Blog 24 October 2022

How To Write A Scholarship Essay

Scholarships are a type of financial aid given to deserving students by various organizations. They are like gifts and as such, are not required to be paid back. They help students achieve their educational dreams and are usually awarded on the basis of academic excellence and financial need. Most scholarships often require an essay too and sometimes the essay is the main deciding factor for choosing a scholarship recipient. Therefore, if you are planning to apply for scholarships, it is important to know how to write a scholarship essay that is good and can help you win the desired scholarship.

A scholarship essay is an essay that tells the awarding institution about you and your values. It is a kind of formal writing that needs to be written with a professional tone. There are usually essay prompts provided that you need to address and base your essay around.

Below are a few steps that can help you write the best scholarship essay

How To Write A Scholarship Essay - Guidelines

Many times, a good scholarship essay is the final deciding factor between scholarship applicants. Therefore, writing a good one is important.

Many people are unsure about how to write a scholarship essay. One of the most important things to keep in mind is to read through the instructions carefully and thoroughly so that you understand what is being asked of you. Mentioned below are a few basic guidelines on how to write a good scholarship essay.

#1 Brainstorm Ideas

After reading the prompt, you might want to think up ideas on what you want to include and how you want to construct your essay. Start by taking a blank piece of paper and writing down everything that comes to your mind related to the topic.

Then read and reread your ideas, exclude the ones that seem unimportant or irrelevant, and organize the thoughts by grouping similar content together. Some people also organize their ideas by timeline. This will help you to make an outline. You want to make sure that your ideas fit the prompt given and that the content is meaningful, relevant, and original.

#2 Outline

After organizing your ideas and deciding which things you want to include, it is best to start constructing your essay. Make sure that you cover all the relevant ideas that you brainstormed in a way that flows. The outline should include why you are the best candidate for this scholarship.

This can only be achieved by actually writing the essay. Break it into an introduction, main body, and conclusion. The introduction usually ends with an idea or a thesis, the main body is the explanation that supports your idea or thesis, and the conclusion brings it all together by restating the idea and reiterating the argument you tried to prove.

It is best to have a short paragraph for the introduction and conclusion. The main body can contain more than one paragraph. However, it is best to use a new paragraph for a new idea. Prepare a rough draft of what your essay would read like.

#3 Write

After you have brainstormed and have your rough draft outlined, you can start writing a proper essay. It is best to stay clear and concise and not ramble much on one point. Use clear language that is free of jargon.

#4 Format your essay

It’s important that you religiously follow all the instructions and include all the content that is asked for. Moreover, take care of the page- and word count, and formatting guidelines too. The most common formatting that is usually asked by many institutions includes a 12-point font size essay that is typed in double space with 1 to 1.5-inch page margins. The font styles that are usually accepted include those that are not too stylized or fancy. Times New Roman, Courier, Arial, Georgia, Helvetica, or Calibri are usually the safest ones to go for if a font style is not specified.

In case there is no word count or page limit mentioned, it is best to aim for a maximum of one-page essay in length. Also, ensure that you have included the name of the scholarship that you are applying for and also your own name somewhere toward the top of the page.

#5 Take A Break

When you have your first proper draft ready, it is important to take a break before giving it a read. This is because writing is a tiring process for both the brain and the eyes. If you try and proofread your work right after you have finished it, you most likely will not be able to identify all the gaps or mistakes that you might have made.

Therefore, it’s best to do something relaxing to take your mind off the essay so you can return to it with fresh eyes and a recharged brain. It is recommended to come back to it the other day and if you don’t have that much time, then give yourself at least a few hours.

#6 Proofread And Rewrite

After you have written your first draft and taken a break, make sure to thoroughly reread your essay to identify any gaps in the information, grammatical errors, and structural errors. Don’t be afraid to cut out things that seem off or unclear and add new ones. After checking your own essay, write a final draft. If you are really confident in your work, you can submit your essay after this step. However, it’s best to get it checked by someone else before submission.

#7 Get It Checked By A Friend

Once you have your final draft ready and you are fully satisfied with it, it is recommended to get it checked by someone else. There is always someone around you that has great writing skills that you can trust. It is wise to get your essay checked by that person, be it a friend or family member. You might be surprised at what they are able to find.

18 Tips To Write The Best Scholarship Essay

Here are 18 tips to write the best scholarship essay:

#1 Have A Great Introduction

The introduction sets the mood for what is coming up next. Always start with your introduction with a strong opening sentence that hooks the reader. The introduction should indicate what the essay is about and should end with your main thesis or argument.

#2 Make The Beginning, Middle, And End Very Clear

It is important to have a clear beginning, middle, and end to your essay. They should be written in a way that flows well and is easy to follow. Moreover, in terms of paragraphs, short paragraphs are easier to read than long complicated ones. Readers can get lost easily or bored when reading long paragraphs.

#3 Understand The Essay Prompt And Stay On Topic

Make sure to read the essay prompt multiple times as it can help understand what the essay is asking for better. Sometimes, the essay prompt may not be very clear. If it is not a question, reframe it as a question as they help to stay focused on the topic. For example, if the prompt is “Reflect on the current state of politics and your role in it as a citizen,” rephrase it as “what is the current state of politics, and how am I directly impacting it?”

Keep going back to the prompt and reading it after every paragraph. This will help you avoid deviating. If you write long sentences and paragraphs, it is easier to get off track. Therefore, avoid meandering and keep your content short and simple.

#4 Tailor Your Essay To The Organization

Research each organization that you are applying to for a scholarship. Make sure to tailor your essay according to their values and mission. This shows that you are actually committed, are serious, and have taken time for the process. However, keep in mind to stay authentic. If the organization’s values differ from yours, then it is best to look up other scholarship opportunities that are more appropriate for you.

#5 Choose A Topic That You Enjoy

Sometimes, you might have a few options to choose from in terms of essay prompts. The best thing to do then is to choose the one that you genuinely enjoy or that has value to you. That way, the essay you will produce will automatically be authentic and will display enthusiasm, knowledge, and dedication.  You would not have to work very hard to produce an excellent scholarship essay.

#6 Stick To The Instructions

No matter how much knowledge you have about the essay topic, always try to make it fit the word-, character-, or page count given. You will have to write concisely for this and really plan ahead. You might have to revise your drafts a few times to achieve a clean and crisp essay that is exactly within the limit.

Also, make sure that you are following all the formatting guidelines exactly as they have asked. This may include, but not be limited to, font style and -size, essay structure, and page margins. Different organizations may ask for different file types too  – some may require a docx while others may ask for a PDF. Just make sure to read all the instructions thoroughly so you do not miss anything – read them at least once before starting and also after finishing writing.

#7 Never Miss Brainstorming

Some people like to just start writing and they skip the important step of brainstorming. This may result in more meandering and deviation from the prompt which might cost you the scholarship. The writing process will always go much smoother if you have a road map of where you are headed. After brainstorming, outline the structure of your essay and then start writing.

#8 Be Honest And Authentic

Your personal original experiences are always enough to gain you any opportunity. Avoid fabricating stories or exaggerating them. The truer you stay while writing, the better your essay will turn out. Also, spotting an exaggeration or invalid detail in an essay is much easier for readers than you think. So, you want to avoid it at all costs and remain honest in your writing.

#9 Give Examples

When you are telling something about yourself, support it with real-life specific examples. Giving real examples makes the essay more interesting and also unique. It gives the reader an in-depth picture and helps them understand things better.

#10 Be Succinct

Being concise and clear is also important as it helps make the essay more readable. Even when you give examples, don’t expand them too much. Just write enough to deliver your point. Use simple words and avoid using complicated vocabulary. The purpose of the essay is not to showcase your word knowledge, but to deliver a piece of writing that helps them know who you are and what you are striving for.

This is also helpful as the awarding organization has to read hundreds or thousands of essays and long essays would just mean more reading time for them. So, it’s best to avoid non-essential information. You can have your essay read by a friend and they will be able to give you a reasonable idea of how good your essay looks and if it is reader-friendly.

For more clarity, let’s take an example. If you write ‘’I love to be around nature. It makes me feel really fresh and alive. I sometimes go out for a walk on the beach and enjoy the sounds of the waves and the scenery. I like to hike too as it helps me connect with nature, feel rejuvenated, and enjoy its beauty. I often go out camping too” – this would be considered too wordy. Instead, you could have written, “Whether I am walking on a beach, hiking, or camping, I am rejuvenated by being around nature.” This latter example is much more succinct and to the point.

#11 Avoid Using Too Many Exclamation Marks

You do want to express a reasonable amount of enthusiasm in your essay. However, doing so by using too many exclamation marks might actually pull your essay down in terms of quality. Just use a few and use them sparingly.

#12 Demonstrate Resilience

Resilience refers to your capacity and ability to recover quickly from difficulties or hardships. Scholarship organizations love this particular factor in a candidate Therefore, try to provide original examples that demonstrate your level of resilience in the past.

Many students write only about the hardships they faced and do not mention anything regarding how they recovered from it. That is not being looked for in an essay. They want to know more about your ability to bounce back, your problem-solving skills, and how the hardships have helped you evolve.

#13 Write Formally And Professionally

Writing a scholarship essay is formal writing and it needs to sound professional. Therefore, try to avoid language that is conversational or overly colloquial as it may make you seem unprofessional and immature. Moreover, avoid any sort of emojis and funky fonts.  However, don’t forget to be yourself and remain humble in your writing.

#14 Avoid A Long Thank You

Writing a long thank-you paragraph at the end of your essay is a waste of time and words. Your whole essay should be written in a way that shows your character, integrity, and dedication.  If you want to thank the reader for reading your essay, just do it in a concise way in a sentence or two. You could simply say something like “Thank you for this opportunity and for taking time out to read my essay. I highly appreciate it.”

In case you are not left with any words to include a thank you, you can always write a scholarship thank you letter after you have received the scholarship.

#15 Take Your Time

Avoid writing your essay in one sitting. You would want to give yourself time to understand the prompt, think about it, brainstorm ideas, outline, draft, and revise. If you take your time to plan your essay properly, you might have a higher chance of winning for better quality. Try to give yourself at least two weeks for this process.

#16 Be Personal

A scholarship essay requires a personal tone. Use personal pronouns while writing the essay as it is about you. Use words like I, myself, me, and so on. Also, avoid general statements and make the essay more relevant to yourself.

#17 Avoid Controversial Topics

Avoid discussing matters that are controversial and may trigger public disapproval, argument, or disagreement. In case your readers belong to the other side of the debate, you might lose your chance of getting the scholarship.

#18 Avoid Inspirational Quotes

Inspirational quotes are those that are said by others – they are others’ thoughts and values. A scholarship essay, however, is all about you so it’s best to avoid filling it up with what others have said. Be original and make the essay yours.

Scholarship Essay Template

In case there is a prompt given, you must shape your essay based on the essay prompt. For a scholarship essay that simply requires you to talk about yourself and why you need the scholarship, the following general template can be followed.

1.   Introduction: 

    • State your name

    • State the name of the scholarship you are applying for

2.   Main body:

    • Education goals – state your major and talk about what made you select the particular major. Also, write about your future goals briefly

    • Provide a brief background – Tell a bit about yourself and give specific examples to showcase your character

    • Highlight your interests and mention any sort of volunteer work you did. If you have previous job experience, you can mention that too in this paragraph

    • Write about why you need the scholarship and how will it help you

3.   Conclusion:

    • Bring your essay together – you can highlight one or two important things in your essay that reemphasizes why you are the best candidate for the scholarship

  • Show your gratitude (optional) – If you have space, you can thank the organization in a line for taking the time to read your essay


What do organizations look for in a scholarship essay?

A scholarship essay must showcase your originality, skills, quality, values, interest, and resilience. They must be shown with real-life examples. However, it is important to stay on the topic and address all of these qualities while following the essay prompt provided.

How to structure a scholarship essay?

A scholarship essay, like all other essays, starts with an introduction paragraph, followed by the main body that consists of around two to three paragraphs, and it ends with a paragraph of conclusion. The in-detail steps of how to write a scholarship essay are given above in the article.

Where can I find scholarships best suited to me?

Many scholarships are targeted toward different groups of students. You can find authentic scholarships specific to your demographics, grade level, college major, and the state you live in on the Scholaroo website.

Do all scholarships require essays?

No. There are many scholarships offered that do not require essays.