Tips for Organizing a Winning Scholarship Essay

March 28th, 2014 by Jennifer Frankel

businessman wealth477168287Writing a scholarship essay is, perhaps, the most important—and often, most daunting—step for any student looking to win a scholarship. Judges must assess applicants quickly and will already know your basic information/details from the rest of the scholarship application. That being said, the essay is your chance to stand out as an applicant and tell the judge(s) exactly why you’re the ideal recipient for their award.

And, as any experienced essay writer will tell you, an outstanding essay begins with a well-formulated outline.

There aren’t specialized scholarship essay outlines per se, rather, scholarship essays are organized much like any other essay. However, there are a number of key features the scholarship essay must convey to the judge, and these features are important to keep in mind when planning.

Scholarship Essay Important Features to Remember

  • Don’t just reiterate the basic information in your profile (the judge(s) already have access to that), identify yourself as the ideal recipient of this particular scholarship
  • Give a personalized response, specifically tailored to each individual scholarship
  • Remember who the judges will be. Who offers the scholarship? What are they looking for in a candidate? Don’t just respond to the topic, write for your audience and highlight the desired qualities in yourself!

Outline Formats

As there aren’t specialized formats for scholarship-specific essays, any traditional outline format will do (Interchanging numerals and letters for major points and supporting details, for example).

  1. Idea 1
    1. Supporting statement
    2. Supporting statement
  2. Idea 2
    1. Supporting statement

The only particular thing to remember is you are planning more than a mere response to the provided prompt—you are planning a way to sell yourself as the ideal candidate for the scholarship while responding to the prompt.

An Example of a Better Response

When planning, it is important to remember that there are better and worse ways to respond to a scholarship provider’s prompt while simultaneously selling yourself as the ideal candidate to receive the award.

Outlining and planning your scholarship essay is the most valuable asset in crafting a formidable response—a response that needs to both answer the provider’s question while setting you apart from a group of similarly qualified applicants.

For example:

BAD: “I am a very hard worker.”

BETTER: “At my current job, there are often extended lulls in the workload. During those lulls I stay busy by finding things in the office that still need to be done and taking care of them. Rather than sitting around or waiting to be told what to do, I refill paper trays, tidy up areas that have become cluttered throughout the day, and otherwise take initiative to improve the workplace and assist my co-workers.”

Scholarship Essay Outline Recap:

  • The scholarship essay is the best means for a student to distinguish themselves from other applicants and procure a scholarship
  • Creating a detailed outline and planning your response is the best step a student can take to write an impeccable scholarship essay
  • When planning responses, students should write for their audience—highlight the qualities the scholarship provider is looking for!
  • Any traditional outline format will do (numerals, letters, etc) as there is no specialized scholarship essay outline format—it’s not important what style the outline is, only that there’s an outline!

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