How to Write a Scholarship Essay (with Examples)

The cost of paying for college has been on the rise for the last few decades and continues to go even higher. This has been a consequence of various factors. One of them is the reduction of state support to public colleges and universities over the years, compelling the institutions to increase tuition fees. This burden has been transferred to the students and/or parents. Also, tough economic times have reduced the percentage of parents who can afford to pay for college and other college expenses. This has seen a large number of prospective students unable to afford to go to college, pushing the students to find alternative ways such as scholarships and grants to secure the money required. Grants and scholarships are advantageous in that the recipient is not required to repay. The sources of grants and scholarships include foundations, corporations, individuals, churches, non-profit organizations, NGOs, and many more. To be awarded a grant or scholarship, one has to apply to prove their academic capabilities or financial restraints and, in most cases, a scholarship essay. 

What Is a Scholarship Essay

A scholarship essay is a written composition about a given subject, provided by a grantor, whose purpose is to convince the awarding committee why you as a candidate deserve this scholarship. It is to be noted that this is different from a scholarship application in that an application informs where else an essay persuades. Scholarship essays vary with the scholarship and guidelines set by the grantor. Applying for a scholarship is often a competitive exercise; therefore, your essay should be able to stand out from the numerous applications.

Grant vs. Scholarship

Although often referred to as one and the same, grants and scholarships mean two different things. However, grants and scholarships are similar in that they are both forms of gift aid.


Grants are financial aid often offered depending on one’s financial need. They are characteristically provided by the federal and state governments, colleges, or universities. One is often required to meet some requirements such as a financial threshold as the bare minimum to be eligible for a grant. For grants, the requirements are usually less specific than for scholarships.


Scholarships are financial aid offered to a student based on merit in academics, talent, or artistry. They are usually given by private scholarship providers such as employers, foundations, religious institutions, and non-profit organizations. For scholarships, aspects such as grade point average (GPA) comes into question, and there’s a bare minimum a candidate is expected to meet and uphold in school.  

Steps for Writing a Scholarship Essay

As the author, you want your essay to be as efficient as possible, which could be the one factor that separates you from the rest and gets you that scholarship.

To achieve this, here are several steps for you to follow.

The Planning Phase

The first step when writing a scholarship essay should be to plan for the whole process, from writing to submitting the scholarship essay. This should fit well within the specified deadline. You should try as much as possible to ensure you submit before some time before the deadline. Choose and research on your subject of preference beforehand to avoid last-minute haste when selecting the topic and writing it. Brainstorming to come up with creative ideas usually takes time; try to put this into consideration when planning your schedule.  Familiarize yourself with the set guidelines so that where you do not understand, you can consult or research.

Formatting the Essay

As the author, you want your essay to be presentable, you should follow the guidelines provided by the scholarship provider, but generally, the recommended for standard essays are;

  • A customary font such as Arial or Times New Roman
  • A 12 point font
  • A double spacing
  • A 1” to 1 ½ ” margin
  • The essay should be ¾ to full-page long where its length is not specified.

Above the optional title, at the top of the essay,  indicate your name and the name of the scholarship you are applying for either as a header or basically in a presentable way.

Writing Outline

After you have determined what is expected of you, you can then draft a comprehensive outline of the key points you are expected to touch on in your essay while noting what you yourself want to include. An outline helps you avoid repetition and beating around the bush, among other undesirable qualities in an essay. The outline should represent a complete idea of what you intend to achieve with the essay.

Create a Strong Introduction

Remember, the introduction is the doorway to your essay, and it influences factors such as the reader’s interest, attention, and mood when reading your essay. Sometimes it can determine whether the reader will proceed to read the essay.  For example,

I am a huge art enthusiast and have been doing art and music since I was a kid.


Art and poetry have been an enormous part of my life for as long as I can remember.

The first introduction serves its purpose; however, it sounds dull, where else the second introduction is more captivating and dramatizes the whole idea of time- ‘as long as the writer can remember.’ The second introduction also raises questions like ‘how has art been a huge part of the writer’s life?’

Body of the essay

The next step is conveying your ideas in writing. You should ensure the essay has a chronological and logical flow and every idea works to improve the essay’s objective. Expound on the points you noted down in your outline. Please do not hesitate to get into details when showing how specific experiences helped you develop as a person. For example, if you want to show how hard it has been to raise money for your college education, illustrate the situation while showing the lengths you have gone to to improve your situation.

Use Real-Life Examples (“Show, don’t tell”)

You should aim to avoid sounding like you are simply just reporting, yet it’s your own experience you are drawing from. Take your experiences as your chance to stand out from the multiple applicants. Engage the reader. Take the following examples into consideration

I participated in a 2 kilometers race in 2011, and I emerged as the winner. After that race, I joined the school’s athletics team and have been an active member ever since.

In 2011, I participated in the Annual Jacksonville Community 2 kilometers race, in which I managed to win first place despite heavy competition from my fellow athletes. This helped me realize my athletic capabilities, which prompted me to join my school’s athletics team, which has allowed me to participate in different competitions, such as The High School Athletics National league, for the past three years in a row now.

The first example simply tells what and when an event took place. However, the second example shows the same information and shows that it was not as easy and gives additional events that followed the initial event.


After you have finished your essay, go through to check grammatical errors, misspellings, typos, and sections you can improve. Ask yourself whether the idea you intended to convey was communicated. Alter the segments which you are not satisfied with. Ensure you keep the reader engaged throughout the essay; this can be achieved by inserting phrases that break the monotony.

The Final Phase

After you have verified that the essay meets all the requirements set out by the scholarship provider, you can submit it through the options the grantor has instructed applicants to use. You can be asked to submit it via email, mail, or hand delivery.

Things to Remember While Writing it

A scholarship essay should aim to convince the awarding party why you deserve the scholarship and how you are a worthy investment.

To ensure this is reflected in your essay, these are some considerations you keep in mind;

Be personal

Scholarship providers are usually awarding scholarships out of a sense of kindness and obligation to humanity, which is considerably a consequence of human emotions. You can apply this to your benefit by establishing a connection with the grantor through the essay. Incorporating emotions in your essay is a very efficient way of achieving this. Writing from a personal standpoint can go a long way in connecting with the reader as they read along, which increases your chances of receiving the scholarship. How to achieve this? by using first-person singular pronouns such as “I, me, or myself.” Indicate your personal goals academically and in life and how this particular scholarship moves you closer to realizing this.Some of the emotions are happiness, sadness, fear, anger, and others. How can you show your emotions? By being very specific in selecting the words and phrases. Using first-person pronouns also helps in putting emotion into your essay.

Please do not shy away from opening up as it helps the reader identify you as a person with your strengths and vulnerabilities.

Keep a Good Structure

Ensure your essay has a logical flow of the basic components of an essay: introduction, body and conclusion, and ideas. The reader should not struggle trying to put the pieces together; as the author, you should arrange them for him or her. An outline comes in handy in developing a good structure for your essay. Sticking to the relevant information also helps you achieve as too much unnecessary information can throw the reader off-topic.

Stay focused

As much as you are allowed some degree of freedom, do not get carried away and stray from your intended purpose. Be objective throughout the essay. An outline helps you stay on track. However, it is worthy to note that you should not disregard a point that could improve your essay’s quality just because you had not included it in the outline.

Be succinct

Since the length of the essay, usually, one page could be a limiting factor in how much information you can include in the essay, try to be direct to the point. Unnecessary sentences and information should be avoided. A brief essay can be advantageous as the reader can go through it entirely, making all the difference between your essay and those of the other applicants.

Follow instructions

Read and understand the instructions well to have a perfect idea of what you are expected to do and any information the grantor deems relevant to the awarding process. It is advisable to do this before and after writing the essay. Why after? So that you can cross-check whether your essay meets the expected standards. Usually, essays not written according to the instructions are not reviewed, which is why it is important to follow instructions to the letter.

Plan far in advance

Planning gives you ample time to prepare and come up with a decent essay. When you have time on your hands, you are able to brainstorm, come up with creative ideas and organize them in an order that serves you best. Planning eases the workload, which would instead be hastily done in the final day by breaking the process into segments and spreading them over the available time.

Know your audience

In this case, knowing the audience means what the awarding committee is looking for in terms of potential, academic or athletic capabilities, personality, and financial status. After having a clear idea of the sort of candidate they are looking for, you can then identify how suitable you are and how you can present this in your essay. You should, however, not be untrue while describing yourself.

Follow the instructions & answer the prompt

Go through the instructions and adhere to the same when writing your essay. The instructions vary from one scholarship to the other, and therefore you should not assume that what was expected in one essay is the same for all. Take your time to read them and go through the prompt and figure out ways to address all the points highlighted in the prompt.

Choose a topic that you’re interested in and passionate about

The topic selection has a significant influence on your essay’s end quality; therefore, take time to come up with a topic that you will best express yourself. When you write on something you are interested in, it reflects in the essay, and the reader can sense this, and thus, he or she will not be bored. The topic you choose also increases your content.

Consider reusing an existing essay

You can reuse an existing essay since scholarship providers use the same essay prompts in some instances and ask questions that can only be answered similarly. Therefore, it would be unwise to spend too much time coming up with an essay from scratch, where else you can just reuse essays as long as you adjust them to fit the guidelines you are applying for. Since most scholarship providers want you to show you deserve the scholarship, take your time to customize and improve it if you’re going to stand out.


Upon inclusion of the different elements of a good essay, already discussed in this article, and you have finalized the writing phase of your essay, you can now edit it for any mistakes present. Review the essay line-to-line and like a complete piece of work to check whether the right structure of a good scholarship essay was implemented. The editing phase is where you check whether the essay is in the format, font, font size, and other writing parameters the grantor had stipulated in the guidelines.

Proofread and Ask for Help!

The easiest way to identify these mistakes is by proofreading the whole essay. You can do so by reading the essay slowly and aloud. Refer to your outline and check whether you captured everything you were meant to. Have a dictionary in hand to check for spellings you might not be sure of. After you have gone through it, you can proceed to ask someone else, a friend, family member, or teacher, to proofread it. They might notice something you missed when editing; if there is, edit accordingly.

Take Advantages of Resources

Multiple resources are available at your disposal to help you develop an up to standard scholarship essay. There are examples of previously written essays for different topics on the internet; you can go through them and see what you can borrow. When editing, there are software developed to assist you in doing so; consider utilizing one.

Scholarship Essay Examples & Templates

A scholarship can go a long way in easing your college’s financial needs; therefore, it is every applicant’s goal to increase their chances through their scholarship essay. To lessen your workload in creating a suitable scholarship essay, we have provided free downloadable templates just for you. Download! Download!


















    Frequently Asked Questions

    How long should a scholarship essay be?

    The recommended length of a scholarship essay is ¾ to one page while using a double-spacing margin.

    How much effort should I put into my scholarship essay?

    You should put in the amount of effort it takes YOU to write a comprehensive and objective essay that effectively convinces the grantor you deserve the scholarship. Since the objective is to come up with a satisfactory scholarship essay, the amount of effort required to achieve this will vary from one person to another as people have different writing skill levels. Therefore, take your time!

    Even though writing an excellent scholarship essay can seem like an intimidating task, it is very much achievable for anyone. Ensure you do your research and stick to the guidelines provided. A well-written essay will save you the time of developing a new essay from scratch should you find yourself, in future, in need of applying for another scholarship. Remember, a scholarship essay is your primary way of communicating with the scholarship provider hence the reason why much emphasis is placed on doing the essay and doing it right. Try to be as imaginative and as original as you possibly can. Once you have implemented the points discussed in this article, your essay should be good to go.

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