Sample Scholarship Essays
If you’re applying for a scholarship, chances are you are going to need to write an essay. Very few scholarship programs are based solely on an application form or transcript. The essay is often the most important part of your application; it gives the scholarship committee a sense of who you are and your dedication to your goals. You’ll want to make sure that your scholarship essay is the best it can possibly be.
Unless specified otherwise, scholarship essays should always use the following formatting:
- Double spaced
- Times New Roman font
- 12 point font
- One-inch top, bottom, and side margins
Other useful tips to keep in mind include:
- Read the instructions thoroughly and make sure you completely understand them before you start writing.
- Think about what you are going to write and organize your thoughts into an outline.
- Write your essay by elaborating on each point you included in your outline.
- Use clear, concise, and simple language throughout your essay.
- When you are finished, read the question again and then read your essay to make sure that the essay addresses every point.
For more tips on writing a scholarship essay, check out our Eight Steps Towards a Better Scholarship Essay .
The Book that Made Me a Journalist
Prompt: Describe a book that made a lasting impression on you and your life and why.It is 6 am on a hot day in July and I’ve already showered and eaten breakfast. I know that my classmates are all sleeping in and enjoying their summer break, but I don’t envy them; I’m excited to start my day interning with a local newspaper doing investigative journalism. I work a typical 8-5 day during my summer vacation and despite the early mornings, nothing has made me happier. Although it wasn't clear to me then, looking back on my high school experiences and everything that led to me to this internship, I believe this path began with a particularly savvy teacher and a little book she gave me to read outside of class.
I was taking a composition class, and we were learning how to write persuasive essays. Up until that point, I had had average grades, but I was always a good writer and my teacher immediately recognized this. The first paper I wrote for the class was about my experience going to an Indian reservation located near my uncle's ranch in southwest Colorado. I wrote of the severe poverty experienced by the people on the reservation, and the lack of access to voting booths during the most recent election. After reading this short story, my teacher approached me and asked about my future plans. No one had ever asked me this, and I wasn't sure how to answer. I said I liked writing and I liked thinking about people who are different from myself. She gave me a book and told me that if I had time to read it, she thought it would be something I would enjoy. I was actually quite surprised that a high school teacher was giving me a book titled Lies My Teacher Told Me. It had never occurred to me that teachers would lie to students. The title intrigued me so much that on Friday night I found myself staying up almost all night reading, instead of going out with friends.
In short, the book discusses several instances in which typical American history classes do not tell the whole story. For example, the author addresses the way that American history classes do not usually address about the Vietnam War, even though it happened only a short time ago. This made me realize that we hadn't discussed the Vietnam War in my own history class! The book taught me that, like my story of the Indian reservation, there are always more stories beyond what we see on the surface and what we’re taught in school. I was inspired to continue to tell these stories and to make that my career.
For my next article for the class, I wrote about the practice of my own high school suspending students, sometimes indefinitely, for seemingly minor offenses such as tardiness and smoking. I found that the number of suspensions had increased by 200% at my school in just three years, and also discovered that students who are suspended after only one offense often drop out and some later end up in prison. The article caused quite a stir. The administration of my school dismissed it, but it caught the attention of my local newspaper. A local journalist worked with me to publish an updated and more thoroughly researched version of my article in the local newspaper. The article forced the school board to revisit their “zero tolerance” policy as well as reinstate some indefinitely suspended students.I won no favors with the administration and it was a difficult time for me, but it was also thrilling to see how one article can have such a direct effect on people’s lives. It reaffirmed my commitment to a career in journalism.
This is why I’m applying for this scholarship. Your organization has been providing young aspiring journalists with funds to further their skills and work to uncover the untold stories in our communities that need to be reported. I share your organization’s vision of working towards a more just and equitable world by uncovering stories of abuse of power. I have already demonstrated this commitment through my writing in high school and I look forward to pursuing a BA in this field at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. With your help, I will hone my natural instincts and inherent writing skills. I will become a better and more persuasive writer and I will learn the ethics of professional journalism.
I sincerely appreciate the committee’s time in evaluating my application and giving me the opportunity to tell my story. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Scholarship Essay Do's and Don'ts
|Do:||Follow the prompt and other instructions exactly. You might write a great essay but it may get your application rejected if you don’t follow the word count guidelines or other formatting requirements.|
|DON'T:||Open your essay with a quote. This is a well-worn strategy that is mostly used ineffectively. Instead of using someone else’s words, use your own.|
|DON'T:||Use perfunctory sentences such as, “In this essay, I will…”|
|DO:||Be clear and concise. Make sure each paragraph discusses only one central thought or argument.|
|DON'T:||Use words from a thesaurus that are new to you. You may end up using the word incorrectly and that will make your writing awkward. Keep it simple and straightforward. The point of the essay is to tell your story, not to demonstrate how many words you know.|
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Planners and Searchers
Prompt: In 600 words or less, please tell us about yourself and why you are applying for this scholarship. Please be clear about how this scholarship will help you achieve your personal and professional goals.
Being African, I recognize Africa’s need for home- grown talent in the form of “planners” (assistants with possible solutions) and “searchers” (those with desperate need) working towards international development. I represent both. Coming from Zimbabwe my greatest challenge is in helping to improve the livelihoods of developing nations through sustainable development and good governance principles. The need for policy-makers capable of employing cross-jurisdictional, and cross- disciplinary strategies to solve complex challenges cannot be under-emphasized; hence my application to this scholarship program.
After graduating from Africa University with an Honors degree in Sociology and Psychology, I am now seeking scholarship support to study in the United States at the Master’s level. My interest in democracy, elections, constitutionalism and development stems from my lasting interest in public policy issues. Accordingly, my current research interests in democracy and ethnic diversity require a deeper understanding of legal processes of constitutionalism and governance. As a Master’s student in the US, I intend to write articles on these subjects from the perspective of someone born, raised, and educated in Africa. I will bring a unique and much-needed perspective to my graduate program in the United States, and I will take the technical and theoretical knowledge from my graduate program back with me to Africa to further my career goals as a practitioner of good governance and community development.
To augment my theoretical understanding of governance and democratic practices, I worked with the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) as a Programs Assistant in the Monitoring and Observation department. This not only enhanced my project management skills, but also developed my skills in research and producing communication materials. ZESN is Zimbabwe’s biggest election observation organization, and I had the responsibility of monitoring the political environment and producing monthly publications on human rights issues and electoral processes. These publications were disseminated to various civil society organizations, donors and other stakeholders. Now I intend to develop my career in order to enhance Africa’s capacity to advocate, write and vote for representative constitutions.
I also participated in a fellowship program at Africa University, where I gained greater insight into social development by teaching courses on entrepreneurship, free market economics, and development in needy communities. I worked with women in rural areas of Zimbabwe to setup income-generating projects such as the jatropha soap-making project. Managing such a project gave me great insight into how many simple initiatives can transform lives.
Your organization has a history of awarding scholarships to promising young students from the developing world in order to bring knowledge, skills and leadership abilities to their home communities. I have already done some of this work but I want to continue, and with your assistance, I can. The multidisciplinary focus of the development programs I am applying to in the US will provide me with the necessary skills to creatively address the economic and social development challenges and develop sound public policies for Third World countries. I thank you for your time and consideration for this prestigious award.
Scholarship Essay Do's and Don'ts
|DO:||Research the organization and make sure you understand their mission and values and incorporate them into your essay.|
|DO:||Focus on your strengths and turn in any problems or weaknesses into a success story.|
|DO:||Use actual, detailed examples from your own life to backup your claims and arguments as to why you should receive the scholarship.|
|DO:||Proofread several times before finally submitting your essay.|
|DON'T:||Rehash what is already stated on your resume. Choose additional, unique stories to tell sell yourself to the scholarship committee.|
|DON'T:||Simply state that you need the money. Even if you have severe financial need, it won’t help to simply ask for the money and it may come off as tacky.|
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Saving the Manatees
Prompt: Please give the committee an idea of who you are and why you are the perfect candidate for the scholarship.
It is a cliché to say that I’ve always known what I want to do with my life, but in my case it happens to be true. When I first visited Sea World as a young child, I fell in love with marine animals in general. Specifically, I felt drawn to manatees. I was compelled by their placid and friendly nature. I knew then and there that I wanted to dedicate my life to protecting these beautiful creatures.
Since that day in Orlando, I have spent much of my spare time learning everything there is to know about manatees. As a junior high and high school student, I attempted to read scholarly articles on manatees from scientific journals. I annoyed my friends and family with scientific facts about manatees-- such as that they are close relatives of elephants--at the dinner table. I watched documentaries, and even mapped their migration pattern on a wall map my sister gave me for my birthday.
When I was chosen from hundreds of applicants to take part in a summer internship with Sea World, I fell even more in love with these gentle giants. I also learned a very important and valuable lesson: prior to this internship, I had imagined becoming a marine biologist, working directly with the animals in their care both in captivity and in the wild. However, during the internship, I discovered that this is not where my strengths lie. Unfortunately, I am not a strong student in science or math, which are required skills to become a marine biologist. Although this was a disheartening realization, I found that I possess other strengths can still be of great value to manatees and other endangered marine mammals: my skills as a public relations manager and communicator. During the internship, I helped write new lessons and presentations for elementary school groups visiting the park and developed a series of fun activities for children to help them learn more about manatees as well as conservation of endangered species in general. I also worked directly with the park’s conservation and communication director, and helped develop a new local outreach program designed to educate Floridians on how to avoid hitting a manatee when boating. My supervisor recommended me to the Save the Manatee Foundation so in addition to my full-time internship at Sea World, I interned with the Save the Manatee Foundation part-time. It was there that I witnessed the manatee rescue and conservation effort first hand, and worked directly with the marine biologists in developing fund-raising and awareness-raising campaigns. I found that the foundation’s social media presence was lacking, and, using skills I learned from Sea World, I helped them raise over $5,000 through a Twitter challenge, which we linked to the various social media outlets of the World Wildlife Federation.
While I know that your organization typically awards scholarships to students planning to major in disciplines directly related to conservation such as environmental studies or zoology, I feel that the public relations side of conservation is just as important as the actual work done on the ground. Whether it is reducing one’s carbon footprint, or saving the manatees, these are efforts that, in order to be successful, must involve the larger public. In fact, the relative success of the environmental movement today is largely due to a massive global public relations campaign that turned environmentalism from something scientific and obscure into something that is both fashionable and accessible to just about anyone. However, that success is being challenged more than ever before--especially here in the US, where an equally strong anti-environmental public relations campaign has taken hold. Therefore, conservationists need to start getting more creative.
I want to be a part of this renewed effort and use my natural abilities as a communicator to push back against the rather formidable forces behind the anti-environmentalist movement. I sincerely hope you will consider supporting this non-traditional avenue towards global sustainability and conservation. I have already been accepted to one of the most prestigious communications undergraduate programs in the country and I plan to minor in environmental studies. In addition, I maintain a relationship with my former supervisors at Save the Manatee and Sea World, who will be invaluable resources for finding employment upon graduation. I thank the committee for thinking outside the box in considering my application.
Scholarship Essay Do's and Don'ts
|DO:||Tell a story. Discuss your personal history and why those experiences have led you to apply for these scholarships.|
|DO:||Write an outline. If you’ve already started writing or have a first draft, make an outline based on what you’ve written so far. This will help you see whether your paragraphs flow and connect with one another.|
|DON'T:||Write a generic essay for every application. Adapt your personal statement for each individual scholarship application.|
|DO:||Run spellcheck and grammar check on your computer but also do your own personal check. Spellcheck isn’t perfect and you shouldn't rely on technology to make your essay perfect.|
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Students looking for help to pay for college in the 2018-19 school year can submit applications for the following state and local scholarships:
Illinois Sheriffs’ Association scholarships
Through the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association, sheriffs in counties across the state are offering $500 scholarships.
Students can apply for a scholarship by writing an essay and filling out an application, which is available at www.ilsheriff.org.
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They should turn in the applications and essays at the sheriff’s office in the county where they live. The offices in St. Clair, Madison, Monroe, Clinton and Randolph counties are participating.
The essay prompt is: How is law enforcement perceived in your area? What, in your opinion, is the best way to improve law enforcement relations within your community?
To be eligible, students have to live in Illinois and enroll full-time at a college or university in Illinois for the 2018-19 school year. The scholarship money can be used toward tuition, books and fees.
The deadline to apply is March 15.
Illinois Pork Producers scholarships
The Illinois Pork Producers will give out scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $2,000.
Applications are available at ilpork.com/about/pork-youth.
Students are also required to submit an essay that answers the following question: In your opinion, what is the most beneficial technology in the pork industry today? Please describe the technology and how it is implemented within the pork industry.
The scholarships are open to students pursuing an undergraduate degree at any two- or four-year college.
The application is due by March 31.
TorHoerman Law scholarship
TorHoerman Law will award a $1,000 scholarship to the student who best explains the dangers of distracted driving and how to prevent it.
To apply, students can either write an essay or create a video that answers the following questions:
- What would you do if your friend was texting while driving?
- Why does society accept distracted driving?
- What can we do to raise awareness of the dangers and prevent drivers from participating in distracted driving?
The deadline is April 1.
For more information, visit www.torhoermanlaw.com/scholarship.
Illinois CPA Society scholarships
The Illinois CPA Society, a professional association for certified public accountants, is offering a variety of scholarships. It encourages college students to apply if they plan to pursue the CPA licensure.
The available scholarships include:
- Accounting tuition and textbook scholarships: Multiple tuition scholarships of up to $4,000 each and multiple textbook scholarships of up to $500 each are available. Applicants must be enrolled as a senior or graduate student.
- Herman J. Neal Accounting Scholarships: Multiple scholarships of up to $4,000 each are available to black students enrolled as a junior, senior or graduate student.
- Jovencio P. and Violeta R. Mangahas Accounting Scholarships: Multiple scholarships of up to $4,000 each are available to students enrolled as a senior or graduate student.
- Women’s Executive Committee Advancing Women in Accounting Scholarships: Multiple scholarships of up to $4,000 each are available to women enrolled as a senior or graduate student.
All of the scholarships use the same online application, and students can apply for more than one.
Applications are due by April 1. For more information, visit www.icpas.org/scholarships.
Optimist Club of Millstadt scholarships
The Optimist Club of Millstadt will award $1,000 scholarships to graduates of Millstadt grade school or students who live in the Millstadt school district.
Applications are available from school counselors at Althoff Catholic High School, Belleville West High School, Gibault Catholic High School and Freeburg High School.
The deadline to apply is April 2.
Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association scholarships
Scholarships from $1,000 to $5,000 are available through the Scott Air Force Base-St. Louis chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.
Students studying electronics, communications, engineering, information systems, computer technology, physics or mathematics are eligible to apply.
Applications are available online at scott.afceachapters.org. An essay is also required about students’ goals for their field or, if applicable, their service as a member of the military, civil servant or contractor in the defense or homeland security industrial base.
The deadline to apply is April 6. Applications should be mailed to the scholarship committee of the AFCEA Scott-St. Louis Chapter at PO Box 25171 on Scott Air Force Base.
Association of periOperative Room Nurses of Southwest Illinois scholarship
A $1,000 scholarship is available for nursing students from the local Association of periOperative Room Nurses.
To be eligible, students have to live in Illinois, enroll in an accredited registered nurse program and maintain at least a B average.
To request an application, contact Rhonda Price of the Scholarship Committee of Southwest Illinois via email at email@example.com or via mail at 6367 Countryside Lane in Freeburg.
The deadline to apply is April 15.
Illinois Hospital Research and Educational Foundation scholarship
Students pursuing degrees in the medical field are eligible for a $1,000 scholarship from the Illinois Hospital Research and Educational Foundation.
Other requirements for the scholarship are that students have a GPA of at least 3.5 and provide a written profile of themselves, focusing on their career choice.
The application, written profile and other required documents should be mailed to Illinois Hospital Research and Educational Foundation at 1151 E. Warrenville Road in Naperville, Illinois.
Applications are available at Anderson Hospital in Maryville or online at andersonhospital.org/community-programs/scholarships. The deadline to apply is April 15.
For more information, contact Renna Lemberis at 630-273-5498 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BJC HealthCare scholarships
BJC hospitals are offering need-based scholarships of up to $10,000 per academic year.
High school seniors who live in St. Clair and Madison counties are eligible to apply. A minimum GPA of 2.0 is also required.
The scholarship money can be used at an Illinois public school or at an out-of-state school that offers in-state tuition. It can be applied to tuition and fees for any two- or four-year degree, as well as housing, transportation and incidental costs.
The scholarships are renewable through graduation or a maximum of 10 semesters.
Find more information and the scholarship application online at sfstl.org/financial-aid/student-loans-grants. In addition to the application, students are asked to write two essays answering the following questions:
- Explain your interest in college and where you think it might take you. What have you done to prepare yourself to pursue higher education?
- Describe a challenge you have faced and how you dealt with it. Explain how having dealt with that challenge has shaped you, and if it has influenced your education and career path.
The deadline is April 16. For more information, email email@example.com or call 314-725-7990.
Anderson auxiliary, medical staff scholarships
Students hoping to pursue health-related jobs after college can apply for scholarships through Anderson Hospital in Maryville.
The hospital auxiliary is offering $1,000 scholarships for students who live in Madison County, St. Clair County or the adjacent counties. The medical staff will award $1,000 scholarships to students in only Madison and St. Clair counties.
To be eligible for either scholarship, students have to be enrolled at least part-time in a health occupation program at an accredited school in any state. A minimum GPA of 3.0 is also required.
The scholarships can be used toward tuition, books and fees.
Along with an application, students are asked to write a letter stating why they want to receive the scholarship and how they would use the money.
The applications, which are available at Anderson Hospital or online at andersonhospital.org/community-programs/scholarships, are due by May 15 for both scholarships.
Applications for the auxiliary scholarship can be mailed to Betty Ludwig, the scholarship chairperson, at 6800 Illinois 162 in Maryville.
For the medical staff scholarship, send applications by mail to Tracine Kempfer, the medical staff manager, at the Anderson Hospital Medical Staff Office, 6800 Illinois 162 in Maryville.
Madison County Community Development scholarships
Madison County students who are planning to attend a local college in the fall can apply for a $1,500 scholarship from the county.
The money can be used at Lewis and Clark Community College, Southwestern Illinois College or Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
To be eligible, students’ families have to meet certain income requirements.
Applications are available on the county’s website, co.madison.il.us. Students are also required to submit essays about themselves and their college plans and career goals.
The deadline is June 1.
Mail or deliver applications to Amy Lyerla at Madison County Community Development, 130 Hillsboro Ave. in Edwardsville. Contact Lyerla at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-296-4382 for more information.