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Writing a Strong Scholarship Application

Conceiving, drafting, and revising great applications to win you the award.


By Matthew Butler

A student works on writing a great scholarship application.

What enables motivated students to more easily get an education? And what's a great way to show your ability before you even set foot on campus? Scholarships of course!

Although scholarships have deadlines year round, across all years and fields of study, the biggest moment is the transition from high school to post-secondary. This is like to be your first contact with the dreaded application process.

There are many factors that go into your application, but one of the most important may be your personal statement or application essay. Not all awards require an essay, but for those that do, you'll want to craft as strong a piece as possible.

Writing's an essential skill for students and academics, and it's just as important in everyday life. The scholarship application essay is a great way to merge these two writing worlds, while putting yourself to the new test of convincing scholarship providers to invest in you. Showing how your experiences, life story, skills, and academic history make you a qualified applicant can be daunting.

The key to writing a successful application, aside from the obvious things like grammar, structure, organization, and professionalism, is your ability to transfer your life experiences onto paper in a meaningful way to best display your value.

Doing this will take time, practice, and several drafts, but it's essential improve your chances, which will help lower your tuition. That ought to help your budget and allow you a bit more room for non-essential spending.

When drafting your personal essay, start by writing down a couple of important or memorable experiences you've had — experiences that set you apart from others or that have defined your life. It might help you to brainstorm with friends and family, or you can write a personal list to organize your thoughts. When you're done, practice articulating a few major points: explain why these experiences matter and how they have shaped you and others, and then transfer these points onto the page. As you revise your writing, continue to refine your ideas, sharpening your points. Try reading your work aloud to get a feel for its tone and flow. Share it with a trusted friend or adult for a second opinion on what works and what needs another look.

Striking the right balance between personal anecdote and professional formality can be tricky. Remember, your first draft is not going to get you the scholarship. Keep at it and remember that it's only a blank page — it can't hurt you!

Like any skill, your writing will improve with practice. So get writing!

Modified on October 11, 2019

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