Students in the 2016-17 school year received $125.4 billion in grants to help pay for higher education, according to College Board. Countless organizations award millions in scholarship money every year. If you want to get your hands on some free college funding, you might need to learn how to write a scholarship essay.
To narrow down applicant pools, many scholarships require candidates to write an essay. These essays often carry a lot of weight when deciding who receives a scholarship — you’ll need to write a good one to maximize your chances.
But how can you do that? “Show why you deserve the scholarship through a story that is unique to you,” Andrea Friedlander, a college essay consultant at The Write Angle, advised. “Stories that reveal the person behind the application are powerful and memorable.”
Of course, showing who you are through an essay is easier said than done. To help you out, follow these five tips for writing the best scholarship essay you can.
1. Follow directions regarding the scholarship essay format
One of the quickest ways to lose out on a scholarship is to fail to follow the directions, according to Carol Drummer, an admissions consultant with Accepted. “An example would be ignoring the word count or page limits.”
To make sure you don’t make this easy-to-avoid blunder, read the instructions for the scholarship application and follow them exactly.
Adhering to the guidelines about scholarship essay formatting is important. Eliminating those who don’t comply with the rules is an easy way to narrow down the pool of eligible candidates.
2. Make it memorable
Readers of your essay play a significant part in deciding whether you land the scholarship or not. When they’re considering applicants, you want your name to be first on their minds — which means you want your essay to stick with them.
As the Philadelphia Tribune wrote: “A generic and bland submission, especially one riddled with spelling and grammar errors, is not even worth your time to compose.”
“Make it memorable is my top tip for answering college scholarship essay questions,” Drummer advised. “Open the essay with a story, anecdote, or memory that immediately engages the audience and shines a spotlight on your unique strengths.”
Friedlander echoed Drummer, adding, “You want the reader to relate to you, like you, and remember you.”
Friedlander also suggested telling a story that shows how you think, how you feel, and how you deal with obstacles or problems. “Write about a single incident and use specific details to paint a full and memorable picture,” she said.
3. Skip the platitudes
Your essay is your chance to speak directly to the reader about why you’re the best candidate. You want the essay to be in your voice.
“Don’t write in generalities and platitudes,” advised Friedlander. If your essay sounds like a stock essay that could have been written by anyone, it will quickly be forgotten. “Vague generalities are not memorable; vivid details make an impression.”
But, while you want to paint a picture for the reader, you’ll want to avoid prose that is too fussy. “Use clear, concise and simple phrases or language,” Drummer said. “Stay away from the thesaurus.”
4. Avoid rehashing your application
Essays are just one part of your application — you’ll likely need to provide your resume and academic transcripts, too. Your essay should offer something additional on top of the other credentials you provide.
“Do not use the essay space to repeat information already contained elsewhere in the application,” Friedlander warned. “The essay should be used to enhance the application and provide information about who you are that is not available elsewhere.”
She explained that your essay is a chance to show “how you think, how you deal with problems and obstacles, and what is truly important to you.”
You should also shy away from including long lists of your accomplishments, Reann Ritland, a consultant at Iowa State’s Writing and Media Center, told Iowa State Daily. She indicated this was one of the biggest mistakes she sees applicants make.
5. Proofread and take the time to do it right
Taking the time to write the best essay possible increases your chances of actually getting free money for school.
“Carefully allocate enough time to brainstorm multiple ideas before beginning to write,” Drummer advised. After you’ve narrowed down your ideas to a great topic, she also recommended beginning with an all-inclusive outline before moving on to the draft phase.
After you’ve completed your final draft, you’ll need to proofread carefully. Errors in grammar and spelling are common mistakes that could lead to an application rejection.
To make sure your essay is perfect, check for typos, misused words, or failure to follow the scholarship essay format. Asking someone else to read your essay and provide feedback is also helpful. Friends, parents, and teachers can catch any mistakes you might have missed, as can online tools such as Grammarly or Scribens.
Follow these tips when writing a scholarship essay
Knowing how to write a scholarship essay isn’t that hard if you think about the process as a chance to tell a story about who you are. You can follow this simple checklist to make sure you’ve got the process down.
Ideally, the readers will come away feeling like they know you, like you, and want to give you money to help pay to further your education.
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|1 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). 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. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (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.
2 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.
Information advertised valid as of 2/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
3 Important Disclosures for Discover.
* 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 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. ©2019 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
7 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.
8 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|4.23% – 13.23%1||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.20% – 11.44%2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.84% – 13.49%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.50% – 10.11%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.25% – 13.25%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.85% – 6.99%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.95% – 9.81%7||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.45% – 12.42%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|