With the rising cost of tuition, many current and prospective students need to get creative to fund their college educations. The best way to afford college is to earn scholarships because even working multiple jobs simply won’t cover the costs. There are hundreds of private and government scholarships available to help students afford college. The good news is that many of these scholarship applications require little more than an essay. This article provides some strategies to improve your scholarship essay writing skills to help you take advantage of the wealth of opportunities available.
Do Your Homework
There are hundreds of scholarships available for dozens of academic fields and purposes. Understanding the purpose of the scholarship is essential to your success. It will do you no good to apply to a scholarship designed for someone outside of your desired field or career path. Do plenty of research and seek out the lesser known scholarships that may be more relevant and have less competition. Additionally, many scholarship programs will post the winning essays from previous years. It is a good idea to review these to see the type of content and structure the reviewers want to see. Likewise, it is also a good idea to seek out former recipients and discuss their experiences. Finding winners may be as simple as talking to a guidance counselor or career advisor to seek out recipients in your institution.
Start with the End in Mind
After a long day of reading, none of the members on the review committees will get through your essay if it is rambling and has no clear and definite purpose. As with most types of writing, it is important to begin the essay writing process with an outline. This ensures that you stick to the topic and are able to reach your final conclusions. It will also allow you to prioritize the topics you discuss since most essays have a strict word limit.
Scholarship essays are little more than personal sales pitches. Scholarship providers are investing a lot of money in you and they want to make sure they are making a sound investment with the maximum possible returns. Articulate how you have taken advantage of other opportunities and how their investment will contribute to your success in reaching your future goals. Be sure to review the history, purpose, and mission statement of the scholarship provider to ensure your goals and values are in line with theirs.
To stand out, your essay must have something unique to offer. Oftentimes selection committees review several hundred essays in a day and the process becomes monotonous. It is important to remember that reviewers are human too and can become tired and bored. For this reason, don’t be afraid to stray from regular subjects. You could begin with a personal anecdote or a relevant shocking fact that will draw the reader in by making them question why you would include such a thing. Continue by writing about something that interests you because if you lack enthusiasm for a topic, it will show in your writing. If the essay can’t even hold your attention, it has no hope of keeping an outside reviewer interested.
While competition for scholarships can be fierce, it is important to remember you are competing with your peers that often share similar life experiences with you. Yes, there are people out there who have learned several dialects of Chinese from their time working in orphanages while riding a motorcycle across Asia. However, these people are the exception and not the rule. Reviewers want to see that you have made the best of the opportunities presented to you. Therefore, it is important to be realistic when discussing your experiences, what they have taught you, and what you will do in the future. Don’t exaggerate because selection committees will find out especially if the application process involves an interview.
Review and Revise
After putting in several hours outlining and drafting the essay, the last thing you will want to do is review and proofread it. However, this is a critical step to guarantee your essay is as clear and coherent as possible. Nothing detracts from the content of an essay like a typographical or grammatical error. Mistakes like this detract from your credibility and show the reviewers that you are lazy or careless. To avoid this, be sure to proofread the essay start to finish after taking some time away from it to look at it with fresh eyes. Once this is done, have others read it. Teachers, advisors, and friends will give you honest feedback that can be extremely valuable to ensuring the best structure, flow, and content of the essay.
At first, scholarship essay writing may seem like a daunting task. You invest hours of your time and may not receive anything at all. However, scholarships are well worth the effort because they provide essentially free money that allows you to invest in your future. Put in the effort up front, and the returns will be enormous.
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