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Young girl holding a pencil and journal.Welcome back to the Scholarship Application 101 series! If you haven’t already done so, check out the first installment.

This time we’ll be discussing scholarship essays, why they’re important, and how to make a good impression with your writing. Let’s get started!

What are scholarship essays?

A scholarship essay is exactly what it sounds like. The scholarship provider will give an essay prompt (or sometimes multiple prompts) on the application, and it’s your job to answer the prompt(s) to the best of your ability. The essay is often one of the most important parts of the application, so it is vital to take them seriously!

Why do I have to write essays?

Essays are important, but why? It would be so much easier if providers just picked a recipient without making you write an essay, right? This is true, but scholarship providers want to make sure they’re giving their funds to students who meet their vision for the scholarship, and who will put the money to good use. Scholarship essays help you to introduce yourself and to make your case for why a scholarship committee should choose you.

How do I write a good essay?

Now that we’ve discussed the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of scholarship essays, here comes the hard part: How do you write a good essay? We all have different skill levels when it comes to writing, but there are a few ways that you can set yourself up for success even if writing does not come naturally to you.

  • Prepare: You should tailor your essay to each scholarship application, but scholarships often have similar enough essay prompts that you can put some ideas together in advance. Check out this article detailing common essay prompts, and start brainstorming ideas for essays based on these topics.
  • Take cues from the prompt: Scholarship essays should answer the prompt clearly and concisely. Most applications will give you a specific word count. However, if there is no word count listed, aim for somewhere between 250-500 words for your response, or between a half and a full typed page. Use the space you are given to answer the prompt to the best of your ability, and be sure that your essay fully answers the question asked.
  • Be Professional: You will want to be honest in your scholarship essay, but you need to be careful that your writing is interesting without being too casual. You don’t have to be completely formal, but avoid slang and make sure that your writing is polished. Your English teacher would be a good resource to ask about writing style.
  • Proofread: Before you submit your scholarship essay, pass a copy to a couple trusted individuals to read. Options for people to ask include your English teacher, your school counselor, a trusted friend or mentor, or even your parents (if you think they’d give you an unbiased opinion). In addition to fixing spelling and grammatical errors, ask them if your essay is interesting, if it stays on topic, if it is clear and concise, and if they have any suggestions or corrections. Be sure to read through your essay one more time before you submit it as well!

Join me next time for the conclusion of the Scholarship Application 101 series, where we will discuss letters of recommendation.