Make Scholarship Essays More Powerful by Focusing Them

You may think it’s smart to stuff scholarship essays with details, but just as we can’t eat every dish at a buffet, readers can’t consume every detail. You risk coming across to readers as a list of accomplishments and activities instead of a person. You’ll be more memorable and likely to get the scholarship if readers see you as a deserving person. Let’s examine how to focus scholarship essays based on what readers are seeking in scholarship recipients and on powerful traits and qualifications.

We get to know a person piece by piece, not all at once, so it makes sense to illustrate just a few pieces of who you are in scholarship essays. How do you pick which three or four pieces to focus on? As with any piece of writing, what you should include depends on the audience.

Investigate the organization giving the scholarship to learn its values, its mission, and on what it’s basing its decision of whom to give the scholarship to. Consider what you’ve accomplished that exemplifies its values and mission and what traits you have that make you deserve this particular scholarship. If you can’t find much information about the organization online or in print, seek someone affiliated with the organization but who isn’t reading the scholarship essays and ask him or her for information.

If you don’t know anyone with ties to the organization, it’s likely that it values community service because in my experience, most community organizations that award scholarships serve their communities actively. So, make community service one experience you detail in your essay. Another attribute organizations are likely to value is academic achievement. By learning what the organization seeks in a recipient, you can decide what to include.

If you are still having trouble narrowing down what points to include, consider which are the most powerful and unique. A good approach is to pick attributes that the other applicants aren’t likely to include. For example, more than one applicant is going to mention and illustrate the personality trait of being hardworking, so that might be a poor choice for you. More than one applicant will mention being on the honor roll, but if you’ve been on the honor roll since seventh grade, mentioning that could set you apart from others. If readers see what makes you different from others, they’ll feel like they know you better and be more likely to remember you.

Most scholarship essays have word or page limits, so making the most of the space you have is essential. You won’t be able to share every trait and qualification you possess. Focus on the most powerful ones and differentiate yourself to leave a strong impression on readers.

Photo: rlopex, Flickr Creative Commons


Darla Word

About Darla Word

I'm a writing tutor and editor from Michigan. My favorite subject to write about is writing because making better writers is my calling. I also enjoy reading, singing, swimming, and cardmaking.

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