Understanding a Scholarship Essay

A scholarship essay provides equal opportunities of receiving college scholarships for all students who have met the stipulated requirements. Therefore, the effort the applicants put in writing their scholarship essays is commensurate with the chance of receiving the scholarship. With that in mind, you cannot afford to sell yourself short. What exactly makes a winning scholarship essay? To answer that question, we, The Grade Miners, went through hundreds of scholarship essays and talked to former members of different scholarship committees. We gained valuable insight into what is essential and what is not.

We came up with the following guide to assist you in writing persuasive scholarship essays.

The first step is learning about your target audience

The most important thing to do before writing your scholarship essay is to find out about your target audience. The people you are writing to are not your professors. Ordinarily, the readers of your scholarship essays are either a team of professionals from a particular specialty or members of the organization granting the scholarship who are educated but have not specialized in any discipline.

It is imperative to understand your target audience as that will help you to write content that appeals to them. Answer the following questions before you begin:

Who comprises the scholarship panel and how can I use their background information to my advantage?

Do the members of the scholarship selection panel hold Ph.D.’s or Master’s degree in a particular field of study or are they educated non-specialists? Do they speak English? If so, is English their first language? If not, what is their first language? What is their mother country?

What have they set out to achieve? What matters to them?

A scholarship panel comprising of members from UNESCO Fellowship Program is evidently different from one consisting of members from a company-sponsored scholarship program. The two organizations have different goals.  For instance, borrowing from our example, UNESCO is all about human rights. On the other hand, a company-sponsored scholarship is dependent on the goals and mission of the company. For example, an athletic scholarship is looking for applicants who are outstanding in a particular sport.

With this understanding, you have to tailor your writing accordingly. Your target audience is looking for something. Identify it and give it to them.

The second step is understanding the question and answering it.

Although it goes without saying that the most fundamental part of your scholarship essay is answering the question; this part is the hardest for most students. Usually, the scholarship essay question is commonly embedded in supporting context. Therefore, it is your work to figure that out and to isolate the scholarship essay question from the supporting information. The first step to identifying the main question is to note the position of the question marks. We will give you an example of an essay prompt borrowed from the Common Application to illustrate this point.

  The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

In this example, the supporting information comes first. The supporting text is a declarative statement that tells you to reflect back and to base your argument in the context of that previous experience. Note that, that is not the primary question. Therefore, a scholarship essay question does not always take the question format but can sometimes begin as a declarative statement that uses phrases like compare and contrast, discuss, etc.

The second step to mastering the question is to rephrase it in your own words to simplify it.  For instance, borrowing from our example, the third sentence can be rewritten as; the impact of the experience and lessons learned after going through that particular moment.

The third step to mastering the scholarship essay question is annotating the scholarship essay question. Cross out some parts of the scholarship essay question and underline and highlight others. These actions ensure that each part of the scholarship essay question is addressed comprehensively.

The third step is planning your scholarship essay

Once you have understood your audience and the scholarship essay question, prepare how you are going to write your scholarship essay. Do not jump right in. Organize your ideas before you embark on your scholarship essays. You want to ensure that everything that you put down has been thought about carefully. Create an outline that you will follow throughout the writing process. Ensure your outline addresses all the required parts. Use the blueprint you have created when explaining your points to ensure no part is left out.


The fourth step is writing a killer introduction

The introduction is the key to writing a winning scholarship essay so you must use it to your advantage. Although it might appear challenging, how you introduce your scholarship essays will determine if you will have the upper hand or not. After you have understood the scholarship panel and the secret to answering your question, begin writing your scholarship essay.

A simple thing like starting the first line of your scholarship essay interestingly can make you stand out. It is an excellent way of capturing the attention of your readers and creating a distinction from the other numerous scholarship essays that they have read. A killer introduction is a sure way of enthralling them and keeping them glued to your scholarship essay. It helps you to create an impression of an objectively new approach on the topic. Who does not want to try something new?

The following tips will help you achieve a groundbreaking introduction:

Avoid being predictable

Do not write what your readers would naturally expect. Don’t begin by telling them you are interested in the scholarship program and that you are qualified. That might sound like a good start, but it’s too predictable. They have probably read that a thousand times. Again, don’t start by telling them what you are going to discuss. For instance, don’t write, “I will begin by talking about what motivates me, how much I have accomplished, and finish by illustrating the tremendous role this scholarship plays in my personal and professional journey.’’  Instead, begin your introductory paragraph by tackling the question. Use a catchy declarative statement to answer the question.

Use brief sentences in your introductory paragraph to formulate your argument

Remember that you will back up that argument when writing the rest of your scholarship essay. The opening paragraph is not a forum for too much detail. It is more of telling than showing.  Showing should be left for other sections that follow after the first paragraph. Aim at informing your audience about the things you want them to know before they get to the body. Ensure that you use the right amount of detail that will provide a brief overview of your argument.

The fifth step is writing the body of your scholarship essay

Understanding your target audience and a killer introduction is undoubtedly not enough to warrant you a scholarship. That just lays a good foundation. Therefore, you have to keep going at the same pace. The content of your scholarship essay, what you talk about, and how you discuss your ideas will determine whether or not the scholarship is indeed yours. Avoid producing a resume when writing your scholarship essay. Additionally, shy away from overusing complex vocabulary. The scholarship essay is an opportunity for you to answer the essay question comprehensively and analytically.  Regardless of the nature of the essay question, understand the specific needs of each scholarship panel and address them.

Use the following tips:

Avoid telling

Instead, create descriptions that allow your reader to experience what you are discussing. Let your narration evoke their thoughts, feelings, and senses.

Adhere to the guidelines of good writing

Instead of using aggrandized language that is full of big words, employ a pragmatic style that consists of concrete and straightforward words.

Be articulate and brief

Good writers communicate their ideas clearly and succinctly. Do not beat around the bush; hit the nail on the head.

Be assertive and use active voice when writing your scholarship essays

Don’t just say that something motivates you instead explain how you draw your motivation from what drives you and how you remain committed to it. Writing in active voice places you in the middle of your scholarship essay making you the pivotal player instead of a passive receiver.

Talk about your achievements sagaciously

Do not brag about your triumphs. You don’t want to sound like a blowhard. At the same time, you don’t want to appear to be writing a resume. Illustrating why your achievements are significant is the best way to go about it. Showing how your accomplishments have assisted you to get where you are is what is required.

The sixth step: Always reread your work after writing it

Read your essay prompt along with your essay again. Analyze your scholarship essays and see if they address the essay prompts adequately. If the scholarship essay does not discuss the question but talks around it, then you need to write your scholarship essay afresh.

Ensure that your work is free of grammar and spelling mistakes.

Go through each sentence again. Check to see if the sentences make sense. Confirm that when tied together all the sentences are logical. Check if the sentences are in line with the content of that particular paragraph and the general argument of the entire essay. Afterward, read your paper aloud to fish out lousy sentence structures and poor phrasings.

The seventh step is to proofread your work

Proofreading might sound similar to rereading. However, those two are entirely different. Do not assume since you already read your scholarship essay a couple of times; you can just skip proofreading. That might be the only snag separating you from the scholarship award. Many students who apply for scholarships are brilliant people with impressive achievements and talents. Deciding on who to choose when you have two equally qualified applicants can be very tricky, and it may all narrow down to a few technical errors here and there.

Follow the following steps to keep you ahead of the race:

Read your work from a different location and at a different time

It is easy to miss out missing letters and other typing mistakes when you have been working on something for some time. The best way to overcome this is proofreading your work at a different time and from a different location. Another useful trick is to print your scholarship essay in a different font. Doing this gives your brain ‘the impression of newness’ thus it can easily spot errors that were missed the first time.

Ask another party to proofread your work

It is essential that the person you chose has a good command of English language and if possible has experience with college application essays. Proofreading your work thrice makes you feel like your scholarship essay is ready for submission. However, you cannot be so sure of that because going through the same words and letters over and over again becomes anesthetizing to your eyes. For instance, it is easy to miss out a transposed word, for example, use of the word ‘huddle’ instead of ‘hurdle.’ Also, you might have mistaken ‘their‘ for ‘there.’  Typing errors and grammar mistakes can be missed by anyone even the literary geniuses of all time are no exception because writing is merely art, not a technical skill. Therefore, the importance of having another party go through your work cannot be overemphasized.

Below are additional tips that we thought were helpful:

Take advantage of the resources available within and outside your college.

Invest your time in knowing the resources found inside and outside your college. If you have just completed high school, the high school career counselors are your best advisors on the available scholarship opportunities. On the other hand, your Language or English teachers are the best people to go through your scholarship essays after you have written them.

Scholarship websites are also a good start. Websites like Fastweb provide you with an opportunity to browse their site to look for the scholarship opportunity of your choice. They also offer you with advice on how to go about the application process.

There are tons and tons of resources if you are already a college student. Most universities in North America offer the following resources to all their students:

Offices within the premises of the college that assist in the scholarship application process

Many colleges that offer four-year courses have an office within the campus premises where students can be helped to apply for scholarships such as Fulbright. The services provided by these colleges are many. Some colleges have experts who coach students through the whole scholarship application process. Others assist students in applying for all types of scholarships whether it is the departmental grants for conducting small-scale research or a full graduate scholarship.

The college writing center

The English Department commonly houses the college writing centers. Most of these centers comprise of graduate students who are writing specialists or experts in communication studies.   Their work is to assist students to better their writing skills. They seldom proofread essays for students. Their goal is to help students learn how to communicate effectively and concisely in the best possible way that brings out their achievements and talents.           

Purdue Online Writing Lab is another vital resource

This resource can be called the ‘mother’ of all academic writing resources found on the internet. It provides educational writing guidelines on virtually everything. From teaching you about the different formatting styles to how to come up with supporting arguments, the list is endless. This resource is the icing on the cake.

Focus on the bigger picture

It is normal for anyone to forget that writing a scholarship essay is a writing exercise because their focus is on the prize, i.e., the scholarship money. However, it is important to remember that no matter how much effort you put, the chances of getting that scholarship are slim.  Instead of drawing all your attention towards the scholarship money, think about the bigger picture. The entire writing process will make you a better writer than you were at the beginning.

Skills acquired from writing scholarship essays such as communicating concisely, rational argumentation, linguistic appeal, and persuasive writing go a long way. Not only do such skills open additional career opportunities (blogger, online marketer, journalist, etc.) for you but they also place you at the top of your career because communicating efficiently and in a goal orientated manner is required in all professions.

We hope that we have made the process of writing scholarship essays much easier. The Grade Miners believes that no matter how much advice is available for you, you still need assistance throughout the process of applying for that scholarship. Therefore, The Grade Miners has put together a dedicated team of experienced writers who have a rich background in academic writing and college application essays to assist you with all your scholarship essay writing needs. The goal of The Grade Miners is to make your scholarship application process a valuable learning experience. We believe that the process of writing scholarship essays should not be fretful. Contact The Grade Miners today, and we guarantee you that we will make your experience with us worthwhile.