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12 Tips on How to Write a Winning Scholarship Essay

Write a Scholarship Winning Essay

An essay plays an important part in improving your odds of winning a scholarship. It’s not just your GPA or test scores that lead to a scholarship, but your essay that is equally important as well. When a scholarship committee accepts your application, you become one of their members. That’s why it’s their duty to know you as a person and not accept you simply because of your exceptional academic qualification.

Note: It is right to say there’s no specific way to write the scholarship essay. If you read the previous essays, you’ll realize none of them follow a regular pattern. Each of the candidates has used their own distinctive style to describe their past merits as well as future aspirations.

There are many scholarships that don’t demand essays and offer lower amounts. I suggest you not try any of these and instead go for the more prominent ones.

Now, cutting to the chase, let’s learn how to write a winning scholarship essay. The following points are in no specific order.

1. Know Your Readers

It’s easy to write about yourself, but for approval, you need to write about yourself the way your readers want you to.

  • Research the scholarship organization: Find out about its purpose, working style, and latest activities.
  • Write the essay that centers around the organization’s mission: If the organization is looking for candidates with leadership skills, you should provide instances where your leadership helped achieve certain goals and initiatives.
  • Read about the past winners of the scholarship: Each organization maintains the list of past winners. From here, contemplate what kind of candidate they are looking for.

2. Give Examples

Providing examples is the best way to prove your point, and you must be aware of it. But the question is: what type of examples should you go for?

  • Write about what you have learned so far. It can be a part of your school, voluntary work, or extracurricular activities.
  • Don’t just write it, use the words that help them visualize the situation.
  • If you were working while studying in school, then show them how you managed work and study balance.
  • If you have public relations (PR) skills and you are applying for a medical course, then show them how your PR skills can help you perform better in the medical field.

Here are two different versions of the “Show don’t tell” example:

Example 1: I have always been very enthusiastic about science, even from a young age. Since my family backed my interest up wholeheartedly, I continued my passion throughout the school. With my growing age and interest, my scientific ventures have become steadily more complex.

Example 2: I was quite young to participate in the school science exhibition, so I took to my family. Secretly experimenting on different electric circuits, I allowed short-circuit to become a part of my daily life. Due to this, I learned the smart electric mechanisms. My family has never pardoned me and my experiments still remain a family joke. Nevertheless, I have advanced from my tiny circuit moments . . . [next you explain your aspiration and so on].

So, which of these examples is more engaging? Example 1 is well-written, but plainly explains the situations, while Example 2 lets you visualize the situation and also shows your quirky personality to your readers.

3. Uniqueness Is Key

  • Your scholarship essay must be exclusive to you. It’s fine to read previous winning essays, but don’t imitate them.
  • You need to personalize your content, focus on your passion, and write instances that compel your readers to understand why the course is important to you.
  • This is easily said, but it demands hard work for many candidates who may never have any previous experience of writing an essay. However, these words indeed come from students who have won scholarships for their dream institutions. So, it’s recommended that you should do it too.

4. Understand the Key Themes

  • Read the essay statement multiple times to extract out the key themes. For example, if the statement asks you to describe events where you had to demonstrate leadership or innovation and it made an impact in your community or in your work environment. Here, the key themes are leadership and community impact.
  • Now when it comes to leadership, it doesn’t indicate your position and the responsibilities you held, but the changes you brought under your leadership. The more depth you bring to each of the key themes, the more examples you can offer in your essay to prove your credibility.

5. Use the Important Keywords

Use the keywords mentioned in the essay statement. It describes your adherence to the question being asked.

For example, if you figure out your key themes are “innovation” and “leadership,” then you should discuss these attributes for around 80% of your essay.

6. Start Your Essay With a Hyper Boost

  • It’s all about the first sentence. If you can begin with an engaging start, you’ll know yourself what to add next.
  • I recommend you begin with a striking statement that hints about what you are going to discuss in your essay.
  • You can also use a quote, but I recommend you to use it if it’s your own. Avoid using famous quotes, as many others might be using them as well.

For example, let’s say your first sentence is . . .

Sentence 1: My first time traveling overseas was during the summer vacation to Cambodia in 2015.

Sentence 2: It was 2015. I had just traversed the border into Cambodia and my life was about to revamp.

Here, Sentence 2 gives your readers something to discover. It excites them to know how your life changed during your trip. You are giving them a reason to read your essay and learn the secret. In other words, you are persuading them to follow your story and become a part of it.

7. Maintain the Proper Structure

It’s quite common to see that a student often deviates from the main story and starts to explain one point at length. You need to create an outline first, however, and organize your thoughts. Decide what needs to be included in the introduction, body, and conclusion. Keep in mind that you are free to use sentences and phrases that fit your story.

You should also write start a new paragraph for a new idea. It’s better to have multiple short paragraphs than a few monstrous, hard-to-read passages.

If not specified, then this is the common formatting demanded by most scholarship committees:

  • Double spaced
  • 12-point font
  • Times New Roman font
  • 1-inch top, bottom, and side margins

You are also expected to stick with a specific word limit, so keep an eye on that too.

8. Use Stimulating Emotions

  • Use words and instances that describe your maturity and self-awareness.
  • It’s okay to show your vulnerabilities. No scholarship committee expects you to have a perfect personality.
  • Don’t get too cocky while describing your real-life situations though. Describe the situations in a way that your readers can see you as a person and not as a faceless applicant.

9. Keep Your Tone Positive and Inspirational

This is an important aspect of writing your essay. Your perception and tone place a huge impact on your readers’ minds. Your essay is your first impression to the scholarship committee, you don’t want to go wrong here.

No one is looking forward to reading your self-pitying story. Even if you have to mention a sad incident, you must show how you stood strong and remained optimistic during your hardships. Don’t focus on negativity. Rather, write about the changes the event brought in your life and how it improved your personality.

10. Conclude With a Memorable Ending

This is the final section of your essay, and don’t you dare write the summary of your entire essay. Many people do that and it’s dreary and boring.

You must think beyond the horizon. You can end the essay with an inspirational sentence or close it with an interesting question that leaves your readers curious to know more about you.

For example, you can write something like “Eventually, I stand to become a role model for other women who hesitate to raise their voices.”

Your conclusion doesn’t need to have too much content. Limiting it to two or three sentences is acceptable.

11. Proofread Out Loud for Maximum Clarity

No matter how great we consider ourselves to be, we tend to make mistakes. That’s why it’s important to proofread your essay. Even the slightest error can make the committee take you as a careless and inattentive person.

Read each sentence loud and clear. If you think it’s right, then ask others to read it for you. This will let you know how your words resonate together when hearing it from someone else.

12. Take Advantage of Every Resource You Have

If you are currently studying, you can make use of the writing center of your institution, which typically offers free guidance and feedback to students.

You can also join the writing committee to receive help from other writers. Walking down your street to the library is also a good option.

Be Your Best Self

There can be many more points that may improve your chances. I recommend you to study previous scholarship essays and come up with something of your own. If everything is discussed here, then there’d be no scope left for originality. So, all the best!


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Prachi Sharma