Top 5 Items to List in Your Scholarship Essay

It’s true that higher education costs are climbing. However, scholarships can make it easier to pay for college. Finding and applying for scholarships takes creativity and dedication, and the process is often rigorous and competitive. But by highlighting just a handful of factors on your scholarship essay, you can ace the all-important first step: submitting the best possible scholarship application.

1. Major Accomplishments

·         You’ll list several major accomplishments on the scholarship application, but in your essay, expand on one or two that will impress the judges.

·         Focus on the main theme. If the scholarship committee is looking for students who are going into environmental work, write about the stewardship activities you’ve participated in and how they inspired or changed you.

·         Include achievements even if they haven’t been formally recognized, such as activities you’ve done on your own. Have you helped an elderly neighbor? Did your part-time job ease your family’s financial situation? Were you a mentor to a child?

·         It’s acceptable to brag about your achievements; no one else is going to toot your horn for you. However, it’s never OK to embellish the facts or invent accomplishments.

2. Distinguishing Skills

·         What talents set you apart? Are your leadership skills top-notch? Do you speak a second language? Are you adept at computer programming? Can you act, sing or dance? How do your skills help you accomplish your goals?

·         Help the committee understand how you developed your skills. Explain that you took acting classes after school or studied Mandarin Chinese on the weekends and you’ll demonstrate your commitment to your passion, as well your perseverance in working toward self-improvement.

·         Scholarship committees are typically looking for individuality. Explain how your skill set makes you unique.

3. Your Strongest Personality Trait

·         What is your No. 1, unwavering personality trait? Do you adhere to a particular philosophy? Are you confident, reliable or meticulous? Do you have a strong independent streak?

·         Provide details about your strongest trait and examples of how it has guided you throughout your life.

·         Include specifics about how your primary personality trait has helped you through challenging situations, as well as how it has helped others.

4. Activities Outside the Classroom

·         List your extracurricular activities and expand on them in your essay.

·         Explain why you chose the activities, how they enriched your academic, social or personal life, and how you contributed to the group.

·         Demonstrate how these activities have prepared you for your future in college and beyond.

5. Your Moment of Epiphany

·         Think about the “big moments” in your life. Was there a time when you realized what you wanted to do with your life? Did an interaction with a friend, relative or complete stranger make you look at the world differently?

·         Write in detail about what happened, your reaction and how the incident stayed with you.

·         Explain any changes you made in your life as a result of your epiphany, and how you expect it to affect your actions and behaviors in the future.

·         It’s OK to be passionate about life-changing moments. In fact, passion will bring originality to your essay.

Writing a Winning Scholarship Essay

Standing out from the crowd of applicants is the key to winning a scholarship. That’s why it’s so important to write a solid essay. Your scholarship essay’s job is to help the selection committee learn about what makes you different. Through your essay, you can help convince the judges that they are making the right decision in awarding you the scholarship.


Brandon Howard writes on behalf of Bisk Education.