Good, better, best — How to write a winning scholarship essay

Scholarship essay

(Photo by Stefan Smythe)

You’re getting your groove around campus. Giving class the ‘ole college try. But if you didn’t realize it before moving into the dorm, higher education has a pretty steep price tag these days, and a little extra cash sure could help pay for tuition. Grab your share of the available monetary help out there by learning how to write a winning scholarship essay.

Think before applying

What this means is, if you aren’t skilled in underwater basket weaving, don’t apply for a scholarship centered on that skill. Scholarships.com has some suggestions on the application process in their post “Scholarship Application Strategies.”

  • Think about your own personal strengths and interests.
  • Spend some time researching scholarships in those areas.
  • Narrow your search to the scholarships you think you really stand a chance of nabbing.

Finally, read the fine print when applying. Ever tried to get a rebate on a something you bought? Skip one tiny bit of information and you can kiss that $25 goodbye. Scholarships can be the same way. So always be sure to read all the directions and follow them to a “T.”

Common topic, unique strategy

The tried and true essay topic asks you to share your career goals. So you write about how you want to become a tycoon in the organic T-shirt world, right? Not so fast. Diane Melville suggests in her August 23, 2012, blog post “How to write a winning scholarship essay” for saltmoney.org that you should be writing about why you want to do something. “Scholarship providers are real people who truly care about who you are and what you want to do,” she writes. “As passionate individuals, they are much less interested in understanding WHAT you want to do than WHY you want to do it.”

Melville suggests asking yourself three questions before tackling that scholarship essay:

  • What/who motivates you?
  • Have you faced any hardships?
  • What’s a moment that inspired you?

The writing nitty gritty

Ever heard the old saying “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best”? That idea can take you a long way when it comes to how to write a winning scholarship essay. So don’t expect to sit down, fire off 500-or-so words and walk away with cold, hard cash.

Finaid.org suggests in their post on “Essays” six steps to crafting a scholarship essay that will earn you the money.

  1. Outline your essay — This eliminates rambling and keeps your content focused.
  2. Provide examples — Backing up your point with concrete examples gives the reader something tangible to remember.
  3. Stick to the truth — A scholarship essay is no time to hide your light under a bushel. But you also don’t want to exaggerate. It’s a fine line. Finaid.org explains, “Selection committees are good at detecting when a student exaggerates, and the dishonesty will cause you to lose a scholarship you might otherwise have won.”
  4. Read and reread — Don’t just rely on spell check to catch any errors. Read through your entire application, essay and all, for spelling and grammar mistakes.
  5. Share with an adult — Ask a teacher or parent to read over your entire application, too. They might notice an error you missed.
  6. Type it up — Once your essay is in tip-top shape, time to type that bad boy up, because your handwriting might not be tip-top. Unless the application tells you otherwise, of course!

Discover your strengths and don’t be afraid to take a dull essay topic and breathe creative life into it! Standing out from the crowd is just the way to get your scholarship essay noticed and get that extra tuition money in your pocket. Good luck!

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