How to write the perfect scholarship essaySunday, July 25, 2021
By Kimberley HIBBERT
AT some point in your life, your parents and mentors will encourage you to apply for scholarships to help fund your education and ease the financial burden of getting a good education.
But scholarship applications are not as simple as they are often presented to the public. They require thought, strategy and proper planning, sometimes months in advance of the deadline.
For many individuals, the process becomes daunting when they begin writing the essays. This is typically the hardest part of the application, but equally the most important aspect.
The essays are where you either give yourself a true fighting chance or completely blow it. It gives you the chance to show your personality and what makes you unique. Below I share a few tips to deliver a scholarship essay that stands out from the hundreds, even thousands that committees receive.
1. Plan in advance
The hardest part in writing a scholarship essay is to start writing one. It is normal to feel afraid of the writing process and have several drafts. However, what you should never do is begin writing at the last minute or even worse — the night before the deadline. Find out when applications open, what's required, and when is the deadline. Begin planning months in advance by ensuring you have the correct dates and deadlines for the scholarship application. When you've sorted that, create a personal calendar that outlines how you will manage your time and what aspect of the essay you will focus on each day. Do research, read other winning essays you may see online, brainstorm, mind map, bounce ideas off people who have walked the road, speak to writers. Whatever it takes, ensure you give yourself plenty of time to plan, prepare and deliver.
2. Know your audience
Give the scholarship committee what they are looking for, but ensure you do not come off too generic. Who is the ideal candidate and how do you fit the bill, but also stand out? Let's say the committee is looking for a student in finance who is involved in community service and has a 85 per cent average or a GPA of 3.0 and above. Thousands of students fit this bill. What sets you apart? Find those strengths and determine how you can sell yourself as the ideal candidate.
3. Have a brilliant opening line
If this is a popular scholarship or a competition with several applications, you want to stand out from the get go and you do that when you write brilliant opening sentences for each of the essays. People need to notice you from the get go and pick you out from a pool. You do that through brilliant opening sentences.
4. Be honest and open
Be candid about your experiences, your life story, what makes you uniquely you. Remember, you are selling yourself to complete strangers and trying to convince them to invest the scholarship money in you. Share some details about yourself that are interesting and unique. In the same breath don't be shy to talk about yourself. Many individuals see this as proud and pompous and consequently don't do themselves justice in their essays. But this is the only way to set yourself apart. In being candid, also use real life examples, show emotions, and keep it inspirational and positive. Don't sacrifice your voice and personality to fit the bill. Rather, play on them to make you memorable.
5. Be involved and talk about your involvement
Don't be too self-centred as a teenager or young adult. It is understood that the formative years of one's life may lead to a bit of anti-social behaviour. However, be involved and talk about your involvement. What are you doing that sets you apart from your peers? How much impact do you have in your various communities or groups? Did you champion a particular cause that led to some amount of change to a policy, rule or even led to the implementation of something beneficial to the vulnerable? If yes, talk about it. Be sure to mention the projects you conceptualised or led in school, your leadership roles, and your influence.
6. Ask for help
Read your essay aloud, proofread it, then ask your peers or a family member to give it a look. They can provide you with a different perspective. If there is a scholarship officer, engage the individual and ask what they look for in candidates. Seek out writing workshops and information sessions on the scholarship you desire. It might also help to speak to past scholars in the planning phase.
Kimberley Hibbert is a 2018 Chevening Scholar. She is also a two-time American Foundation for the University of the West Indies (AFUWI) Scholar, and received the 2010-2011 Nimrod Townsend Memorial Scholarship from the Kiwanis Club of North St Andrew.