When you’re applying to scholarships, the majority of them will ask for the same general information – demographics, academics and resume – and most end with an essay question. It can be tempting to give a run-of-the-mill answer and write what you think a scholarship committee wants to hear. Instead, think of the essay as your chance to give the committee a better idea of who you are and truly stand out in the crowd.

Want our top five tips to writing a stellar essay? Keep reading!

  1. Be Memorable. Can you imagine how many essays one judge has to read? You want to get the judge’s attention – using vivid language and creating imagery in your essay can help you do just that. Let’s say you coached a youth soccer camp your senior year; instead of saying, “I really enjoyed my experience at the soccer camp and working with the kids in my community”, bring up a memory from one child or activity – and provide context. “When I first met Bobby, he was shy and not confident in his athletic abilities. By the end of our six week camp, I saw the fire in his eyes each time he scored a goal and high-fived his teammates.”

  2. Answer the Entire Question. Many applicants fail to convey a concise point of view, tie everything together or simply don’t answer the question at hand. For example, if the question prompts you to address how volunteer service has impacted your life, don’t just list all of your volunteer activities – pick one or two and give detailed insight into your role and why it was important for your personal and academic development. Also, be sure to follow any special instructions (like word limit)!
  3. Proofread and Edit. Have a teacher, parent, counselor or friend read your essay. Not only can someone else catch spelling and grammatical errors (like run-on sentences and using “text” language) but he or she can also provide feedback on the tone, maturity and focus of your writing.
  4. Plan Ahead. If the deadline is March 31 and you’re sitting down at 7:00pm on March 30 to write your essay – the finished product probably isn’t going to be as good as it could be. You’ll feel rushed, your editor will feel rushed and things may get overlooked. Review the essay question at least a couple weeks in advance, plan your response before you sit down to write and TAKE YOUR TIME.
  5. Be Honest and Original. It might not be easy to open up and write about yourself, especially if the essay question involves a sensitive topic, but do your best to inject your personality, real-life experiences and true feelings into your essay. A reader can tell if a writer is passionate about a topic or just going through the motions. More importantly, do not try to pass someone else’s work off as your own – ever. Plagiarism is never okay. (You also shouldn’t reuse your own essay responses for different applications; technically, that is also plagiarism.)