How to write a scholarship essay:Best Guide

How to write a scholarship essay:Best Guide

When beginning a new academic year, it is the time to search for and win scholarships to help pay for college!

Because many scholarship applications require an essay, you need to write a scholarship essay that persuades the scholarship board that you’re the right person to receive the available funds!

Your scholarship essay can serve as a door into your world if done correctly. These essays, like your personal statement for college applications, should give readers a sense of you as a multidimensional person beyond what your high school GPA and test scores can reflect.

At, we’ve read and written thousands of scholarship essays. We’ll share our favorite scholarship essay writing tips and strategies in this blog.

Tips for writing a scholarship essay

Follow the guidelines for writing a powerful essay

You need to format your scholarship essays to make it easy for the reader to ingest and assimilate the text, just like any other essay you write for school. A winning paper will have a solid “flow” to it.

Here are some helpful essay writing abilities that will aid you in developing a scholarship essay format:

Have an excellent introductory phrase for your essay, which is often known as a “hook.” It is a perfect introduction to several essay hooks, but remember to use your unique style and tone.

Stick to the tried-and-true structure of an introduction, body, and conclusion. Even if the essay prompt is vague, you’ll want to ensure your essay has a defined beginning, middle, and end.

Start every idea in a new paragraph. Use short sections instead of long unreadable ones.

End your essay neatly, and don’t leave it hanging. Even if you don’t have time for a complete closing paragraph, a quick “bow” at the end is appropriate.

Be familiar with the essay prompt

Read and understand the prompt. The essay requirements for many scholarship programs are similar, such as how you’ve displayed leadership skills or how having more financial flexibility will benefit your life as a college student.

If the essay prompt does not appear to be a question (e.g., “Reflect on the status of the environment and your part in aiding it”), we strongly advise you to reframe it as a question. For instance, consider the following question: “What is the general state of the world’s natural ecosystem, and how am I directly affecting it?”

And, while it may seem self-evident, do not veer from the prompt. Scholarship committees will consider your abilities to discuss a narrowly focused issue. It’s easy to get distracted away with your thoughts, but stay focused on the prompt.

Select a topic that you are passionate about

You should stick to the essay prompt. Sometimes, you may have some control to select a topic, or at least the central focus. Like a subject, event, or value, write about something important to you. It will help you generate exemplary work and be genuine in your writing. You will improve your scholarship essays without adding any amount of effort.

Let’s imagine you’re tasked to describe a period when you felt proud of yourself. A few examples may come to mind. Maybe it was the first time you jumped off the high diving board. Perhaps it was when you returned a wallet that contained $100.

Don’t choose which example you believe the scholarship essay readers would appreciate. Choose the one that echoes with you the most. It may sound corny, but essay writing from the heart is considerably more potent than writing from the head.

Perform some preliminary research on the scholarship provider

What is the name of the corporation or organization in charge of the scholarship program? On their main page, you can learn a bit about them. Learn about their mission and why they are awarding this scholarship. You’ll be better equipped to customize your essay to the scholarship committee if you know more about them.

Many scholarship sponsors also post former scholarship winners on their websites, sometimes along with the winning essay. Examine what the scholarship provider says about prior winners to get a sense of the attributes you should emphasize in your essay.

Be aware of the character/word limit

The majority of scholarship essays have a word or character limit. As a rule of thumb, 250 words equals one double-spaced written page. (Thus, 500 words equals two written, double-spaced pages, and so on.) It can be difficult to judge what “250 words” actually means if you aren’t used to thinking in these terms.

We recommend that you run a word/character count on an essay (or any other piece of written work) so that you can get a sense of different lengths. There is a function in Microsoft Word and Google Docs, but you can also use a letter counter like this one.

Stick to the word or character length once you’ve determined it. You may be disqualified if you exceed the limit. While you are not required to create an essay that reaches the maximum, it is a good rule of thumb to get as near as feasible.

Plan and brainstorm

We cannot emphasize this enough. If you plan where you’re going, the entire essay writing process will go much more smoothly. The first step is to get some organic ideas flowing to select an essay topic that you understand. Here are some fantastic essay brainstorming strategies.

Some students prefer to skim over the outline. However, outline speeds up the drafting process significantly. That’s why, later in this post, we’ve included an essay outline you can use! You can begin to outline your essay once you have a clear sense of its focus.

Note the points you want to include in your introduction, body, and conclusion, depending on the length and depth of the essay. It could be that simple, but you don’t want to skip the planning stage.

Use ethos, pathos, and logos

What-os, what-os? Let’s go over ethos, pathos, and logos quickly, if you haven’t already. Ethos, pathos, and logos are different ways to persuade your reader. In other words, they are methods for making your writing more powerful and convincing.

Here’s an excellent overview of ethos, pathos, and logos, but in a nutshell, here’s what they all mean:

Ethos is how you establish your credibility, dependability, or authority on the subject (hint: your scholarship essays will rely heavily on your own life experiences).

For instance, you could talk about how your experience working a part-time job has influenced your views on minimum wage laws.

Pathos uses emotional appeal (including creativity, imagination, and so on) to tell a story or make a point.

Logos refers to the use of logic or ration to make a point.

For example, statistics demonstrate how reliant high school students are on their cell phones.

Essentially, in an ideal essay, you will use all three types of support to make your essay sincere and persuasive.

Be honest

Your life and experiences are fascinating and significant! Nothing is more potent than your genuineness. You are not required to embellish or invent details to appear more deserving of the scholarship money.

Here’s an easy example. If you’re a tutor, you might be tempted to say something dramatic, such as “over the last four years, I’ve had the honor of helping shape thousands of lives.”

Instead, you could say something like, “After four years of tutoring math and science, I feel my math and material science skills have improved significantly.”

Don’t tell, show

first and most important rule of creative writing. Instead of simply explaining everything, try to paint a vivid picture for your reader. For example, don’t just say you are stressed out because of juggling work and high school. Draw a picture of how stress manifests itself in your life. Make a mental picture and provide specific, credible examples.

Be specific and concise

While we encourage you to use evocative language, we also want to emphasize the importance of getting to the point. The most straightforward, most natural word choices are usually the most effective. Avoid Generalizations in favor of specific examples. Similarly, avoid flowery language in favor of shorter sentences.

Use Exclamation points sparingly

Exclamation points indicate excitement. To be honest, we adore exclamation points! While receiving financial aid in scholarships is exciting, using too many exclamation points can be overkill.

As a general rule, don’t use more than a couple of exclamation points in your scholarship essay. We’ve seen some pretty inventive scholarship essay prompts. You can use exclamation marks more freely in this case.

Many people mistakenly believe that using an exclamation mark makes a sentence more powerful. However, empowering statements can be effective even without one.

Showcase your resilience

Scholarship prompts frequently ask about adversity you’ve overcome. This question allows the reader to gain insight into a student’s resilience and problem-solving abilities. These qualities are essential in a scholarship essay.

Many students mistake writing entirely about their difficulties without acknowledging or discussing how they overcame them. When choosing a winner, essay readers are looking for a complete narrative that includes how the student overcame the challenge, not just the most challenging story.

Furthermore, when working with a word or character limit, we recommend focusing on a significant event or experience, which tends to read as more powerful. You may have faced many difficulties in your life, but your essay will be more focused if you choose one that you overcame.

Be professional and truthful

While you should avoid cursing and too much colloquial or informal language, you should also be yourself. Readers want you to sound like YOU as long as you remain professional. It doesn’t have to be a stuffy essay to be good! Keep it clean and clear, but also true! It entails writing in your tone and voice.

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Sell yourself, and be humble

Is this what a humble brag is? Maybe. In your scholarship essay, it’s a good idea to talk about how you’ve done good things. Remember that you don’t want to list all of your best traits and achievements as to why you deserve the scholarship. It’s crucial to find good middle ground.

When you say “thank you,” be brief

Your character, dedication, and integrity should show through your writing, but you should not force it. You don’t need to write a long “Thank you for reading this essay” sentence at the end of your essay.

Most scholarship essays are short, so don’t fill your paper with thanks and praise for the chance. Instead, you can use your character and word limits to answer the question in depth.

The best thing to say is “thank you” if you have the time. But brief and to the point. At the end of your essay, you can say something like, “Thank you for this chance and for finding the time to read this essay.”

If your thanks in the essay exceed the word limit, wait to write a letter after getting the scholarship.

Take a break, proofread, and make changes to your work

In the process of revising, we’re big fans of taking a few breaks. Work on something else to get your mind off of it for a while. Then come back to it. You’ll be able to see your essay with new eyes, which will help you move it up a notch.

The best way to get feedback on your work is to hand it off to someone else. Choose a trusted teacher, friend, or peer, and listen to what they say about how you can improve.

Take enough time for yourself

Get enough time to think about the prompt, plan, draft, and revise your work. If you write a well-thought-out essay, it has a much better chance of winning than the one you pen at the last minute.

Get at least two weeks before the deadline of an essay to think about, write, and improve your paper. That way, you can fix mistakes, typos, and places that need to be better. Make sure to leave at least two days between each step in the writing process. This break will help you avoid getting burned out while writing an essay, so take it now.

Reuse scholarship essays

At times, you don’t have to write a new scholarship essay. Reusing an article if the paper prompts and directions are almost the same for two scholarship applications is a good idea if they are. College applications might even be able to use the personal statement you write for high school when you write one for yourself.

Then let’s say one scholarship wants you to write an essay about why you should get this scholarship. Another asks you why you should get this scholarship, like “What can I do for you?” There is a good chance you will answer both of these questions the same way.

Then, write the essay for one of them. Then, you can reuse and change that same essay to fit the word count, directions, and so on of the second one.

Keep in mind that if you use the name of a specific scholarship provider (like the Coca-Cola Foundation) in your essay, don’t reuse the paper for another scholarship application unless you change the provider’s name.

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What to exclude in a scholarship essay

The rules aren’t set in stone. They’re just guidelines that will help you write the most unique and compelling scholarship essay possible. It is what you should try not to do most of the time:

The first thing that makes you feel good is inspirational quotes. Who doesn’t love a good quote? We’re sure about that. A good quote can be very motivating, no matter where you find it. However, when it comes to writing scholarship essays, it’s better to leave them out of them.

DON’T use well-known quotes

It doesn’t have to be anyone else’s big ideas. This essay tells about you, so famous quotes are just a waste of time and space.

DO include important advice or wisdom that you’ve learned from the people in your life. Personal: This will give you a unique account of yourself.

She has been a registered nurse for 20 years, and she has always told me that caring for other people is a way to make the world a better place. It is why I want to go to nursing school like her and become a nurse.

Do not use too many general phrases and platitudes

The key to winning a scholarship is to stand out from the crowd. It means you don’t want to say the same thing as many others.

Platitudes are joint, oversimplified statements that people say all the time, but they aren’t perfect. Among other things, “Good things come to those who wait,” These are good words to say, but don’t use them in your scholarship essays to sound like every other high school student.

DON’T say things like, “Winning this scholarship would mean the world to me” or “Winning this scholarship would change my life.” These things may be accurate, but they don’t tell us much about you.

DO show how things will be different if you get the scholarship money. When: “I could have only one part-time job instead of two, which would give me more time to study for my college classes.”

There are three things you don’t want to read or hear:

Many scholarship essays prompt ask you to talk about how winning a scholarship would change you. It is where cliches start to show up, where they often do.

They are phrases, stories, or themes used so often that they lose their power and meaning. They’ll also make your scholarship essay less intense.

Many clichés are about people who turn things around and win with a bit of help. Still, there are many more. There are a lot of scholarship applications that use stories like this one so that you can see why.

DON’T tell a story about yourself that makes you look like a poor student who could have everything if only they won this scholarship money.

Remember, we’re all about big dreams! But in scholarship essays, avoid writing cliche stories that weaken your account and make it less likely that you’ll win.

Be honest and specific when you talk about yourself, your background, career goals, leadership skills, and dreams and goals. Keep your eye on one main goal that you’ll be better able to reach if you win the scholarship money.

Don’t use any profanity or curse words

A scholarship essay isn’t the place to make a big deal out of things like that because many people do.

Not even if you hear them all the time on TV or in real life, don’t use any profanity or curse words!

To avoid saying: “I’ve worked hard for 18 years, and now I’m ready to push myself even more in this hard pre-med class.”

Is that conversational tone going to bother anyone? There’s a good chance. As a bonus, we know you can be more creative than that, too!

You should talk about how excited you are about the next chapter without using expletive words. Use a thesaurus to get new and better ways to say things. Also, use imagery to paint a picture of what you’re going through.

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Don’t use Text speak

When we talk to each other, we know that texting is the way of the world. And we use abbreviations and acronyms every day, so we’re used to it. It’s OK to use “text speak” in your group chats but not in your scholarship essays.

Unless advised otherwise, write like you would for a teacher or boss in your scholarship essay.

College should be free, but I need this scholarship to help me pay for it because it isn’t. It looks funny when you look at it differently, right? People do this all the time, and it isn’t enjoyable for the reader.

Do not use “text speak.” Instead, use your voice and tone. It’s still OK to be a little fun and talk like you, but keep it academic and professional at the same time.

Controversial things

Suppose the essay prompt says that you should write about a hot, controversial topic and take a stand on it, don’t. These stories are about you.

A “hot topic” might be something you talk about in your essay, but don’t do it just to make your paper stand out. You could make your reader angry (s).

As long as you don’t use “hot takes” in your scholarship essays, you can be yourself and be open and honest about your own life stories.

DON’T use your scholarship essay as a platform to talk about a hot topic. Your opinion on a hot-button issue doesn’t sound very good in a well-thought-out paper.

DO take firm stances on causes you believe in and articulate how winning this scholarship will help you advocate for them. As an example, you can talk about how much you care about gender equality or about how much you care about pay.

To be clear, we don’t want you to change your beliefs or your writing to make them more appealing to a particular group of people. The key is to pay attention to the prompt and not go off tangents unrelated to the prompt.

Emojis, pictures, and weird fonts

The emojis you use in your scholarship essay are great but do not use them in your paper. We’ve seen this happen a lot. If you don’t have to use an emoji in your answer for any reason, don’t do it.

Do not use photos, fun fonts, or anything else that isn’t a straightforward typeface to make your text more interesting unless you have the go-ahead.

Not to do: Don’t turn your scholarship essay into a piece of art. The idea may seem reasonable at first, but keep it clean and classy. Most of all, you want your writing to be as easy to read as possible, not to overwhelm your readers.

Make your essay look good when you copy and paste it into the text box on a website because this will format your content. Make sure you use Times New Roman font and size 12 if you’re attaching your essay to a Google or Word document. This is the standard.

Read the directions carefully to know how to format your scholarship essay when it comes to things like single vs. double spacing, margins, headers and footers, and so on so that you know how to do everything.


Do not look at things from extreme, either-or points of view almost all of the time. A powerful declaration is when you only look at one side of a situation (usually the bad side) and make it seem like it’s the truth. And when it comes to scholarship essays, this is also true.

DON’T say things about the future that aren’t true and don’t take strong positions on things that don’t need to be strong.

Do not make extreme statements about the future. Instead, be hopeful and open-minded about the future. The point isn’t to say that you can’t take a solid and realistic stand on a subject, though. But try to have a more positive and proactive attitude in general.

What if the prompt asks you about a problem in the world today? You might say: “While there has undoubtedly been a lot of damage done to the planet, I’m excited to study both environmental science and computer science as a way to help reverse these harmful effects of climate change.”

Much more exciting and dynamic, right?

Do not talk about other applicants

It’s not good to say bad things about anyone or say why other students aren’t as good as you are for getting a scholarship. You can explain why you deserve it without putting anyone else down.

DON’T say bad things about anyone, even if you think you’re better qualified than them. It does not how well you write; it will be disgusting.

“Stay in your lane,” as they say, and don’t let the essay go off the rails and focus on and pick apart other people. You can discuss why you’re a good candidate for a scholarship without mentioning anyone else.

Your autobiography

As we talked about, most scholarships have a rigorous word or character limits, so you won’t have a lot of space to tell your whole life story, either. It is easy to add more information than you need when describing yourself, which is not good. But try to stay on task.

DON’T write a detailed account of your life. It is easy to think that going over the word limit will make you look like you’re working harder or making more of an effort. It turns out that scholarship committees pay a lot of attention to how well you follow directions. That’s why even though your autobiography might be remarkable; it’s not likely that you’ll be able to do it justice in just 500 words or less.

DO pick and focus on the main event, challenge, personality trait, hobby, or goal. You could talk about your love of animals, your passion for community service, your memory of the day your younger sister was born, and so on.

Example of a scholarship essay outline

There is a lot of information in the tips we just gave you. And it might be hard to remember everything when you start writing. If you want to format your scholarship essays quickly, here’s an outline you can use.

Introduction hook: Start the essay with an exciting part of the story you’ll tell to answer the writing prompt.

Body Paragraphs: Continue to explain how your story fits the question and why you’re a good candidate for the scholarship. Make sure to talk about the things scholarship committees are looking for, like leadership skills in school, your academic and career goals, why you’re applying for the scholarship, and so forth.

Conclusion: The end of your essay should show why you want to get the scholarship and why your story shows that you are ready for college.

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