4 Tips for Writing a Winning Scholarship Essay

4 Tips for Writing a Winning Scholarship Essay

Breathe a sigh of relief – your teen’s college applications are in, or just about finished. The most difficult and overwhelming part of senior year is nearing completion.

However, just when your senior thinks they’ve said an official goodbye to applications for the year, enter the next step: applying for scholarships; and, just like college applications, these include essays. 

There are currently countless scholarships available for prospective college students, many of which your teen qualifies for, that serve as a form of financial aid that never needs to be repaid. Some scholarships are based on academic achievement, some with a mission of social justice, and some based on community service. 

The 2019 How America Pays for College report conducted by Sallie Mae found that a third of college costs were paid for with funds that do not need to be paid back, three-fifths of which were through scholarships, meaning there are plenty of funds available through this route.

Before you begin that financial aid paperwork, or even for an extra boost, take a look at these tips to help your teen submit a scholarship essay and application that stands out from the (growing) crowd.

Follow All Directions

Many scholarships are highly competitive due to an enormous number of applicants. That means seemingly small mistakes could result in being disqualified from the award. 

Just like the high school teachers, your teen is accustomed to, the scholarships will often have specific requests about formatting, font, word count and size. In addition, the essay needs to address the exact questions the prompt asks that are likely tied to the organization’s mission. This isn’t a time to experiment. Instead, it is best in this cast to adhere to the scholarship application’s particular instructions and themes.

Draw the Reader In

When writing an essay as part of a competition, your teen should aim to engage the reader from the first line. The reader has likely read a multitude of essays already; pulling them in from the start will help separate the essay from the pack. 

Consider using specific details of a story to start the essay that might further draw the reader into the story as a whole. Sometimes a related quote or statement your teen can circle back to later impresses the reader with their broad knowledge of the subject at hand. However your teen chooses to start the essay, make sure it is intriguing enough for the scholarship committee to continue reading.

Keep It Real, and Keep it Personal

The reason most foundations and organizations include an essay in the scholarship application is to learn who your teen actually is. 

They’ve seen the transcript, the extracurriculars they’ve been involved with, and the application form itself. However, unlike the other parts of the scholarship application, the essay is able to paint a picture of the whole person.

Writing in a genuine and authentic way has a stronger ability to engage the reader with its uniqueness and to last in the reader’s mind. When your teen is more “themselves” in their essay, they allow the reader to delve into who they are beyond the grades, and are likely to stand out from the crowd.

Ask for Feedback Before Submitting

After your teen completes their essay, just like with other pieces of writing, they need to receive some feedback. Asking a teacher to read it over, reviewing it with a writing coach, or requesting the help of a friend can help turn it into a winning essay. 

Simple grammar and spelling mistakes can give a poor impression of an otherwise fantastic essay, so enlisting an outside editor is an essential step before submission.

Followed by an extensive college application process, writing even more essays and completing further applications might seem daunting. If your teen puts in the work, however, and wins a scholarship, the reward is great. If your teen needs help writing, editing, or going through the scholarship essay process, be sure to reach out for help.

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