If you ask students what they hate most about applying for scholarships, most of them will tell you that writing essays is the worst part (Well, that and not winning them, but that’s a topic for another post). And, it doesn't matter if the essay requires 250 words or several thousand; most students would simply rather spend their time searching for "no essay" scholarships than sit down and write another scholarship essay. Unfortunately, most scholarship providers aren't willing to hand over free money for college without a little effort, and that’s where the essay comes into play. It not only gives providers more insight into your life, but it also helps them weed out potential candidates, especially when several have similar academic records. For those scholarship programs that don’t even consider your grade point average or financial need, the essay is the one thing that will set you apart from the other applicants. With so much riding on the line (no pun intended), it’s important to grab your reader’s attention immediately, which means you have about two to five sentences to impress the committee or else your essay is headed to the ‘denied’ stack. If you want a shot at having your entire paper read, there are three things you should avoid using in the introductory paragraph of your essay.
1. Spitting Back the Essay Prompt
Can you imagine how boring it would be to read the same opening sentence over and over again? I can tell you from experience that it’s very frustrating to see this in scholarship essays. There’s no need to include this for any reason. Trust me. Scholarship providers know what their scholarship prompts are and don’t need to be reminded. It’s also more of an elementary-style of writing and not quite up to par for someone heading to college soon.
2. Using Quotes
I don’t know who first used a quote to start an essay, but I would really like to kick him or her in the bum. Don’t get me wrong, an obscure quote can work well in an academic paper, but in general you should avoid using them in scholarship essays. Why? Chances are the quote you will choose is going to be used by several other students, which means your ‘original’ essay is going to get dumped into the ‘denied’ pile. If you must use a quote, use one of your own. That might actually get someone’s attention!
3. Introducing Yourself
Unless the scholarship essay instructions specifically state that you must include your name in your paper, don’t start your essay by introducing yourself. It not only seems a bit juvenile, but may also disqualify you from advancing. Most scholarship committees conduct blind readings. This means a reader cannot have any information pertaining to you. Even if the scholarship prompt asks you to share some information about yourself, refrain from starting your essay in this fashion. Instead, begin with something memorable from your life that will leave a lasting impression with your reader.
Now that you know how not to start your scholarship essay, use our Scholarship Match to find scholarships that are perfect for you. And if you need extra money for college, try our LoanFinder.
Ultimately, the point of a scholarship essay is getting you money for college. The final paragraph of your essay should be about the importance of college to your future.
"Since my goal is ultimately to further the filed of nanotechnology, I need to get started on my studies in this emerging field."
Part of your final paragraph should include what you bring to the table. Why should the scholarship committee award you the money over others? Relate this to the scholarship's mission, but also be true to yourself.
"So, while it's true I dropped out of high school, that only means that I know better than anyone the importance of education. I returned to high school, older than anyone else, but also knowing exactly what's at stake. I know I can face the challenges of college in order to improve my prospects for the future."
The tone of the entire essay should take on the aspect of how your past has shaped you, and how you can use that for your future. Depending on your background, the tone might be that you were raised the respect education.
"Coming from such a long line of teachers, I always saw myself in the classroom."
However, the tone of your essay might be that you are working to be "bigger than your story," or to transcend your past.
"I am the first in my family that will graduate high school. I intend to further than achievement and be the first to not only attend college, but graduate."
Don't try a sob story, though; people want to hear how you've transcended the trials in your life.