How to Write a Scholarship Essay – College Writing 101

how to write scholarship essays

Almost every college scholarship will ask you to write something to explain why you are a perfect fit the scholarship, and it is your job when writing your response to show them just that.

The people reading these essays decide how to allocate the funding that you’re requesting, so you have to impress them if you want to receive what you’re asking for. Remember, you’re in a competition with many other students vying after the same prize.

If you don’t speak on your own behalf, you will be lost in the crowd.

Read Guidelines Carefully

Before anything else, you have to make sure this scholarship is actually something that will work for you. That means knowing the qualifications in respect to GPA, credits, majors, ethnic or religious background, extra curricular activity requirements, etc.

You’ll also want to know the most crucial bit of information of all: the deadline. Submitting after the deadline means you have no real chance of succeeding. Give yourself more than enough time: send in your application early!

Elements of a Good Scholarship Essay

After you’ve determined that you meet the requirements, your essay will need to explain why it is precisely you that deserves to be given money. In effect: you’re a salesman, and you have to sell yourself.

Why do you deserve to be given funding for your goals? What have you done to earn this unique honor? Why are you likely to achieve success, meaning that the money is not wasted? Where are you going to use the money to study?

All these questions should be answered in your essay.

In effect, show them why you deserve this scholarship. Other questions to consider include: What struggles have you overcome? What goals have you met? What honors have you secured? What does your background mean to you? Where do you see yourself after you’ve finished your studies?

After you’ve given thought to all those questions, you’ll have to get started on your essay. Make sure that you know what the explicit requirements are for your essay before you begin in terms of word count, formatting, file type, and means of delivery. You do not want to send an e-mail when they request a letter, or a letter when they want it uploaded, nor do you want to give them a .doc when they need a .pdf, or send something in book antiqua when they demand times new roman.

How to Structure Your Essay

After you get those technical issues out of the way, get down to actually answering those questions. Your introduction is key to framing your essay’s purpose, and should immediately give them reason to understand why you deserve the scholarship.

Don’t bore them with some long story about your life in general terms but find specific points that you can speak about that explain why the scholarship matches what you bring to the table. They should immediately understand why you are a good fit from your introduction.

The body of your essay should elaborate on your experiences and how they reflect on why you should get the scholarship. This is where you need to know your audience the best, as you will also have to connect yourself properly to what they are looking for.

For instance, if your scholarship wants to know how you represent your community, don’t be afraid to embrace your unique identity. If your scholarship is for young Catholic women, for instance, you should explain what it means to be a Catholic and a woman.

Likewise, if your scholarship is for students who are interested in classical Indian music, really discussing your love of Rami Shankar would absolutely appropriate. Whatever the case might be, make sure you continue to sell yourself in the body of your essay.

How to Close Your Essay

When it comes time to write your conclusion, make sure you give a nice summary of what you’ve discussed, but also explain some goal that will encourage them to choose you.

Give them something that shows you’re aspiring to something worth funding, and shows them that you’re a candidate that really can be expected to do good with the money you’re receiving. They should expect that the gift that you’re receiving will actually help you do something with your life, and if you can show them what you intend to use it for, this will allow them to picture you as a recipient of their generosity.

Have a goal and explain it!

This is your chance to show them who you want to become, having already shown what you are.

Keep Your Essay Unique

As you can see from these steps, you can’t get by in scholarship essays with just writing some generic, form-essay. If you’re going to be submitting to multiple scholarships, make sure each one is tailor made for the scholarship in question

You might be able to get away with some basic sentences being the same, but each essay should be uniquely reflective of the goal of the scholarship, and as such, substantially different from one another.

Always Proofread

Needless to say, your essay should be entirely free of embarrassing grammatical and spelling errors, slang, vulgarity and foul language, and always written in a clear manner.

If you cannot present yourself in the best light, you’ll remain in the shadows. Professionalism is key. If you need help, GET help! Your school should be able to help you out with this, or if not, your local library may be able to help.


If you really think you are deserving of that scholarship, you have to take these steps seriously into consideration.

Make sure you meet the requirements, submit on time, format your essay properly, write a catching introduction, explain why you are deserving of and fitting for the scholarship throughout, end with your aspirations, tailor each essay to each individual scholarship, and finally make sure you write without obvious and embarrassing errors.

If you can achieve all of the above, you will have given yourself the best chance to secure what you are looking for.

Remember: competition is stiff, and a winner always prepares himself for victory.