We stand at the crossroads of education today. On one hand, it has never been easier to acquire knowledge about nearly any subject under the sun.
On the other hand, a degree acquired from a prestigious higher education institution will give your career a significant launch pad.
The thing is, higher education is still an expensive proposition. It requires a heavy time investment. On top of that, even the most meritorious students have to stop and consider the financial implications.
Even if you beat thousands of other applicants to get a place at the college of your choice, unless you are super rich, you will need some form of scholarship or financial aid to make your way. Again, the number of scholarships is limited, and applicants number in the thousands.
Many of them will have similar grades, backgrounds, extracurricular and community welfare activities and leadership exposure as you. So how can you make your case and stand out in this sea of applicants? How can you secure that vital scholarship?
Fortunately, most scholarship applications require you to write an essay. This doesn’t have to be as dreadful as it is made out to be. Think of it as a foolproof way to present your case successfully.
It is more than a foot in the door. For the scholarship provider, it will be the first glimpse at the flesh and blood human behind the application. First impressions matter, so make it count.
It will be helpful to know why a scholarship essay is required. If you know the parameters you will be judged on, it will be that much easier to come out on top.
Your purpose – How you intend to use the knowledge and connections from this course if you are successfully accepted?
Your motivation – What prompted you to pick this career trajectory? What drives you to acquire knowledge in this field? In short, what is it about this course that makes you leap out bed in the mornings?
Your confidence – What is it about you that you think separates you from other applicants and why? (Important note: Always remember, you are requesting a scholarship. Request wholeheartedly, yes, but nowhere in your essay should there be even a hint of begging. When you carve out a successful career in your chosen field, your alma mater will be the first to claim credit for your success. Try to present your case so that it seems all involved parties will be benefited if you are chosen).
Your past – What have you achieved so far with your time? What obstacles did you overcome to get where you are today? What have you learned from your experiences?
Your worldview – What does the world look like from behind your eyes? Do you see the possibilities in every scenario? Do you dare to hope? Are you clear-sighted? Do you have a vision of how you can contribute to changing the world? Do you learn from your mistakes quickly and move on? Are you inclined to be positive about setbacks?
Your writing skills – Are you articulate? Can you break down a complex concept into a simple explanation even a child would understand? Are you able to use minimum words for maximum impact? Do your sentences flow naturally? Does one idea logically lead to another? Can you present clichéd topics with freshness and uniqueness?
So now that you know what you are up against let’s get started! The essay can shift the odds in your favor. Let’s explore how you can compose an exceptional, extraordinary essay:
Do your homework – Make a list of all the scholarships you intend to apply for. You can then eke out a schedule of which essay is due when. This will ensure that you do not miss any submission deadlines and lose opportunities.
Know thy enemy – Every scholarship provider has a unique background and motivations. Research about their history, their other philanthropic activities, their community impact, and their success stories. This will help you tailor each essay according to who you are applying to. Always make it personal. Impersonal is death.
Follow instructions – Many institutions give you either a statement to elaborate on, or an outline of topics they expect you to include in the essay. Be very clear about how they expect such topics to be interpreted. Understand their motivations on why they want you to write on this. There will always be an underlying quality or outlook they want an applicant to possess.
Do not deviate – Stick to the themes and use appropriate keywords required. If, however, no essay topic is provided don’t ramble on about anything and everything you can think of.
Create a list – Make a list of all topics and keywords you intend to include. Then, arrange them into a basic framework. This will ensure that you do not leave anything out and that your structure is logical.
Mind your language – Your words should be used for maximum impact. This does not mean you use flowery language or long, winding sentences. Your language should be simple, your sentences concise, and your meaning clear.
It should be clear from your essay that you are an action-oriented person of persistence and determination.
Get personal – Any scholarship provider will read thousands of applications every year. After a while, they all begin to blend together. Do not make your essay dry and mechanical.
The scholarship provider prefers applicants who live a well-rounded life, who are alert and aware of circumstances, and who have a proven track record of getting things done.
You are an individual, with thoughts, emotions and life experiences that are utterly unique to you and your essay should reflect that. Follow your intuition and do not try to make your essay similar to previous successful applicants.
Get inspiration from their structure and approach, but do not blindly copy. Also, you should state your accomplishments, but never brag.
Edit away – Your grammar should be impeccable. There should be no spelling errors either. These sorts of silly mistakes are a sure fire way to discount your essay. If the essay is in soft, use apps like Grammarly to correct such errors. If a handwritten essay is required, get a teacher to read through and point out mistakes.
Revise, revise, revise – Proofread your essay at least thrice. You will be surprised at how many improvements will suggest themselves. Implement as many as you think necessary.
Involve everyone – Get your parents, siblings, friends, teachers, mentors, and counselors to read your essay.
Writing a scholarship essay can seem like a drag. Writing several is definitely a pain. It doesn’t have to be that way. After writing one or two, you will definitely pick up speed in writing the others.
And you’ll commit fewer mistakes. The key is to hold onto a positive outlook throughout. An application or essay is no guarantee of acceptance. In fact, you may face a few rejections.
The important thing is not to give up and to keep trying. Good things definitely come to those who wait.