Writing an application essay that is memorable and engages the reader can have a big impact on whether you win a scholarship. It is one of the few selection criteria that is completely under your control.
- Read the directions. Read and follow the directions. Sometimes the directions can clarify the intent of the question. If you don't follow the directions, you will give the scholarship committee a negative impression, telling them that you can't or won't follow instructions.
- Do not skip questions. If a question does not apply to you, write "Not Applicable". Do not leave any question blank. An incomplete application will be rejected.
- Write an interesting essay. The usual pseudo-philosophical rambling essays most students write are boring. Most students haven't lived long enough to develop a personal philosophy or life story that isn't trite, superficial, preachy or tiresome. A truly interesting essay will engage the reader and attract attention. So don't edit the life out of your essay, and stray a little from the safe topics.
Write about something you find interesting. Chances are, if you are passionate about a topic, you'll be able to write a more interesting essay about the topic.
If you find it difficult to write essays, try talking about the essay topic while recording the conversation. After you're done, transcribe the recording and edit it into essay form. This will give you a good start on your essay. The key to writing a good essay is to make it interesting, and the key to that is to write about something you are passionate about. Since the act of writing often interferes with the flow of ideas (most people can think and speak ten times faster than they can write or type), speaking into a tape recorder can help you capture your ideas and emotions better than staring at a blank piece of paper.
Try to find a unifying theme that binds together the threads of your background into a tapestry that shows not only where you have been and where you are now, but where you will go in the future. This will provide a sense of direction and cohesiveness.
- Write an outline for your essays. Writing an outline can help provide focus and structure to the essay. Too many application essays are written in a stream of consciousness style, which jumps from point to point and rambles without connecting one thought to another. Using an outline will allow you to present your arguments and ideas in a manner that supports your conclusions, yielding a more powerful essay.
- Give concrete examples. When answering application questions or writing application essays, support your statements with concrete examples. For example, if you say that one of your best qualities is leadership, give an example where you demonstrated leadership. Similarly, a question about community service should not be answered with a vague "I like helping others and feel that it is important", but should also include specific examples where you have helped others.
This can have a big impact on whether you win the award. If your application is filled with vague and abstract answers, the selection committee doesn't have any way of evaluating your qualifications. Selection committees never accept an applicant's self-evaluation at face value. If you give them concrete examples, they can form their own opinion and cite those experiences and accomplishments as evidence in support of their opinion.
The only situation in which self-evaluation is appropriate is when you are writing about how an experience affected you. In such a situation you are the only source of information about your personal reaction. But do not limit the essay to how you felt about the experience. Instead, also talk about how it affected your future actions. By linking your feelings to concrete examples and actions, you allow the committee to judge how the experience affected you through a tangible result.
- Don't exaggerate. Stretching the truth can hurt your application. For example, if you list photography as a hobby on an application for a science scholarship, don't be surprised if you're asked to explain the chemical reactions that make photography possible during your interview. Selection committees are good at detecting when a student exaggerates, and the dishonesty will cause you to lose a scholarship you might otherwise have won.
- Proofread your applications.Check your application forms and essays for correct spelling and grammar usage.
- Ask a teacher or parent to review your application. It sometimes helps to have a second pair of eyes read over your application. They can catch errors you missed and make helpful suggestions. But don't allow your parents to edit all the life out of your essay. Discuss the essay with them, but don't let them rewrite it.