essay into a single sentence, then the main point may not be clear enough. Or worse, your essay may not have a thesis.
Winning a scholarship is about impressing the judges and showing them why you are the best candidate for a monetary award. Your accomplishments, activities, talents and awards all help to prove that you are the best fit. Since you will probably list your activities on the application form, use the essay to expand on one or two of the most important ones.
However, don't just parrot back what is on the application. Use the opportunity to focus on a specific accomplishment, putting it into the proper context. Share details. Listing on the application that you were a stage manager for a play does not explain that you also had to design and build all the sets in a week. The essay allows you to expand on an achievement to demonstrate its significance.
Gen and Kelly Tanabe
Founders of SuperCollege and authors of 13 books on college planning.
By: Gen & Kelly Tanabe
More than anything else the essay and interview determine whether you will win a scholarship. Ace both with this new book. Includes 30 winning essays, 12 essays that bombed, and 20 sample interview questions and answers.
By: Gen & Kelly Tanabe
The goal of The Ultimate Scholarship Book is simple: To help you find free money. Inside you'll find the most up-to-date and comprehensive listing of more than 1.5 million awards. An easy-to-use index makes finding the right scholarships ridiculously quick. And it wouldn't be the Ultimate book without a section of little known insider tips and strategies that show you how to actually win the scholarships you find!