Scholarship Essays: Accomplishments, Not Adjectives

Having been blessed with scholarships that paid for about one third of my college education, I'll share a tip that helped me write strong essays: State accomplishments, not adjectives. In other words, this tip applies the classic writing advice, "Show, don't tell."

Accomplishments are clearer than adjectives are. See, anyone can write, "I'm very hardworking, dedicated, and responsible." Not everyone can write, "I have a 3.9 GPA, volunteer for six hours a week at my church, and am treasurer of the student council." Stating accomplishments shows how you're unique and possibly even how you're better than the other applicants. Adjectives give vague ideas of your abilities. Accomplishments clarify what you've done and what you can do in the future.

Detailing two or three accomplishments rather than stating four or five adjectives can also help readers get to know you better. Why is that beneficial? The more readers feel that they know you, the more memorable you'll be when it's time to select the winning essays.

Why do I advise detailing just two or three accomplishments? First, this will keep the essay focused, which also makes you a more memorable applicant. People probably won't remember essays that read like autobiographies. They're more likely to remember the essay about "the girl who survived cancer who now aspires to be an oncologist." Accomplishments are usually more interesting to read than adjectives. Capturing and maintaining readers' interest in your writing is vital.

Second, sticking to two or three accomplishments will keep the essay concise, which is important if there's a length limit. Even if there isn't a length limit, remember that scholarship providers are busy people. An essay that conveys its message in two pages will probably work better than an essay that needs three pages to do so.

Third, if you dislike writing transitions between points (which I did when I wrote my essays), including only two or three detailed points will lower the number of transitions necessary.

Try replacing adjectives with concrete accomplishments, and you could win the next scholarship you apply for!


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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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