Writing a scholarship essay is an exercise in persuasive writing. You have to convince the judges that you are the best candidate for the award, but how exactly do you do this? I can think of no better way to teach the art of scholarship writing than to examine real scholarship-winning student essays. After all, everyone can use a little inspiration, right?
The three essay examples below are from scholarship provider websites that feature the work of their past scholarship recipients.
Even though these are from three different competitions, they feature the following nine similarities. Study these tips and these essays closely to learn exactly what it takes to wow scholarship judges—and take home the grand prize.
Lesson 1. Start Strong
The opening paragraph is your opportunity to capture the attention of the scholarship judges. Like in the example essays, use your opening paragraph to introduce your story and transition the reader into your main thesis (usually the last sentence).
Lesson 2. Tell A Story
When it comes to writing a winning scholarship essay, I'm a huge proponent of storytelling. Notice how each winning essay is structured like a story: They describe their emotions (from example 2, "I was very excited and at the same time nervous.") and paint a picture to draw the reader in (from example 1, "One of my favorite pictures from my childhood is of me, 6 years old, all suited up in my dad's turnout coat, bunker pants, boots, and SCBA at the fire station). This style of writing is a favorite among scholarship judges.
Lesson 3. Brag Within The Story …
Throughout the story/essay, notice how each student finds a way to talk about his or her achievements and dreams. Remember, this isn't a novel writing competition—it's a scholarship essay; thus, don't focus too much on the story at the expense of telling the judges why you are awesome.
Lesson 4. … But Stay On Topic
Even though these students are writing very compelling, descriptive stories about their lives, their essays remain focused on the main prompt.
Lesson 5. Write With Style
If you want your voice to shine through your essay, try varying your sentence structure and word choice. (Challenge to help you with this: Try writing your scholarship essay without starting a single sentence with "I.")
Lesson 6. You Don't Have To Overshare
You don't have to divulge your entire life story in your scholarship essay if you are not comfortable doing so. Some of these example essays discuss deeply personal struggles; others do not—yet all of them won their respective competitions.
Lesson 7. Use Strong (But Not Advanced) Vocabulary
To a scholarship judge, it's obvious when a student uses excessively complex or abstruse vocabulary (see what I did there?) in an effort to sound more intelligent. It's OK to use a thesaurus to add depth to your essay, but try to only use words that you are familiar with.
Lesson 8. Break The Mold
Contrary to popular belief, you don't always have to write a four-paragraph essay. Use as many (or as few) paragraphs as necessary to communicate your story.
Lesson 9. Make It Flow
Just like a good book, a good essay flows from point to point/paragraph to paragraph—creating one cohesive work.