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How to write your scholarship essay

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

After supporting students for Rhodes, Chevening and Fulbright scholarships, here are my key tips:

Every essay has a prompt. Pay close attention to it.

The prompt is the question that the essay wants you to answer. Read the prompt carefully, make sure that you understand clearly what it is asking you and then start to write. A common mistake that many students make is to write what they want to share, versus what is being asked.

After you prepare the response, compare it to the prompt, and ask yourself, "Did I answer the question?"

If it doesn't, it's time to re-write. Stay focused on the prompt.

Tell your story, make it inspiring and related to the expectation of the scholarship.

There is a tendency in scholarship essays to share a lot of the pain and traumas that have shaped who you are. If it's related to your motivation to do a particular course of study or has an arc of inspiration, by all means. If it doesn't help you to answer, "Why this degree?" , "Why now", consider editing it from your scholarship essay.

Remember, the scholarship committee wants to learn about you - your background, the lens through which you see the world, your inspiration and what gives you hope. It wants to see how you will change the world with the scholarship. Avoid too much negativity that avoids any presence of hope.

Take an honest look at yourself - why now and why this scholarship.

Research the scholarship's missions and values. Learn why the organization is providing this scholarship, review previous scholarship essays from the website, make connections with past scholarship winners. Think about the mission of the scholarship and write about how you're the best person for the scholarship - tell stories and write a vivid picture about how you can be the perfect representative for the scholarship.

Use stories - show don't just tell.

Instead of saying that you are 'passionate about development of the region', share what that means - does that mean that you spend over 10 hours every day researching and building connections? Instead of saying that you are passionate about 'coastal development', share stories of your earliest memories at the ocean and what you saw then versus what you see now , what worries you, what causes you great concern and what you envision for your future.

Stick to the word count

It goes without saying, stick to the required word count, be succinct and don't waste time complimenting the scholarship committee or spreading accolades. Those are words that could be better used to explain your motivation and peak their interest in meeting you.

Be humble but confident in your ability

A healthy dose of self confidence and self belief is important, but what is more important is your ability to demonstrate that despite what you have accomplished, you have the determination, grit and humility to keep striving.

Avoid generic inspirational quotes

Use quotes to inspire you outside of your scholarship essay, but leave them out of your essay. Why? It's generic and it uses words that could be better off used to demonstrate your aptitude and ability.

Avoid sharing your entire life story.

Keep your eye on the prompt. It may be tempting to provide them with all of the information about you and why you deserve it over other applicants, but avoid this at all cost.

Start early and ask others to read it for you

Writing your scholarship essay is important. For many individuals, without the scholarship, their dream of furthering their education may never be met. Don't leave it for the last minute, give yourself the very best chance of success.

Interested in having us read your essay? We'd love to.

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