When applying for scholarships to help finance college education, one question many students ask is how to make their scholarship application essay stand out. The answer, as it turns out, is actually straightforward. To see how, consider the purpose of your application.

At the simplest level, your scholarship application is a document that explains who you are, your educational background, and your future plans and goals, for the purpose of showing why you are a good candidate for the scholarship. Your application contains multiple documents on your educational record in addition to the essay. The essay is the best way for you to convey the same information in your own words, and to show who you are as a person in the process.

There are many resources available to help you find relevant scholarships to apply to. It is useful to speak with your teachers, parents, and other advisors, including financial aid offices. These advisors will help you determine your eligibility for specific scholarships and focus your direction. Just as with your separate college admissions applications, it is best to prepare well in advance of deadlines.

Once you have determined which scholarship(s) you will apply to, you can focus attention specifically on writing a good application essay. The tips below can help you in this process and be used like a checklist.


Be Personal and Expressive

Your essay is a way for you to explain your background, who you are, what activities and communities you are involved in, and what future goals you have. Do not simply list activities or credentials. Your application documents already contain this information, and the purpose of the essay is to show who you are in your own words. Explore how making your essay more expressive will convey who you are in a more natural and genuine way. Consider adding relevant personal information about your life, culture, or background.

Communicate Naturally and Clearly

Consider that your essay serves in place of having a conversation with the scholarship provider. For this reason, do not talk only about yourself, but instead communicate as if you were interacting with them directly. Demonstrate that you are mature, well-mannered, friendly, and capable of communicating professionally with others. Also make sure your writing is clear and easy to understand.

Show Thankfulness and Respect

Remember that the scholarship provider is doing you a service in considering your application, and that a scholarship award is a considerably generous gift. Show that you care about these kind gestures and appreciate the fact that they may help you at a stage in your life where it can make a big difference. Similarly, you will also want to indicate your gratefulness to the other individuals who have helped you, such as teachers or advisors you use as references on the application.

Think about Your Community

In your scholarship application just as in the college applications you complete, you should demonstrate that your progress and goals are not only about you, but involve the larger community around you. Think about the people and communities that you have helped you along the way during high school, as well as ways you have contributed such as through volunteer services. Also consider the scholarship providers as a generous member of the community, and discuss how your future goals may positively affect the community.

Research the Provider

One intended purpose of your application is to show that you are a good match for the scholarship. For this reason, it is essential to have a good understanding of what the provider values or stands for. If you apply to multiple scholarships, do not use the same essay for each. Ensure that each is unique and based on the particular nature of the scholarship provider.

Follow Instructions

All of the application instructions should be followed perfectly, including those for the essay. This can in part help to demonstrate that you are an efficient and reliable candidate. Failure to follow instructions could also diminish the potential of an otherwise great essay.

Prepare and Review in Advance

In the essay as well as the other components of your scholarship application, it is ideal to prepare in advance. For the essay in particular, this will include writing, reviewing, and editing multiple drafts. In addition to editing your own essay, see if an advisor such as one of your references can read it over as well. Once you are satisfied with it, use a word processor for a final confirmation that the spelling and grammar you use are correct.


After the period of submitting your scholarship applications, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that you have been selected to receive a scholarship. Remember to send a letter thanking the scholarship provider for their contribution.


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