How to Ace Your Scholarship Essay (Or Personal Statement)

scholarship guide scholar essay

Scholarship committees receive thousands of applicants on a yearly basis, so what makes a candidate truly shine and stand out from the rabble? Nailing your scholarship essay is one step to set yourself apart.

Aside from an impressive resume, stellar GPAs or GMATs scores, and known referrals, a unique and articulate essay can get you one step closer to that scholarship interview.

Here are some quick pointers on acing that introductory personal statement essay:

Project Your Best Parts

We don’t mean physically! Flex your mental muscles. Your essay is essentially a glimpse into your personality, it’s the first impression the selection committee obtains of the applicant. You are more likely to be selected if you have thoughtful, insightful and personable responses. As with any situation in real life, people (in this case the judging panel) are more likely to choose someone they feel interests them.

Humble bragging is completely acceptable in this respect, you are trying your best to get one foot in the door. However, it has to be done tastefully.

After receiving the essay topic, formulate a skeleton of the subject – place it in point form. Shuffle the points around as you wish and make sure it flows. From there, add the details as you would debate or conversation manoeuvring the topic into deeper waters as it goes.

This will help you formulate a coherent piece, axe bits that are not relevant, and highlight parts that you really want to shine.

scholarship guide classroom student writing

Make Sure You Address the Question

Generally, scholarship questions run the gamut, but the most common questions would range from a personal statement to topics like your professional inspiration and why.

Utilising your essay skeleton, add on the flesh and details to truly bring your personality to life on paper.

It may be tempting to throw around big fancy words to come across more impressive, but there is nothing more obvious than hot air. A candidate using a load of superfluous adjectives to disguise the fact that there is neither structure nor substance to the essay, is easily called out and like a balloon; deflates rather quickly.

In a nutshell, keep things concise, coherent and professional. Big fancy words are fine, but just use them in moderation and always in the right context.

Ask for Advice and Feedback

There is no shame in asking for more help. After all you are trying to impress a panel of judges from just words on paper. Seek help from your professors or career counsellors in school on the essay.

Your teachers have seen many a scholarship essay and can give your tips and pointers for success.

Get their input on your writing, flow, and general advice on improving the document, having a second or even third set of eyes on your work can help tremendously with perspective and change the essay for the better.

Be prepared to do this at least two or three times. Do not be disheartened if you have to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch after your feedback sessions.

Do Not Procrastinate

Deadlines are there for a reason. Stay way ahead of them and you are golden. A 1,000 to 1,500 word essay may seem like a lot of effort and quite daunting at first glance, try to break the work up into different sittings by formulating a step-by-step timetable.

Perhaps on day one, you’ll come up with your skeleton draft and on the next day, commence turning it into a fully fleshed out idea, which then turns into a full-on draft – so on, and so forth. Little by little, the essay will take shape. Don’t forget to leave enough time for feedback and advise from your advisors.

Have at least three days to spare from the actual submission deadline. This is to ensure you have everything in order before hitting ‘send’.

After all that back and forth, make sure you have a final read through of your work for typos and sentence structure. Read the essay out loud to yourself to catch all errors for the perfect submission. (Because the trivial things matter, and they are the ones that make big things happen!)