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Scholarships for college or university often include an essay prompt. Scholarship committees give you a question and you do your best to answer it. One of the most common essay questions asked is: Why do you deserve this scholarship?

It’s a question that doesn’t have a universal answer. This is because there are several types of scholarships, which reward different things.

To win scholarships, the way you position your answer matters. If you want to compete with other students and stand out, you must do two things. First, show that you understand and appreciate why the scholarship exists, and second, show that your profile meets the criteria better than any other student.

Below, you’ll find more tips for these common “show us you deserve it” scholarship essays. After reading this post, you’ll know what a committee’s looking for and how you can best position your scholarship application.  

Why the Scholarship Exists

The first stop to understanding why a scholarship exists is to research what it’s all about. Things like when it was founded. Why? Who donated the money? Etc. You should always have a good understanding of these questions when you apply for scholarships.

Knowing these answers will give you a good idea about what the scholarship selection committee is looking for. Another place where you can learn more about the scholarship is the eligibility requirements. This tells you what specific criteria you need to meet to qualify for the prize and what you can use the scholarship money for. If the eligibility requirements state something like, “student must play an instrument,” then you should assume that music is important. Of course, you’ll want to reflect this in your scholarship essay.

Goal of the Scholarship: How Does Your Profile Relate?

Closely related to the above, you should also ask: What is the goal of the scholarship? This will help you understand your audience and position your scholarship essay for success. Here are a few examples of what the goals of certain scholarships may be.  

Merit-based scholarships: these are prizes that award students for outstanding academic or extracurricular achievements. When applying to merit scholarships, you should distinguish yourself from other students by highlighting your GPA, academic goals, or highly impactful service to your community. For these scholarship opportunities, the higher your achievements, the better.

Student-specific scholarships: these prizes reward students for various reasons related to their personal characteristics. For example, numerous scholarship competitions exist for students based on gender, race, religion, ethnicity, and much more. These prizes can be diverse, so do your research and show the scholarship committee that you best reflect what they are looking for.

Brand scholarships: these awards are offered by businesses or corporations. Oftentimes, winners of these prizes are posted on the website of the scholarship provider. Because of this, you’ll want to communicate something unique or compelling about yourself. Simply stating that you’re a good student likely won’t do the trick here because the brand will want to celebrate a student with an interesting story.

Demonstrating Your Uniqueness

Now that you know a little about how to research what scholarship providers may be looking for, there’s one piece of advice that works for almost every single scholarship prize out there: be unique!

It’s a lot easier said than done, but without question, every single student has a story worth telling. The thing is, you have to own who you are. In other words, be sincere, authentic, and real.

If you grew up going on a lot of camping trips and learning survival skills, tell that story. How does it help you succeed in college or university and in your career?

If you grew up facing difficult personal circumstances, tell that story. Again, how does this help you in your career?

Where You’ve Been or Where You’re Going

If, after a ton of self-analysis, you still can’t think of a story to tell, then focus on where you’re going. Tell a scholarship provider about your career goals and show them that winning their prize will help you do something major in your professional life. Maybe an investment in you will help drive some large impact in the future. If this is the case, share this story. This could be a great way to demonstrate why you deserve this scholarship.

Ultimately, you must show a scholarship committee that your story and goals fit with the mission of their prize. In other words, show them why you’ll be a great ambassador of this scholarship opportunity.

Why You Deserve This Scholarship Essay Examples

Here are a couple of sample introductions that show you how you can frame an essay to win scholarships. Keep in mind that the question is “why you deserve this scholarship,” so your essay should be about you. Applying for this scholarship requires you to combine the scholarship’s mandate with your personal story. Here are some introductions to help you frame your winning scholarship essay questions:

Introduction Example One: A Scholarship Resume That Shines

Last winter, my high school administration made the decision to cancel all after school programs because of budget cuts. This action robbed students of necessary skill development and important community participation that comes along with extracurriculars. I couldn’t let this happen. In response, I wrote a letter to my school board and city council. It received thousands of signatures. While it took nearly three months, this advocacy was central to having after school programs reinstated in my high school. I believe that my community service, leadership, and perseverance closely align with the ABC Scholarship’s stated values. For this reason, I know I would be a great ambassador of the prize.

Introduction Example Two: An Investment in Your Potential

When someone looks at my academic and extracurricular achievements so far, they may call me average. However, this would be a mistake. People often underestimate me because I’m quiet, but what they don’t see on the surface is my great ambition. My goal is to completely change the way we think about [insert anything you’re passionate about here]. For this reason, winning the ABC Scholarship prize wouldn’t just help me, but anyone who has ever encountered [whatever the problem is that you’re working toward]. This is why I deserve this scholarship and how I plan to use the prize money for positive change.

Final Word

“Why you deserve this scholarship” essays should be authentic, personal, and always free of grammatical errors. Always ensure that you pay careful attention to the scholarship requirements on the scholarship website. Note important details like word count, exact essay question(s), and any other scholarship application items desired by the selection committee.

Finally, whether you’re a graduating high school student, undergraduate, or graduate student, apply for college and university scholarships now! There are many “deserve this scholarship” questions out there, and now you know what committees look for. Writing these winning scholarship essays could help you overcome the major stress that comes along with paying for higher education. Don’t wait! You’ve got this! 

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