Posts Tagged ‘scholarship essays’

Writing the Scholarship Essay

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

As an SAT tutor and a consultant who advises students on writing college essays as well as scholarship essays, I am often envious of my students. Not only are they preparing for one of the most exciting and enjoyable experiences of their life, college, but I like to tell them, with a few hours of hard work, they have the ability to earn themselves thousands of dollars, and there aren’t too many legal ways of earning that amount of money in that little time. As you may be aware, higher SAT and ACT scores equate to larger scholarships from schools, but you may not be aware that often better essays equate to a better chance of winning local scholarships. Two points are critical. First, you need to connect with your audience and relate to them in some manner, as I discussed in my previous article. Second, you need to start early, so you give yourself enough time to revise your essay and have others proofread it for you. The best writers are those who rewrite, and the best essays are those that have been rewritten several times with thoughtful revisions.
The essay is the most difficult part of a scholarship application, and it’s often the only thing that separates winners from the rest of the applicant pool. Even the best writers struggle with the scholarship essay because it differs so greatly from academic essays. Scholarship evaluators generally don’t read essays from a technical standpoint (unless, of course, the paper is riddled with simple, lazy errors); rather, they read in order to get a better idea of the applicant’s personal history, qualities, and aspirations. The essay is meant to give applicants a chance to convey ideas that cannot be expressed in SAT scores or lists of accomplishments. Everyone has unique characteristics, and with a few simple tips anyone can write a successful scholarship essay that showcases these qualities.
The first step in beginning the writing process is, quite simply, to begin the writing process. Gather information and construct a rough draft several weeks, maybe a month… or two, before you intend to submit the application. To make choosing a topic easier, write down a list of the personal qualities and goals that you want to emphasize to the scholarship’s evaluators then choose something (probably a personal story) that clearly displays these characteristics. Don’t just write empty, aimless prose and try to fill it in with useful information. It’s usually best to make an outline before starting the rough draft, but this is not absolutely necessary. Some find it easier to just begin writing, especially when recounting a true story. However, if you choose the latter method, make sure that you have a specific story and well-defined points of emphasis in mind; again, don’t write aimlessly. Work on the essay a little bit each day. This gives you a chance to review the essay with a clear mind (if you write and revise it all at once, your ideas tend to blend together). After you’ve written a rough draft, begin to revise with an eye toward content. Don’t worry about grammar or prose quality until the final weeks because these errors are easily correctable. Finally, make sure to use your resources throughout the process; these could include English teachers, tutors, your family, and your friends.
Essays can make the scholarship application process difficult. However, no scholarship that’s worth having comes easily, and if you follow the advice above any scholarship essay is doable.

James Maroney is the founder of CollegeTreasure.com and AdmissionHook.com as well as a contributor to Igrad.com.

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Tips for Winning Local Scholarships

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Applying for scholarships can be intimidating, and time consuming. However, if you do a little research at the

Nichols College in Dudley Massachusetts.  Click the image for your chance to win a $1,000 Spotlight Scholarship to Nichols!

Nichols College in Dudley Massachusetts. Click the image for your chance to win a $1,000 Spotlight Scholarship to Nichols!

beginning of the process, it can be very financially rewarding as well. In writing and speaking, it is always important to know your audience. That same goes when applying for scholarships. If you take the time to know who will be reading your application ahead of time, you can tailor your application to the reader.

This isn’t as hard as it sounds. You always have your best chance at winning local scholarships. The money being given away has been raised by fellow members of your community and they want to see it go to deserving students from their home town. Since these are very geographically targeted, there are often less applicants for the scholarships and that means less competition. I am the chair of my local Rotary club’s scholarship committee, and I have also helped review applications for my local Chamber of Commerce, and now I am going to share some tips with you on how to tailor your application to the mission of the organization.

  1. If possible, determine the criteria being used to evaluate the scholarship applications. Not all organizations offer complete transparency, but most will give you the general means of evaluating the application. Typically they will look at academics, service, need, and an essay.
  2. Look at the organizations website and see if they have a mission statement. Determine how they raise the money they are giving away and also seek out the other types of charitable works they do throughout the year. Service organizations like to give money to students who are very involved in community service. A kind of pay it forward mentality. If you are involved with any service work that is similar to work that the organization is doing, mention it. That will help you to create a connection with the reader.
  3. Read the application carefully. If they ask for three copies of your application, make certain to submit 3 copies of your application. In my Rotary Club, we also evaluate students by how they follow directions. Finally, if there is an essay question that is specific to that scholarship, don’t try to make another essay fit. Write an essay that answers that specific question. Most importantly, make sure to meet the deadline, and if a transcript is required from your high school, make sure you give them enough time to get the transcript for you.
Students enjoying the beautiful campus of Mitchell College. Click for your chance to win a $1,000 scholarship to Mitchell!

Students enjoying the beautiful campus of Mitchell College. Click for your chance to win a $1,000 scholarship to Mitchell!

It is important to remember that most of the people who are reading these applications are volunteers, and they work hard all year to raise the money that they are giving away. Show appreciation in your application without becoming too obsequious (good SAT word. It means excessive fawning. It has a similar meaning to a sycophant, or kissing up). Finally, take the time in the end to proofread your application before sending it and make sending the write essay to the write organization. Attention to detail is very important. Follow these tips and you will increase your chances of winning some local scholarships.

James Maroney, the author of this article, is the founder of First Choice College Placement LLC, AdmissionHook.com, and CollegeTreasure.com.  He is also a contributor to Igrad.com.  He has toured over 100 different college campuses across the country and worked with students from all over the world to help them make their college dream a reality.  He is a member of the Higher Education Consultants Association, NACAC, the Education Industry Association, and the chair of the Devon Rotary Scholarship Committee.  You can contact him at james@collegetreasure.com.

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