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When Writing Scholarship Essays...

Blog

When Writing Scholarship Essays...

David Shin

Getting into school is one thing; paying for it is quite another. As you apply for scholarships (as you should be if you haven’t), you can make yourself stand out by doing one thing:

Appealing to the values of the scholarship foundation.

That’s all. Really. There will always be someone more impressive than you. On the flip side, there will always be someone with a sadder sob story. Do not resort to emotions or playing out your hardest times. If your parents have divorced, have you considered the plight of the student who lives at the local homeless shelter? Or if you’re homeless, what about the orphan who bikes 10 miles to school every day? The point is, don’t play the Oppression Olympics. It’s a losing game and only makes you look desperate. Be as factual as possible about your circumstances. And unless you’ve won a Nobel Prize, your accomplishments will never quite measure up to the competition.

Instead, go to the “About” page of the foundation website. Glean anything you can about its values and who they are looking to reward these scholarships and tailor your essay to this information. The vast majority of applicants simply recycle essays, which is understandable but completely useless. Scholarship committees can smell recycled essays from the first sentence. By customizing your essay for the foundation, you not only stand out from the competition, it also takes the pressure off of being the most impressive or most oppressed. Seek to directly or indirectly answer the following question in any scholarship essay you turn in:

Why do you think you are the recipient the foundation is looking for?

If you can’t answer that question, try your hand at another scholarship. You won’t win it.