This is why, it is important to research the mission/purpose/objective of the scholarship award as you compile your list of target scholarships
Once you know the goal of the organization in giving the award, use that knowledge to choose which aspects of your life to highlight as the general theme of the essay
This is not lying, it is learning to be strategic about how you tell your story--a critical skill--you adapt your story, your personal narrative by highlighting certain areas and dimming others, depending on your specific needs for that ONE application
The Goal of the Award as a Guide for Your Essay
Example 1: If you are applying for the educator, engineer, doctor award, you want to highlight your future in the field and how you will make important contributions
Example 2: If you are applying for an award for under-represented students, you may focus on your potential to succeed and on your proven commitment to help others (once you get there) by being a mentor and good role model
Example 3: If you are a woman entering the sciences, marine biology or math for example, you may focus again on your potential to succeed and your determination to work towards gender equity in the hard sciences
Common Features of All Winning Essays
Answer the question: make sure your essay is a response to the essay prompt. This is especially important if the essay has more than one part
“Discuss your educational and future career goals. Why do you want to pursue a college education? How will you ensure that you will succeed in college? What challenges or obstacles will you overcome?”
“Write and attach a personal essay in which you tell us about yourself. What is important for us to know about you? You may want to write about one or more of the following: your personal history, your goals and dreams, what obstacles you’ve overcome, your accomplishments, and why you want to go to college. Your essay must be typed and between 500-100 words”
Your Strategy: Analyze the question or topic
Write down the essay question. How many parts does it have? Does the question suggest a structure or order, such as first describe your role in… then tell why it had the following effect… and what you learned from it….
Do a Descriptive Outline
Share a Slice of Your Life
Sharing a slice of your life is an important technique.
What you share of your personal life should be again determined by the theme of your essay (which as we already discussed is part of the theme of your entire application packet)
The use of the personal is a critical part of learning how to tell your story strategically, learning how to highlight certain feature and dim others, depending on your needs--effective use of the personal is very very powerful
It is an important skill that will be useful way beyond the scholarship essay
What not to do
Do not turn your essay into a narrative of oppression, remember everyone in the stack has such a narrative
Sob stories help, only if you focus on the positive, how you were able to overcome obstacles and how what you learned by overcoming those obstacles ensures that you will succeed in college and in your career
i.e how the obstacle make you a better student and will make you a better teacher, doctor, lawyer etc.
Remember---the best essays have a sense of purpose and direction
Keys to a Winning Scholarship Essays
Have a coherent theme that matches the scholarships goal--ask yourself “What is the point of my essay?” If you can answer this in one sentence you have a coherent theme
Be specific, show vs.. tell using specific examples, stories, anecdotes from your life--the strategic use of the personal
Use Imagery and Clear, Vivid Prose. If you are not adept with imagery, you can write an excellent essay without it, but it's not easy. The application essay lends itself to imagery since the entire essay requires your experiences as supporting details. Appeal to the five senses of the scholarship officers.
Appeal to different registers, the logical, rational, and emotional
Present Tense, if Possible--The present tense allows people to live the information with you. It’s not always possible, but it’s a great strategy when it can work.
Every word counts, when in doubt cut. Every sentence counts. You don’t have to cram everything into this essay. Again be strategic
Use the essay to expand on the accomplishments you listed on the application form
Don’t write a narrative of oppression--strategic (careful) use of the personal
Use an image, create a striking scene that transports the reader into your world through action and strong images
Pose a question, or an impressive fact
Be succinct--you have a very short time to grad the reader usually 2-3 sentences