Kevin Ladd is the chief operating officer and vice president of Scholarships.com, one of the most widely used free college scholarship search and financial aid information resources online. The organization also formed RightStudent about five years ago, a company that has built relationships with colleges and universities across the U.S. to provide students with the opportunity to not only interact with prospective colleges, but to also be recruited by them. Follow Scholarships.com on Twitter and Facebook.
If you have no idea where to start when trying to win a scholarship, you may feel reassured after looking at a few sample essays. They can spur good ideas that might help you outline your work, choose which of your topics is most fitting, and find a writing style that makes you feel comfortable. No matter what approach you take, get at least one other person you trust to review your essay before sending it in. Make revisions as needed and proofread carefully before submitting your scholarship application packet.
All Common App essays must show your personality, identity, and aspirations, as well as spark discussions on interests, character, values, and community. The goal for any Common App essay is to impart a lasting, authentic image and sense of yourself on the reader. When you’re writing and hit a mental block, don’t hesitate to refer back to the Core Four questions a good Common App essay must answer, and always check whether or not the ideas in your essay reflect the characteristics you want to convey about yourself.
Where did you grow up? Describe your neighborhood, town, or community. Big or small? What makes it unlike other parts of the world? How has it affected you? What images are important for someone who has never been to your hometown/neighborhood/community to see? For instance, is there farmland all around you, grain silos, cows? A Chik-Fil-A every block?
Answer: Your essay can draw on whatever moves you, regardless of when the anecdote, event, or inciting incident you’re writing about occurred. However, what matters most, in terms of timeline, is that you show your readers how the event not only influences you now but will continue to inflect your thinking about yourself and the world as the years roll on.
Everything we’re talking about here—writing, noticing mistakes, correcting them—will take you at least three and as many as five or six drafts to get right. So, Tip #6: Don’t treat your early drafts like anything close to final. That means you’re going to have to get comfortable with simply putting idea to paper, and with cutting entire paragraphs or “points” within the essay. You’ve probably never written anything like the personal statement before, and you have to promise yourself to be iterative—otherwise, you’ll lock yourself into a weaker version of the essay.
The Gwenn Steward Clements Scholarship provides scholarships to graduating high school seniors from Lexington Senior High School in Davidson County who possess outstanding oral and written skills and who will pursue undergraduate degrees from accredited post-secondary institutions. Students must have a minimum 3.25 GPA and be a solid English student (90 average or higher), possessing outstanding [...] More
Award Amount: $1,200 The Scooter Inside Scholarship is open to students who are currently attending high school or college. You must submit an essay of between 700 and 1500 words that discusses the importance of social media marketing and how search engine optimization can help local business get more clients in order to be considered for this award. Learn more about the Scooter Inside Scholarship.
List the educational & career goals. Begin with the current learning goals (why you attend specific college/university, the main reasons to choose the specific field and reasons to obtain financial support). Mention the long-term goals next. Write about the skills you plan to obtain during the study process, how they can be used to help the local community, ways to reciprocate the experience obtained from the society.
The scholarship application process for essay scholarships is much the same as for other scholarship opportunities—you need to fill out the scholarship application, gather all your materials, double-check that you've met all requirements, and then submit your completed application packet before the deadline. With essay scholarships, especially, you should start this process early and leave yourself plenty of time to formulate an effective strategy and write a brilliant entry. Make sure you closely follow instructions and go through the entire writing process, from brainstorming to outlining to editing. If you really want to win essay scholarships, you can't just throw your response together in 30 minutes and send it on its way. While this strategy may have worked for you in English class, chances are $5,000 wasn't riding on whether you got an A on any of your papers. Take your time writing and revising. If you plan far enough ahead, you'll be able to get plenty of feedback from your family, friends, and teachers, as well. The more people who see your essay, the better it will be. Outside help goes beyond proofreading. If possible, ask for advice on the content of your essay, as well as the style and the flow. All of these are important factors in writing effective scholarship essays.

Part of writing better essays means knowing where to find solid sources. Google Scholar is a search engine that specifically indexes scholarly sources, so you don’t have to dig through piles of unreliable web pages. You are also able to save your sources in your library to save articles while you search. I know I have a habit of losing track of articles and opening way too many tabs–the library feature takes care of that.
I lived with the Ortiz family for seven months like a monk in the deep forest. However, the host dad Greg’s asthma got worse after winter, so he wanted to move to the countryside. It was unexpected and I only had a week to find a new host family. I asked my friend Danielle if I could live with her until I found a new home. That’s how I met the Dirksen family, my fifth family.
"Don't bury the lede!" The first few sentences must capture the reader's attention, provide a gist of the story, and give a sense of where the essay is heading. Think about any article you've read—how do you decide to read it? You read the first few sentences and then decide. The same goes for college essays. A strong lede (journalist parlance for "lead") will place your reader in the "accept" mindset from the beginning of the essay. A weak lede will have your reader thinking "reject"—a mindset from which it's nearly impossible to recover.
Emphasize volunteer work or other ways you’ve helped people or made your community a better place. It helps if the activity is related to the subject you want to study. For example, Christopher Rim of Command Education Group, which coaches students, remembers that one student who wanted to become a dentist set up a nonprofit and held fund-raisers to distribute toothbrushes, toothpaste and other dental products to homeless shelters. Admissions staff members want to know how your presence will make the college a better place.
This scholarship provides assistance to students with financial need who have resided in, or have substantial ties to, Larimer County and have an interest in the study of law or our system of government, debate or other similar law-related educational activities. Students attending Windsor High School are eligible to apply. Requires an essay submission.
The Pinnacol Foundation College Scholarship Program ensures that the children of seriously injured and killed Colorado workers have the opportunity to pursue their dreams by continuing their education. Applicants must be the natural child, adopted child, stepchild or full dependent of a worker who was injured or killed in a compensable work-related accident during the course and scope of [...] More
I greatly appreciate your consideration. Please know that this scholarship will make a significant positive impact on my ability to continue in school and will be greatly appreciated. I look forward to becoming an active member of the Society for Professional Widget Makers once I graduate from college and begin working in the field. I can assure you that I will be a dedicated professional that you will be proud to count among your ranks.
Most people prefer reading a good story over anything else. So... tell a great story in your essay. Worry less about providing as many details about you as possible and more about captivating the reader's attention inside of a great narrative. I read a great essay this year where an applicant walked me through the steps of meditation and how your body responds to it. Loved it. (Yes, I'll admit I'm a predisposed meditation fan.)
Unlike the rest of your application, which consists largely of objective facts like grades and test scores, your application essay allows you to truly showcase what makes you unique as a student and a person. Use your own voice and your own stories to illustrate why you would be an asset to the school. Don’t fall into the trap of sanitizing your speech and your opinions for risk of offending an admissions officer. Although you do need to use proper spelling and grammar, your college essay is a perfect place for creative metaphors, witty turns of phrase and humor.
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