How to get started

The topics for essays can vary depending upon the sponsor of the scholarship. Regardless of the topic, there are several things to keep in mind when writing an essay. These helpful tips can help you write an effective essay:

Make a plan

You want to make sure your essay answers and supports the question asked or is relevant to the topic that you are addressing. It’s important to organize your thoughts before you start writing. Take the time to brainstorm. It could pay off in the end!

Know your audience

When writing an essay, remember that someone will actually read it. It will help you organize your ideas better. Ask yourself these questions before you begin:

  • Who is my audience?

    Is it an individual or a review board/panel comprised of members from the organization sponsoring the scholarship, such as an athletic, academic, minority, community service or other special interest group?

  • What does my audience need, want and value?

    Each review board will have its own set of requirements for your essay, but likely the reviewers want to understand your connection to the their group's purpose through your own viewpoint, growth and experiences. They may also want to know that you have a vast range of academic interests and accomplishments.

  • What do I want my audience to learn about me? Some suggestions:

    • Your level of self-confidence.
    • Your level of self-awareness.
    • The extent of your reasoning and writing skills.
    • Insights that indicate you can make a positive contribution to a campus, organization, community or society.
    • The extent of your love for learning and how you envision using your education for society and others.

Stay focused on the message

If your essay references a personal experience, stay away from simply describing the experience to your audience. You want to focus on what your reaction to that experience says about you and how it’s helped shape the person that you are today. Your words should highlight specific characteristics that make you worthy of the scholarship.

Ask for feedback from friends and family

It is always helpful to get a second opinion.

Polish your essay

It’s not just about spell check. You want to make sure that you are getting your main points across to your audience without overloading them with unnecessary fillers. Proper editing takes time. But be careful about over-editing. Trust your instincts.

Stick to the rules

You don’t want to miss out on being awarded a scholarship because you failed to follow directions. Make sure you are paying attention to things like the deadline for submission and word count.

If you are feeling intimidated about writing an essay, just remember that you’re writing on a subject that you know a lot about — you! If you take the time to prepare your essay and stay true to yourself, you stand a greater chance of realizing the dream you have for your future.

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