Scholarship Essay Writing: Scholarship Essays and College Application Essay Guide

What are scholarship essays, scholarship essay writing samples, examples, and college scholarship application essay guides?  Why are they important? Are college application essay writing guides a waste of time?

These college application essay questions are familiar with those students who view higher education sponsorship as a viable option for funding their college and university education or as an avenue for realizing their academic goals and career plans.

In this article, we will answer several questions on college and university scholarship application essays, more so those pertaining to the structural and contextual requirements of this type of college application essays.

The application essay writing guide is founded on the fact that, while landing a full or partial scholarship is the dream of any ambitious university or college student, learning the requirements of writing scholarship winning essays and doing the actual writing and submission is a key, prerequisite to getting a sponsorship opportunity.

This is because most local and international scholarship programs that offer financial aid to students seeking sponsorship for diploma, undergraduate degree and masters degree courses require students to write application essays.

The written submissions are reviewed by selection committees to determine the suitability of applicants. This means that writing college application essays in a poor, rushed manner, or omitting some key requirements will limit your chances.

How to Write College and University Scholarship Application Essays

Mastering the art of writing winning scholarship essays starts by reading scholarship essay writing guides and samples of previous essay examples in order to familiarize with their content. This is crucial for anyone considering to submit sponsorship applications to colleges and universities.

However, It must be understood that there is no single, standardized way of writing application essays for college or university.

Tips for Writing a Winning College Scholarship Essay

  • Read and understand the scholarship essay question, statement, or topic carefully.
  • Research on the requirements before writing the essay.
  • Know and stick to the word limit. Start with a rough draft for the essay.
  • Write an interesting introduction and argument that summarizes your position regarding the topic.
  • Use appropriate language and examples when  writing the scholarship essay.
  • Ensure your college scholarship essay portrays your personality and abilities.
  • Be honest and truthful with the details and examples you use in your essay and avoid lies and exaggeration.
  • Keep the expectations of the selection committee in mind.
  • Edit and proofread your essay for grammatical and spelling errors.
  • Seek advice and assistance from scholarship alumni and essay writing experts.

The Importance of Uniqueness

Every student has their own unique writing abilities and experiences that define the clarity and depth of their scholarship application essays. In fact, if you were to analyze a batch of winning essays from previous scholarship applications, you would struggle to find similarities in their content and style of writing.

The only likely similarity that you may find is in the structure of the essays. That said, the uniqueness of your style of writing, previous experiences, and approach to answering the application essay questions defines the individuality of your essay. This kind of personal writing gives you the chance of edging out other applicants by catching the eye of members of the selection committees.

Understanding the Scholarship Essay Question

It is important to read the scholarship essay question statement severally to understand what you are required to address and the keywords or key themes to focus on when writing the application essay.

For example, a leadership and community impact essay question may be stated as follows;

“Explain how you have demonstrated responsible leadership, or innovation, and how it made a difference either in your community or at work.”

From this statement, it is clear that your application essay should explain how you have applied responsible leadership and innovation in the past to impact communities or groups of people at work. The keywords or key themes of your essay should thus be leadership and community impact.

How do you then address the key themes?

Once you identify the keywords or themes of a scholarship essay statement, you should first find what they mean. After that, you should define them in your own words, basing on what you understand from the dictionary definition of the key words.

Finally, you should evaluate suitable examples from your previous experiences that sync with the scholarship question statement’s key themes that you can then write as answers to the college application essay question.

Detailed explanations for answering scholarship essay question statements can be found in our scholarship application essay writing guides for writing specific college application essays that are common to popular college and university sponsorship programs.

Some of the common college scholarship application essays and questions include;

Writing an Interesting, Engaging Essay Introduction

Just like any other essay writing assignment, college application essays should start with a captivating introduction. This is meant to ensure that you capture the interest of judges of the scholarship selection panel.

A good idea for writing interesting essay introduction is starting with an argument or position that you can then defend in other paragraphs of the essay body. Starting an essay introduction with an argument is good for highlighting your knowledge or understanding of the essay content.

This encourages the intended reader to read the whole article. Otherwise, a poor introduction may cause your application essay to be dismissed from the word go.

Understanding the Application Essay Evaluation Criteria used by Scholarship Committees

Scholarship committees use diverse criteria for evaluating college scholarship application essays to determine the eligibility of students in terms of academic competence, leadership, influence, and networking abilities, and financial need. Similarly, the various types of scholarship essay question statements are designed to test for different factors that determine eligibility for a higher education sponsorship.

However, the most obvious truth is that all of these essay questions have one thing in common. They test the ability of students to comprehend the scholarship question and provide convincing written answers that portray a passion for growth, development, and excellence, using appropriate language, writing style, and relevant, real-life examples of their previous experiences.

For that reason, you should be convinced that your scholarship application essay meets these and other requirements before submitting them for review. Additionally, you should keep improving your application essay writing skills by reading responses from selection committees, essay writing guides, tips, examples, and samples of previous submissions.

Detailed Review of the Scholarship Essay Writing Procedure

Scholarship essay writing gives you a chance to describe your experiences and qualifications in greater detail, beyond the points that appear on your resume or transcripts. Your scholarship essay will need to engage the reader, and address the goals of the institution that is sponsoring the college scholarship program and its objectives.

A major misconception about writing scholarship application essays is that no one actually reads your scholarship essay!  This is completely wrong! Infact, a college admission essay is the key to succeeding in your scholarship application.

Writing college application essays presents students with an opportunity to demonstrate to the selection committee that they are well-rounded individuals, that they are experienced writers with skills that surpass their highschool GPA scores.

The Major Steps of College and Scholarship Application Essay Writing

Step 1: Read the Scholarship Essay Statement, Question, or Prompt Keenly

Most college and university scholarship programs will give you an essay writing “prompt” or a question which the essay is supposed to address. Read the scholarship essay question or prompt carefully to understand the requirements.

Useful Tip: Always keep in mind that the answer to any scholarship essay writing question should demonstrate your interests, your background, and most importantly, highlight the experiences you’ve had that fit with the goals and mission of the college or university sponsorship program.

In the absence of a scholarship essay writing statement or question, you may be required to write an essay on any topic you like. Though challenging, choosing your own scholarship essay topic grants you the opportunity to demonstrate your creativity. However, if the instructions are not clear, seek clarification from the sponsorship program.

Step 2: Make a List of the Keywords to use when writing scholarship essay

Scholarship committees often look for students who align with their organizational goals.

Regardless of the essay prompt, you will want to make sure to include the important and relevant information about your experiences and background that makes you an ideal candidate for the scholarship award. Do some research on the scholarship program to find its mission statement. Pick a few key words from the mission statement and use them as keywords in your essay.


***Do you need scholarship essay samples and examples? Check out our free Sample Essays page for sample scholarship essays, college application essay writing guides, college admission essays, and loads of free scholarship essay writing ttips***

Step 3: Evaluating your Suitability for the Scholarship Program

Before commencing your scholarship essay writing, you should also review your qualifications and make note of what needs to be included in the essay.  For example, when applying for a masters degree scholarship, you can include the specific university course that you took that inspired your current academic and career goals. In doing so, you can try to answer the following questions.


What is your experience?

What is your mission in applying for the college sponsorship program?

What college or university course do you want to study during the higher education scholarship program?

How will the undergraduate or masters degree be useful to your future career goals?

What other special training, knowledge, or skills do you have?

What is your financial need that makes you qualified for a university degree scholarship or higher education sponsorship?

Step 4: Write an Outline or a Rough Draft 

The next step is to integrate those points that you want the committee to know by writing an essay that answers the scholarship application question, statement or prompt. 

Not everyone likes to make an outline before they begin writing, but in this case it can be very helpful. You can start with covering your list of important points for the outline.

Step 5: Write a Strong Essay Statement that Summarizes Your Points 

Your essay should be built around one strong thesis statement that summarizes all the major points you will make in your essay. It is often easy to start writing with this simple statement. It is good for your essay to begin with the thesis statement in order to give the reader a summation of its content.

You can see our scholarship essay writing samples and guides for a better idea on how to do this.

Step 6: Writing the Introduction 

Now that you have a thesis statement, an outline, and a list of important points to include, you can begin to fill in the missing parts of your story. The first sentence is particularly important: it should capture the attention of the reader, and motivate him or her to continue reading. We recommend starting your story by painting a vivid picture of an experience about which you will be talking in the essay.  

Step 7: Rewrite, Revise, Rewrite

A good writer rewrites and revises his or her work many, many times. After getting a first draft on paper, take a day or two away from the essay and then come back to it with fresh eyes. Make appropriate edits for content, and pay attention to proper spelling and grammar. If need be, you might want to write an entirely new draft and then integrate the best of both into a final draft. Writing a new draft can inspire you to think of new ideas or a better way to tell your story.

Some other tips to think about as you rewrite and revise

Make sure it sounds like your voice. You want the scholarship committee to feel like they are getting to know you.

Strike a balance between modesty and arrogance. You should be proud of your accomplishments, but you don’t want to sound arrogant.

Don’t exaggerate a story; instead be clear about what you did and the impact it had and let that speak for itself.

Check to make sure you are answering the prompt and fulfilling all other requirements of the essay as directed by the committee, such as font preference and word count limits.

Don’t just list your accomplishments; describe them in detail and also tell the reader how you felt during these experiences.

A scholarship essay is not a dissertation. You don’t need to impress the committee with big words, especially if you’re not certain that you’re using them correctly. Simplicity and clarity should be your goal.

Make sure your essay will be read from the beginning to the end. Committee members won’t dedicate much time to reading the essay, so you need to make sure they are given motivation to read the entire thing. If you are telling a story, don’t reveal the end of the story until the end.    

Check to make sure the keywords from the mission statement appear. It is easy to forget the scholarship committee’s goals as you write. Return to their mission statement and look for spots to place keywords from the statement. Be sure, however, that you’re not copying the mission statement word-for-word.

Step 8: Have someone else read your essay 

Ideally, you could give your essay to a teacher or college admissions counselor who is familiar with scholarship essays and the college admission process.

Step 9: Proofreading

Once you feel satisfied with the draft, review it one more time and pay particular attention to structure, spelling, grammar, and whether you fulfilled all the required points dictated by the committee. If you are over the required word count, you will need to make edits so that you are within the limit. If you are significantly under the word count, consider adding a supporting paragraph.    

Summary of How to Write a Scholarship Essay

Follow the prompt and other instructions exactly. You might write a great scholarship application essay but it may get your application rejected if you don’t follow the word count guidelines or other formatting requirements. Finally, be clear and concise by making sure that each paragraph addresses a single central idea or argument at a time.

  • Read the instructions thoroughly and make sure you completely understand them before you start writing. 
  • Think about what you are going to write and organize your thoughts into an outline.     
  • Write your essay by elaborating on each point you included in your outline.     
  • Use clear, concise, and simple language throughout your essay.     
  • When you are finished, read the question again and then read your essay to make sure that the essay addresses every point.

Things that you Should NEVER Do in Scholarship Essay Writing

NEVER: Open your scholarship essay writing with a quote. This is a common strategy but it is ineffective. Instead of using someone else’s words, use your own.

NEVER:  Use perfunctory sentences such as, “In this essay, I will…”

NEVER:  Use words from a thesaurus that are new to you. You may end up using the word incorrectly and that will make your writing awkward. Keep it simple and straightforward. The point of the essay is to tell your story, not to demonstrate how many words you know.       

Unless specified otherwise, the structure of your scholarship application essay should follow the following format:

  • Double spaced    
  • Times New Roman font 12
  • One-inch top, bottom, and side margins 

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