5 Ways to Make Your Scholarship Essay Stand Out

Making your scholarship essay stand out from the rest is an important thing to consider. If you want your essay to be memorable and effective, then these five tips can help you accomplish your goal of impressing the committee and getting that scholarship.

college essay writing tips

Five Ways to Make Your Scholarship Essay Stand Out

Scholarship essays can be really stressful. You know you're up against thousands of others, all writing on the same topic. How can you be sure you won't be lost in a sea of entries? Even against overwhelming odds, you can still stand out from the crowd by following five easy steps.

Come Out Swinging

Any good book is going to try to really grab you on the very first page. Well, imagine you have to pick one book out of thousands to read. Wouldn't you pick the one that grabbed you right away? Scholarship judges face this dilemma too, so you want to pack a punch in the very first part of your essay. Rather than going straight into how you were born in a small town in Alabama and were raised by a single parent, think of something more captivating. Skip to the most interesting part, then go back to explain it with the rest of the essay. Say something truly unexpected right off the bat to leave those judges reeling. The idea is that if they read that first paragraph and are already wowed by it, all you have to do is back up that energy and creativity with the rest of your essay - just make sure that it's interesting and informative, not just weird. You'll be much more memorable when decision time comes.

Follow the Guidelines

Even though you've never met your judges, you can still sometimes sleuth out a little about your audience. Read through the guideline for the essay carefully and check to see what parts of the instructions are emphasized. What do they touch on first? If it's the word length, you can bet they don't want anything even a letter longer than specified. Did they put anything in bold lettering? Did they give a recommendation? Read a little deeper into the directions if you can and try to adjust your tone and direction accordingly. The other reason to read the guidelines closely is that you don't want to step out of line. Many times essays are not even read if they don't follow the directions. If you are considering bending one of the rules or getting a little off topic, get that out of your head. You want to give yourself the best chance possible, so don't get disqualified on a technicality.

Take the Road Less Traveled

Many essay questions feel like they have an obvious answer. If that answer occurred to you so quickly, don't you think it will occur to others quickly too? Set aside your first thought if the essay seems too easy and pick another direction. Do something unusual or a little strange. You might even consider going with the exact opposite of your initial reaction to the topic. It could be a challenge for you, but the judges will find your essay more interesting that the ones that all have the same basic answer. To be clear, this doesn't mean that if the topic is 'what's your life's ambition' you should respond with an essay about learning telepathy. You want to come across as unique, not insane.

Show, Don't Tell

When people think of essays, they tend to dismiss the ideas of pacing, narratives and imagery. For these essays, that's a big mistake. No one, especially judges, likes to read a dry essay filled with nothing but statements and facts. People want emotion and depth. One of the easiest ways to get across that feeling is to give things a personal touch. Rather than telling the judges that you've overcome adversity, show them about that adversity in a story. Give them a scene or a situation that's relevant. Tell a story that appeals to their different senses so they can feel what you did and be there. You do want to make sure that you stay on topic and don't stray too far from your point, but don't be afraid of simile and visual descriptions.

Get to the Point

Any good essay should have a clear and meaningful point. After reading your essay, ask yourself 'so what?' Basically, what did you learn and what did your writing get across? If you elicited some real raw emotions, that's great. Still, unless those emotions drove your reader to a realization or conclusion, they don't serve your purpose. If you want to prove in your scholarship essay that you deserve the money because you embody a certain trait, you should make that a focal point. If the essay is prompted by a question, you need to answer and also make clear why your answer is significant. Lastly, don't state 'in conclusion' or something similar to indicate that this is where your point is being made. If your writing leads clearly and effectively to your main point, they'll know without you announcing it.

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