If you’re in high school and applying for college scholarships, there are some things you have to get right on your essays, such as addressing the prompt head-on and hitting the word-count range.
But if you really want to increase your chances of winning scholarships, avoid these five mistakes too.
1. Simply summarizing your high school experience
Although your scholarship essay is likely tied to a prompt, it’s your opportunity to share something that can’t be found elsewhere on your application.
The scholarship committee already has a handle on the basics, such as your grades. So, steer clear of summarizing your resume or listing every accomplishment throughout your high school career.
Instead, use your essay to zero in on one experience that shows something new and flesh it out.
If you can’t identify a meaningful experience, you could write about the future, whether it’s your desire to avoid private student loans or study a particular major in college. Just ensure that your personality — not your list of accomplishments — shines through.
2. Falling into a thesaurus trap and hiding your voice
When you put your fingertips to a keyboard asking for money from someone you don’t know, you might be tempted to overwrite. Resist the urge to search for impressive-sounding words using a thesaurus.
If you wouldn’t use a word like “quite” or “rather” during an in-person interview, don’t type it. That will ensure your essay reflects your voice, not someone else’s. You can use a free online editing tool like Hemingway to ensure your writing is clear, concise, and easy to read.
Instead of trying to impress readers with a certain number of syllables, cater to your audience by doing some research. If you’re applying for a scholarship from a foundation, for example, research its history and try to incorporate what you learn into the essay. That could go a long way.
3. Writing entirely about someone (or something) else
Scholarship committees want to know who their money is going to, and rightly so. They’re less interested in learning about your parent, friend, or pet. So, ensure you’re the main character of your essay.
It’s possible to write about someone who inspires you. But spend the majority of your essay talking about how they inspired you to do something in the past or what they’ve inspired you to do in the future.
Similarly, if you want to spend your essay talking about a particular issue in society, explain how it relates to your life.
Say you’re passionate about income inequality, for example. Instead of waxing poetic about the issue in general, you could write about your side hustle and how it helps you make ends meet. After all, your personal struggles, challenges, goals, and achievements will be a lot more interesting to read about.
4. Following a writing template
After three-plus years of high school English classes, you might be trained to write a certain way. Pen a strong thesis statement, your teachers might have said. Support your introduction with three body paragraphs, they probably advised, and finish with a powerful conclusion.
Your instructors equipped you with a format to focus your writing, but don’t be afraid to try something new with your scholarship essays. You might start with imagery or your conclusion to draw your reader into your essay. Then, you could dive into the beginning of a narrative story, tying a thread back to your introduction later.
That could be a better way to explain how you met a challenge (or failed to) and how you grew from the experience.
With that said, put other parts of your teachers’ writing advice to work. Follow the show-don’t-tell rule. Avoid cliches, be specific, and write with authority.
5. Pressing send without a second thought
You might be tempted to turn in your first draft without a second thought so you can cross another scholarship essay off of your list.
However, take the time to turn your first draft into an improved second version. Ask for a review from your mom or dad, a teacher, or anyone with the ability to provide honest and helpful feedback. Then, apply it so you can submit the best version of your scholarship essay.
Be your own critic too. Proofread your essay for basic spelling and grammar errors using a free online app like Grammarly.
Before you hit send, ensure that your unique qualities come across. A scholarship essay is a great chance to show who you are outside the classroom and who you could become in the future.
Once you’ve done that, move on to other tasks, such as securing great recommendation letters to strengthen your applications even more.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2018!
|1 Important Disclosures for CollegeAve.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
2 Important Disclosures for Discover.
3 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB) or Turnstile Capital Management, LLC (TCM), which are not affiliated entities. Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. All loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Other terms and conditions apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of TCM and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for PNC.
PNC Bank is one of the nation’s largest education loan providers. For over 40 years, PNC has been committed to helping students and their families make possible the adventure of college.
6 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2018 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
8 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
9 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|3.69% – 10.94%1||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents||Visit CollegeAve|
|3.82% – 12.82%3||Undergraduate and Graduate||Visit Ascent|
|4.34% – 12.99%2||Undergraduate and Graduate||Visit Discover|
|4.12% – 10.98%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate||Visit SallieMae|
|5.03% – 11.23%5||Undergraduate and Graduate||Visit PNC|
|3.88% – 12.88%6||Undergraduate and Graduate||Visit SunTrust|
|4.72% – 9.81%7||Undergraduate and Graduate||Visit LendKey|
|3.72% – 9.68%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents||Visit CommonBond|
|4.04% – 12.01%9||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents||Visit Citizens|