Last night I was on the phone with my nephew who is a senior in high school and he asked me "what tips do you have for scholarships?"
I thought, a lot. Yet, in all of my capacities of reading and scoring scholarship applications (which has easily been thousands) there are five tips that I suggest:
1). Let your "voice" come through.
- This can be hard because what exactly is your voice in an essay? I like to say it's the moment when you speak from your heart, which can be a scary thing to do, especially if you feel self-conscious. My best advice? For your first draft, take the essay question and free-write. Write until you think you've fully answered the question and then let those whose advice you trust read it so that they can help you identify your voice. When I edit essays for people, it might be just a couple sentences that I circle and say this is it- "this is what you should write about. Expand on this." And I usually follow that with the questions: how and/or why to help the essay writer as they follow that voice. Try it and the more you do it, the better you'll become. This process takes time, so start early.
2). For your final draft-stay on topic, and please, please don't give me a run down of your resume.
Make sure to answer all part of the essay to the best of your ability. As for the resume part, let's just say most scholarship applications require a resume. I'm not suggesting not to include any accomplishments that you're proud of and which help you answer the question, please add those in! If you're not sure if you're giving a full on summary of your resume: again ask someone that knows you for advice.
3). Give examples.
- What I do I mean? Say you're writing an essay and you're trying to explain why you think it's important to give back to your community. As a reviewer, I usually think, "ok, so I hope you can provide me with at least an example of how you've given back (and saying you only did a good deed once isn't what I'm looking for)." I once worked with a student who had a very limited resume because she had responsibilities at home and she was really down on not being able to provide examples of how she gave back to her community. My answer: don't you think that being responsible and helping to take care of your younger siblings is giving back to your community? In her essay, she went on to explain that helping keep her siblings on the right track not only helped them, but also their community in the long run.
4). Keep the focus on you.
- This little nugget of knowledge just means that if two-thirds of your essay is talking about your grandparents/ and or parents and their struggles, then it may cause me to want to give them the scholarship. Not sure what I mean by this? Have someone read your essay and ask them: who would you give this to me or my (my grandparents, mother, teacher etc).
- I love writing but I hate proofreading so I know it can be a pain, but think about it: if you've worked this hard for something, shouldn't you at least see it through to the end? Read it yourself, read it out loud and have the more people read it. Also advised, write, walk away and then come back to proof read. It just works out better. This also means you have to start early.