Many scholarship opportunities require candidates to write a short essay as part of the application process. It’s important to write a strong, original essay to set yourself apart from the competition. We know essay writing isn’t most students’ favorite pastime, but hey, what’s a little essay between you and financial stability? Besides, Take Stock in College has your back!
College Completion Coach Autumn Huffman taught Composition at the University of Mississippi for four years prior to joining the Take Stock team, and she has assembled some helpful tips so you can write your best scholarship essay.
1. Don’t wait ‘til the last minute
We’ve all done it: waited until the last minute to write an essay. You might even think you do your best work under pressure. But trust us, there is a big difference in quality between essays that have been rushed and those that have been planned, revised, and patiently reworked.
We know you are busy with school, work, and extra-curricular activities, but this is important! Having extra scholarship dollars will help you cut down on your work hours and focus more on your schooling. Making the time now will gift you time in the future! Try giving yourself three weeks to work on the essay so you have plenty of time 1) brainstorming your first week, 2) drafting in your second week, and 3) proofreading and revising in your third week.
2. Follow all directions to the letter
Contrary to popular belief, an overlong essay is just as big of a student sin as one that is shy of the word count, but pay attention to the essay parameters. If the instructions say 250-300 words, then you had better come in at the right mark. Going under the length usually means you weren’t detailed enough; going over the length usually means you went off topic.
Don’t disqualify yourself before you even get started—triple-check everything! This includes reviewing the essay’s requirements that ask for a certain header, format, typeface, or font color. Failing to do so communicates you have missed the mark without the scholarship committee even having to read a word of your beautiful essay!
3. Answer every part of the question
Much of the time, an essay prompt will contain a few different questions in one. For example: “Tell us about a time in your life when you overcame adversity. What challenge did you face? What steps did you take to overcome it?” Many applicants will just hone in the first one or two questions, and ignore the crucial third part! Be sure to answer the full question.
4. Write an outline
One of the best ways to make sure you are answering every part of the question in an organized way is to begin your writing process with an outline. This outline will keep you on track in your essay and keep you from forgetting important points. Here’s an example essay outline to get you started:
Remember, this is a guide! You will make your essay outline your own.
5. Tell a Story
Don’t be afraid to tell a story in your essay. A narrative component gives your essay a personal touch that will make your work more memorable. Give the scholarship committee an idea of where you come from, the challenges you’ve faced, and how this scholarship will help you achieve your goals in the future.
Be sure to proofread! Not just once, but multiple times. It’s important to catch spelling errors that make your essay look sloppy, or grammatical errors that might come off as confusing. It’s easy to start skimming when you are reading in your head, so try reading your essay to yourself out loud. Reading aloud will not only help you spot errors better, but will also allow you to notice the flow of the essay so you can weed out any awkward sentences.
Bonus: Send your essay to your College Completion Coach prior to submitting
Once you’ve written your essay, it helps to get an impartial third party to read over your work for some suggested edits. Try popping your essay over to College Completion Coach for a once-over; we are here to help!