Maximizing Your Scholarship Odds
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How to Write An Essay
While some scholarship essays will give you very specific and unique prompts, most of them come down to two basic questions: “Why do you need this money?” and “Why should we give it to you?” When presented with these questions, it can be very tempting to write the saddest sob story you’ve got. There are two reasons you shouldn’t do this. The first is that someone will always have a sadder story than your own. Trying to compete in this way is almost always futile.
The second is that while your story may stir up some empathy, that empathy may not be enough to answer the second question. When someone considers awarding someone a large sum of money, they want to see the merit of the person. Horrible things that have happened to you are just that: things that have happened to you. Show them instead how you have built skills to be able to deal with difficult situations.
To begin, think of some adversity or hard decision you have faced in your life. Brainstorm a few, as the hardest thing you’ve ever dealt with may not be the best thing to write about when addressing the prompt. To decide which experience is the best to select, ask yourself, “How did I react? Did my reaction turn the situation around to end on a positive note or make my story one of triumph rather than tragedy?“ Now make sure you can take that experience and turn it into an anecdote. Stories make for a much more fun read for those reviewing essays.
Once you have your first draft of your anecdote, highlighting the characteristics and qualities that have made you successful, make sure to tie it back to the essay points. Briefly cover why you need the money. You may have bills, children, a mortgage, or simply tuition rates that are outside of your economic capabilities. Then remind the reader why you deserve that money. Reiterate the characteristics you displayed in your anecdote that will make their investment in you a good one. Perhaps you’ll use your empathy in the world of medicine. Perhaps you’ll use your motivation to achieve highest honors while in school. Perhaps you’ll use your perseverance to apply for scholarships rather than just give up and say, “I can’t afford college.”
Now that you have your entire essay written, go back and revise it. Make sure there are no grammatical errors. Make sure it flows well. Get someone else who will be honest with you to proofread it before sending it in. Revision is the writer’s best friend.
By looking for scholarships in the right places, you can shrink the pool of competition for yourself. By writing a strong and unique essay, you will increase your odds even further. There is a way to go to college without relying completely on loans. With a little bit of effort, scholarships can pay for a large part if not all of your education.
Brynne Mack is a recent college graduate. As a non-traditional student, she graduated without debt through a combination of grants and scholarships. She writes about her financial tips for students, parents, and brides on Femme Frugality.
See also, Scholarships for Adults.