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Most scholarships require you to submit a personal essay. Sure, scholarship applications can differ, but this is generally a core part of the process.

The scholarship essay is an important component to many competitions because it’s one of the best ways for scholarship committees to get to know applicants. Put simply, scholarship selection committees want to know you.

How you frame yourself in any scholarship application matters … a lot! Being memorable is crucial. Saying the right thing is vital. Communicating well is essential.

So how do you make sure you your write a convincing scholarship essay in just a few hundred words? How do you increase your chances of winning a scholarship? The answer is delivering the right tone and message. If your scholarship essay is too mechanical or simply not compelling, you won’t be chosen. Let’s cover how you can avoid this fate.

Be Authentic

How do you convince a scholarship award committee that they should give the prize money to YOU?

At least part of the answer is simple: be yourself.

There are so many different types of scholarships out there. And all of these scholarships are looking for something different from their applicants: all-around excellence, leadership skills, financial need… it varies from one scholarship to another. But the one thing they have in common is that they all want students who will bring something unique and special to their community.

A scholarship application should be the most authentic representation of who you are and what you’re about. To get that across, you need to make sure your essay reflects YOUR voice. You also want to show off your best qualities and achievements so that the judges can see how amazing you truly are.

Your Story

While you may touch on different aspects of your profile, you should focus on one main idea; something that you want to communicate to the selection committee. Like maybe you’re perseverant, or a community service superhero, or a mentor to your younger siblings.

What your story is doesn’t matter, as long as it’s yours.

If you’re unsure how to get to this place, ask yourself some important questions: What do you want the judges to know about YOU? Make sure to include things like what makes YOU unique (for example, if you have a disability or if English isn’t your first language), what makes YOU interesting (for example, if you’re an international student who wants to study abroad), and any hobbies or interests that show off your personality (like playing sports). Now ask yourself how each of these are connected by one main theme or idea. Use each of these points to bolster that one point.  

Know Your Audience – Speak to the Mission of the Scholarship

Many university scholarships are driven by a mission or mandate. In other words, a purpose. For this reason, selection committees ask questions designed to reveal the best applicant who reflects the mission and the organization’s values. The purpose of a scholarship can be a number of things, such as environmental sustainability, community service, or strong academic performance. There’s really no end to the number of reasons why a scholarship may exist.

So, the first thing to consider is who will be reading your essay. If you are applying for a scholarship that is offered by a specific organization, then your essay should be tailored toward that group. You should include information about what the organization means to you and why you are qualified for their scholarship.

Tell the Scholarship Committee You’ll be a Great Ambassador of the Prize

When applying for scholarships, it’s important to tell the selection committee that you’ll be a good representative of their prize.

This can be done in a few ways:

Show them that you’re passionate about the cause your scholarship is supporting. You can do this by writing about how much you care for the cause and why it’s important, and also by including evidence of your work in support of the cause.

Tell them that you understand what they’re trying to accomplish with their scholarship. If a scholarship is meant to support students who have overcome adversity, then show that you’ve experienced that circumstance and demonstrate how it’s made you stronger. 

Also, tell them how grateful you are for their generosity and how excited you are to be considered for such a prestigious award. In other words, tell them that you are a worthy recipient!

Show Your Potential

When you’re applying for scholarships, one of the best ways to strengthen your application is by showing your potential.

That’s right—you don’t have to wait until you’ve already done something great to show that you can do it.

The truth is most scholarships are looking for people who have a lot of potential—people who just need some support to help them get started. If you have that kind of potential, all you really need to do is show it off!

Scholarships want people who will be able to make an impact on society after graduation—so why not show them how much potential you have! You can consult our scholarship essay examples for more on how to position your essay

Good Grammar Shows You Care

When applying for scholarships, you can show that you care by ensuring that your grammar is up to par.

It’s easy to overlook the little things when you’re trying to get through a pile of applications, but if your grammar is not up to par, it’s likely that your application won’t make the shortlist. The person reviewing your application may inadvertently think that you don’t care about what they’re reading, and they almost certainly won’t want to give you any money.

Instead of rushing through your application and getting sloppy in some areas, take the time to ensure that everything is spelled correctly and has good grammar. If something doesn’t make sense, go back and fix it before submitting!

How Do You Sell Yourself for a Scholarship? Here’s a Rundown …

  • Be authentic and show the scholarship selection committee what makes you unique.
  • Know your audience and show that you understand the mission of the scholarship prize.
  • Be clear about how you’ll be a great ambassador of a scholarship opportunity.
  • Show your potential and outline the amazing things you plan to do after graduation.
  • Double and triple check your grammar! Show you care by being precise with details.

Christopher Grafos, Ph.D., is the founder and chief scholarship mentor at BridgesEDU Scholarships.

He’s a first-generation university graduate whose life was transformed by education and winning scholarships. 

Scholarships help students financially, but they also help advance a student’s career. It’s his life’s work to champion this message and share the secrets to finding and winning scholarships. 

Read more about Christopher’s journey here