Scholarship Essay Tips to Make Your Application Stand Out


Scholarships are highly competitive yet excellent ways of achieving success at college. Prize winners not only receive a financial benefit but prime material for their CV in their post-college years. Besides the financial perks, other aspects such as specialist mentoring, internships, and extra-curricular opportunities are sometimes part of the package.

How then should you approach your essay to make your application stand out? Being a good essay writer is all about practice and perseverance. Expect to write several drafts and be ruthless with your writing.

Adhering to the scholarship essay format is also crucial; it shows you’re capable of following instructions, so here are the top tips for application essay writing.


1)  Treat it like any other essay

The general tips that go with a standard essay also apply here. Use strong writing hooks to start your sentences. Each point should have its own paragraph. Link the sections together – some find it useful to print out their essay and then use good old fashioned scissors to rearrange the structure of the paper physically. For those who find reading and writing on a screen difficult, play to your strengths by going analog.


2)  Seek help and advice

It goes without saying that an essay must be grammatically perfect. Do this yourself, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your school, your friends, your parents are all viable candidates for the role of ‘proof-reader,’ and they’ll all have some additional input. Especially prioritize staff at your school, as they will have experience in this sort of essay from years gone by and help remove glaring errors.

If your school isn’t all that great, turn to the internet. Search for college admissions tutors, people with real-life experience of getting into top schools, and winning top scholarship prizes are often more than happy to offer advice and insight. This advice could be a paid-service, or if you find the right forum, try Reddit, and they might be willing to provide the help pro bono.

3)  Be faithful to yourself

Don’t start embellishing facets of your life to sound smarter or better. For one thing, you may get tripped up by those white lies later on, and another is that you might simply sound like everyone else. Standing out here is vital, so don’t fall into the same traps and bland platitudes you think might communicate a good sense character, but are passé.

Be humble and truthful, and your character will shine through.

4)  It’s never too late to start

This point has a double meaning. The first is that it is never too late to apply for a scholarship – unless the deadline has passed. So you’re searching the internet and happen to see a grant that expires in two days, that’s plenty of time to get something down and apply. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. That’s how to start a scholarship essay, in the heat of the moment when the iron is hot.

The second point under this heading refers to content. Earlier, we made a point of not embellishing your character’s activities or aspects, but if you find you are struggling for things to talk about, pause for a second. Think about what you can do that you’ve maybe always wanted to do or have thought is a great idea.

Volunteering, starting a club or society, actually publishing that essay or short film you made with your friends. If it’s not quite real yet, make it so and talk about it in your application.

5)  Use the full space provided

250 words? 500 words? 1000 words? There is a reason the limit is what it is; the college or grant-awarding body will expect you to fill the whole thing without being facetious. Do not miss the opportunities afforded in hundreds of words by leaving them unwritten.

If you are unfamiliar with what an amount of words looks like, do your research, use a word counter website, or the one built into your word processor. Often in high school, essay lengths are based on pages, but once you reach college, it is the word count that matters.

6)  Come back to it later

All writing needs improvement. The number one tip for essay writers is to come back to it later. Let the essay gather dust for a little while, let your mind wander, come up with new subconscious ideas, and then get it out again and have another go.

Printing out your essay is the best way to re-read it. Have a writing utensil to hand and take some notes. You may find it useful to use double-line spacing when editing your essay, and it will give you more room to make changes.

Reading aloud is also an essential part of the editing process. You will find that some of those sentences you thought were slick are very clunky. Don’t be shy, put on your best Stephen Fry voice, and let rip.

Hopefully, these tips have made it clear how to write a scholarship essay—the best of luck to you.