Your scholarship essay might be your only chance to speak directly to your school's admissions office about why you deserve a scholarship. In addition to clearly and compellingly answering the question you're given and following basic rules of grammar, sentence structure and organization, your essay should also showcase what makes you an ideal candidate. You'll need to highlight your achievements, show some personality, explain your plans for your scholarship and account for any academic weaknesses your transcripts might show. Your essay should tell a story about who you are and how you came to be this person, and should emphasize what you can offer to the school.
Intelligent and Thoughtful
No matter what kind of scholarship you're seeking, you should present yourself as intelligent, articulate and thoughtful in your essay. Use precise language and avoid repetitive word use. Highlight your previous achievements and demonstrate that you've thought carefully about the question posed by answering it thoroughly. Avoid cliches and simplistic logic, instead getting to the heart of the question you're asked and boiling your essay down to the most compelling, unique elements of your application.
Interested and Engaged
Financial aid offices want to see that students are interested in a specific scholarship and program, not just any program that will accept them. Show that you're interested in the scholarship for which you are applying by doing your research. Highlight not only the ways in which you think the program can benefit you, but also the skills you can bring to the program. For example, if you're applying for a scholarship based upon your community service, emphasize the ways in which that service will continue and the service-oriented programs you'd like to start at your school.
Showcasing Personal Responsibility
No student is perfect and if you have any liabilities, such as a failed class or low standardized test scores, you may want to address them in your essay. Take responsibility for any problems you've had, then turn these problems into a positive. You might, for example, emphasize how you struggled with algebra, then got a tutor and excelled in summer school. Don't blame others by stating that you had a bad teacher or that a grade was unfair. Most schools want mature, responsible students who can fix their own problems.
Highlighting Personal Struggles
If you've experienced any major struggles or setbacks, these can help make your life story and your achievements more compelling. Stay away from mundane struggles such as a breakup with a boyfriend or your parents' divorce. Instead, only discuss struggles such as being the victim of a crime, losing a parent or experiencing a disability. Discuss the ways your struggles have made you stronger and how your reaction to setbacks highlights your willingness and ability to work hard against all obstacles.
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