How To Write A College Scholarship Essay

How To Write A College Scholarship Essay

With a new school year here, now’s the perfect time to get serious about searching for and winning scholarships to pay for college!

Since many applications for scholarships require an essay, you’ll want to know how to write one that persuades the scholarship program board that you’re the right person to receive the money available!

If done right, your scholarship essay is a window into your world. Similar to your statement for college applications, these essays should give the readers a sense of you as a dimensional person—beyond what your high school GPA and test scores alone can reflect.

How To Write A College Scholarship Essay

According to experts, the key to a successful scholarship essay is to make it personal and to include impactful details. An essay that feels genuine and provides deeper insights into who the applicant is will stand out in a crowd of academic essays that may be boring for readers who review hundreds, if not thousands, of applications.

Tips for Writing a Winning Scholarship Essay

When you’re drafting your scholarship essay, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

  •  Start the essay-writing process early

Leave yourself plenty of time to produce a well-thought-out entry. Take the time to brainstorm your ideas, create an outline, and edit your entry as you would for any essay writing assignment for your English class.

  • Understand the scholarship provider’s overall mission and purpose

Each scholarship provider seeks students who meet specific criteria. Consider writing about an experience or hobby that demonstrates your strong connection to the organization’s mission. Genuine enthusiasm and passion for your topic will shine through in your essay writing.

  •  Follow the scholarship essay instructions.

Before submitting your scholarship essay, make sure you have completed all of the necessary steps and have reviewed them. Believe us when we say that some of the brightest students have missed out on scholarships because they failed to follow instructions. You don’t want to be in that group!

  •  Steer clear from essay topics that focus on negativity or pessimism

Scholarship committees would rather see how you overcame hardships and succeeded despite the obstacles in your path (or what you learned from the times you failed).

  •  Don’t be afraid to get personal

Tell us something about yourself. This is your opportunity to elaborate on topics that you would not have been able to do otherwise on your application. Telling your story adds authenticity to your essay, making it more memorable to the scholarship committee.

Asking teachers, counsellors, family members, or trustworthy friends for feedback on your essay will result in a better final product.

  •  Yes, spelling and grammar matter

Scholarship committees do notice grammar mistakes. Even tiny errors can distract a reader from your overall message. Before you submit your application make sure you take the time to proofread your essay from beginning to end.

  •  Don’t give up!

When you’re tired, take a break, but don’t throw in the towel! Our online essay-writing tutors are here for you anytime you get discouraged. We can help with everything from brainstorming and outlining to revising the final draft.

Things to Leave Out of Your Scholarship Essay

Each scholarship provider seeks students who meet specific criteria. Consider writing about an experience or hobby that exemplifies your style Now that you know how to approach your scholarship essay, let’s look at what you should leave out.

Keep in mind that these guidelines aren’t set in stone, but they will help you write the most unique and compelling scholarship essay possible.

  •  Motivational quote

Who doesn’t enjoy a good inspirational quote? We certainly do. A great quote can be extremely empowering, whether you find it while scrolling through Instagram or keep it tacked up above your desk. When it comes to scholarship essays, however, it is best to leave them out.

Don’t use famous quotes, which are often overused. “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” for example, which is why I’m applying for this scholarship award. I want to go to college so that I can become a nurse and make a difference in the world.”

  •   Phrases and platitudes that are overly general

Standing out from the crowd is the name of the game when it comes to winning scholarships. This means you should avoid saying the same thing as hundreds of other applicants.

Platitudes are overly simplified statements that people frequently use. “Good things come to those who wait,” for example. These are acceptable phrases to use, but avoid using them in your scholarship essays to avoid sounding like every other high school student.

Don’t talk about the scholarship opportunity with platitudes like, “Winning this money would mean the world to me” or “Winning this scholarship would be life-changing.” These assertions may be true, but they don’t reveal much about you.

  •   Cliche stories or themes

Many scholarship essay prompts ask you to talk about how winning a scholarship would change your life. And this is where cliches frequently appear.

Cliches are phrases, stories, or themes that have become so overused that they have lost their power and meaning. They will undoubtedly weaken your scholarship essay.

The “Cinderella” or “underdog” storyline is the most common example of a cliche theme in scholarship essays (think: Cinderella getting her glass slipper; only the scholarship is the glass slipper). Many cliches involve someone who, with a little help, turns things around and triumphs.

We love a Cinderella story just as much as anyone else. But you can imagine why this type of story appears so frequently in scholarship essays!

  •   Profanity

Here’s another one that should be obvious. You wouldn’t swear in a scholarship essay, would you? However, you might be surprised at how many people do!

Do not use any profanity or curse words, even if they are part of common phrases we hear on TV and in real life.

  •   “Text speak”

We understand that texting is the norm. And we’re all pretty used to shortening words and using acronyms daily (smdh and lol-ing about how common this language is now). However, keep your “text speak” to group chats and away from scholarship essays.

Your scholarship essay is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your eloquence and professionalism, so write as if you were writing for a teacher or a boss (unless otherwise instructed).

  •  Controversial topics

Unless the essay prompt specifically requests that you address a current trending, contentious topic and take a position on it, don’t. These are essays about you.

Perhaps you’ll discuss a “hot topic” based on the prompt and your personal experiences, but don’t do so just to make your essay stand out. You run the risk of alienating your reader(s).

We certainly encourage you to be yourself and to be open and honest about your life experiences, but “hot takes” should be reserved for Twitter rather than used in scholarship essays.

  •  Emojis, photos, and funky fonts

We like emojis, too, but they shouldn’t make it into your scholarship essay (and, yes, we’ve seen it happen). Unless you’re specifically asked to use an emoji in your response, resist the urge.

The same is true for photos, fun fonts, and anything else that isn’t a simple typeface. Unless, once again, you are given the go-ahead,

  •   Extreme declarations

It’s almost always best to avoid extreme, either-or viewpoints. This is especially true when writing scholarship essays. An extreme declaration involves presenting only one side of a situation (often the negative side) as fact.

  •  Put-downs of other applicants

Speaking negatively about anyone or claiming that other students are less deserving of scholarship funds is not a good look. You can articulate why you deserve it without putting anyone else down!

  •  Your autobiography

As previously stated, most scholarships have strict word or character limits, so you won’t have much room to tell your entire life story. When talking about yourself, it’s easy to get carried away and include more information than is necessary. However, try to remain focused.

DO NOT COMPLETE AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF YOUR LIFE. It is easy to believe that exceeding the word limit will mean working harder or putting in more effort. In reality, scholarship committees place a high value on your ability to follow instructions. So, while your autobiography may be fantastic, you’re unlikely to do it justice in 500 words or less (or whatever the requirement is).

Example of a Scholarship Essay Outline

We understand that the tips we just shared contain a lot of information. And remembering everything when you start writing will most likely be difficult. So, here’s a simple outline to help you format your scholarship essays!

  • Hook Introduction: Begin your essay with an intriguing excerpt from the story you’ll be sharing in response to the writing prompt.
  • 1-3 Body Paragraphs: Continue to share relevant story details, explaining how it relates to the prompt and qualify you for the specific scholarship. Make a point of emphasising things that scholarship committees are looking for, such as leadership skills in school activities, academic and career goals, why you’re specifically applying for this scholarship, and so on.
  • Conclusion: Conclude your essay by restating your interest in the scholarship and demonstrating how the story you’ve shared demonstrates your college readiness.


A typical scholarship essay topic will most likely ask students about their career goals and how they intend to achieve them.

The most frustrating aspect of reading scholarship application essays is when students fail to follow directions. This includes noting any formatting requirements, and length constraints, and responding to the question posed.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the most important thing to consider when writing a college scholarship essay?

The most important thing to consider when writing a college scholarship essay is to tell a compelling story that highlights your unique qualities and experiences. Scholarship committees are looking for applicants who are not only academically qualified but also have the potential to make a significant contribution to their college community.

2. How can I make my college scholarship essay stand out from the competition?

There are a few things you can do to make your college scholarship essay stand out from the competition:

  • Start early, and give yourself plenty of time to write and revise your essay.
  • Read the essay prompt carefully, and make sure your essay addresses all of the points that are asked for.
  • Be specific, and provide concrete examples of your accomplishments and experiences.
  • Write in a clear and concise style.
  • Have someone else proofread your essay for grammar and spelling errors.

3. What are some common mistakes to avoid when writing a college scholarship essay?

Some common mistakes to avoid when writing a college scholarship essay include:

  • Writing about a topic that is not relevant to the scholarship or to your college aspirations.
  • Bragging or exaggerating your accomplishments.
  • Making negative statements about yourself or others.
  • Using clichés or generic language.
  • Not proofreading your essay carefully.

By following these tips, you can increase your chances of writing a winning college scholarship essay.

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