There is no way to write a winning scholarship application. If you were to collect all the scholarship applications that have ever won an award, it would be difficult to identify what made them the same. Each one would offer a different style used by the author; a unique insight into your past, present, and future aspirations.
This uniqueness is the key and the first point to remember when you pick up the pen to write. Make your scholarship application essay unique to you, personalize it, dig into your passion and go out and study your topic and create an answer only you can relate to. It’s that individuality that stands out, and that’s exactly what catches a judge’s eye and defines a winner.
I won the 2015 QS Leadership Scholarship, so I will be basing my guidance on my own thought process in shaping my application essay. However, the basic principles that I highlight with this example can be extracted and applied to other academic essay writing processes.
Understand the meaning of the key themes:
After identifying the key themes, it is important to understand what each of these ideas really means, beyond the initial level. For example, I recognized that the meaning of “leadership” meant identifying the effects my leadership had, the actions taken, and the results achieved under my leadership, and not simply describing the position I held and my responsibilities.
The deeper you understand the meaning of each topic, the more examples you will be able to identify to demonstrate your skills.
Fill your scholarship essay with keywords/synonyms of keywords used in the scholarship statement:
Using the keywords from the scholarship statement throughout your essay will demonstrate your commitment to addressing the question being asked. For example, I made a special effort to secure references to “leadership”; ‘innovation’ and ‘impactful communities’ appeared throughout my essay.
Make an engaging start to your essay:
If you’re having trouble starting your scholarship application essay, why not include a quote or statement related to your intended course that you can then link to the main body of your text? Demonstrating increased knowledge and aptitude for your topic will help convince judges that it is worth the investment to support you in your chosen course.
Understand the criteria used by the scholarship committee to evaluate application essays:
Based on my own experience, I have outlined what I believe are the main criteria used by scholarship committee judges to evaluate scholarship application essays on the topics of leadership and community impact.
My advice would be to address all of these areas in your essay, regardless of whether the question explicitly asks for it or not.
What to include in scholarship essays about leadership:
The extent of leadership experience and degree of achievement. What were the results? Did you manage to grow a society from 10 to 100 members during your tenure?
Why did you get involved in the leadership experience? What was your initial inspiration and how did the experience make you feel? This is a very important aspect as it allows you to show your sincerity and demonstrate your passion.
What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them? Inspirational stories of perseverance despite adversity make readers (especially judges) want to help you succeed. It also shows that you have great leadership qualities: the ability to adapt to new situations and the determination not to give up.
What did you learn? How did these lessons shape you as a leader? Every experience brings new lessons and opportunities for personal growth and the best leaders are humble and realize this. Talking about these lessons indicates that you have really reflected on your experiences and understand what leadership is all about. (In other words, you know leadership isn’t just about getting a title like “President” or “CEO.”)
What does this mean for the future? A scholarship is not just an award; it is an investment in your future. So if you plan to continue to be involved in your specific leadership activity in the future, let the judges know.
What to include in scholarship essays about community impact:
How much time did you spend on the activity? The scholarship committee is likely to look for candidates who have a long-term commitment to a community activity.
Why was it important to you? The joy of helping others? Excitement to try something new? Opportunity to build relationships with others? Having a genuine reason helps build a compelling essay.
Why was it important to the community? Ask the question: What would be different for your community if you didn’t do what you do? It is very important to show that you recognize the real needs of your communities and take steps to address them.
What did you get by donating to the community? It’s important to show that you understand how, by giving, you end up receiving more in the end. Sharing what community service has taught you and how it has helped you develop shows that you have truly benefited from your involvement and suggests that you will continue to do so in the future.
My last piece of advice when writing your scholarship application essay or cover letter is to really show that you know who you are. What are the relevant past and present experiences that demonstrate your abilities and where are you headed?
Use carefully selected language to emphasize your passion, ambition, and enthusiasm, and remember to adopt a positive mindset where you believe in all the great things you’ve done and plan to continue to achieve in the future. If you don’t believe in yourself, why would the judges?
Here is a PDF example of the scholarship Essay.
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