Have you ever wondered how scholarship judges decide which students win scholarships and which ones are rejected? We can tell you first hand that it is not an easy task. In some cases, thousands of eligible deserving students may be competing for just one award. How does a student stand out in a crowd?
#1 Be Creative
Unlike your high school English papers, scholarship essays require a little bit more creativity. It is best to approach your written responses as a creative story. This means you need to have an opening paragraph to grab the reader’s attention within the first 2 or 3 sentences. So keep it interesting. Tease the reader and reel him in with small hints of what is to come.
Under no circumstances should you spit back the scholarship essay prompt or underline a thesis statement. If you’ve done your paper right the reader will know what the purpose of your paper is without being knocked over the head with it.
Writer’s block is real and usually shows up when you are under a deadline. If this happens to you, try some brainstorming activities. It is important to do what we call “brain dump”. This should trigger some pretty powerful images and feelings and when that happens, just start writing. Don’t feel like you are confined to an actual essay. Try putting your feelings into a haiku, song, or poem. As long as your words are creative, you create a vivid picture and you will keep your reader attached.
One of the quickest ways to have your scholarship essay easily tossed into the rejection pile is to go off topic. If you are asked to write about your experience with fighting stereotypes, do not waste time telling the scholarship committee why you deserve this scholarship or list your academic accomplishments. This does nothing to enhance the essay and only shows the judges you are unable to follow the directions. Stay on point and make every word count.
Read the paper thoroughly. Try reading out loud. This will even help with grammar. So many great essays we’ve had to reject because of simple grammatical errors. If you are applying for a $10,000 scholarship, give it some thought and respect. Avoid using text lingo and always capitalize the letter “I” when referring to yourself. Check for common mistakes such as using the wrong word, or using the right punctuation. It might help to put your essay away for a day or two. You’d be surprised how different things look with fresh eyes.
Have someone else read your essay before you hit submit. A teacher, a mentor, or a friend who can help give you some constructive feedback. This can help you craft a killer essay no scholarship judge will be able to ignore!