Secrets to Writing an Amazing Scholarship Essay

Who doesn't want free money for college? Answer: no one! Here are some tips to help you write an amazing scholarship application and win that award.

A blank page can be one of the most intimidating factors to overcome when writing. There are a million different things you could say, but writer’s block is real. And the stakes feel even higher when you’re writing a scholarship essay—there is money on the line after all. So how can you write an amazing scholarship application? Here are a few ways to maximize your chances of winning those awards.

Get all the info

There’s a lot of information that comes with scholarships like due dates, notification dates, GPA requirements, and location/school restrictions. Read the fine print to make sure you fit the criteria so you don’t waste a ton of time just to find out you aren’t eligible. Then add all important dates to your planner or calendar app on your phone so you don’t forget them! It's important to stay organized and keep track of every deadline.

Make sure you really understand the prompt

I cannot stress this enough: read the prompt, then read it again. This is coming from personal experience. There have been numerous times I’ve proofread my essay and attached it to my scholarship application online only to realize my essay didn’t really answer the prompt. It's also helpful to read the prompt as you’re writing your essay, just to make sure you’re staying on track.

Related: College Essays vs. Scholarship Essays: What’s the Difference?

Make a (rough) outline

No, you don’t always need to make a two-page MLA-formatted outline with a cover page for your essay. However, you do need to brainstorm what you want to say. Think about what points you want to make that would best answer the prompt. If you think of one really good sentence or idea, write it down! Nothing is worse than having a big epiphany for your essay just to forget it. 

Just write

Once you have an idea of what you want to write and you know exactly what point you need to make, sit down and write it. It doesn’t matter if you think it isn’t that great. Just get every thought you have down—editing will come later. Also, don’t pay too much attention to the word count. It's okay if you go over; you can cut down on that later when you edit. It might even happen naturally as you cut out extra stuff that doesn’t really add to your essay.

Use your real life

Don’t just list off your basic qualities in your essays! Anyone can say they’re smart or brave or kind. You need to show how great you are. Find a story that relates to the prompt that can demonstrate all your good qualities. Talk about how you used teamwork to win the biggest football game of the season or how you used your communication skills to organize a big event for your school.

Related: Make Your Scholarship Applications Stand Out in a Crowd

Edit, edit, then edit again

Nothing you ever write on the first try is going to be perfect; in fact, sometimes it's bad (and that’s okay!). Reread your essay, fix any grammatical or spelling errors, and make notes of the things you want to change. Sometimes you’ll need to add an entirely new paragraph or trash one entirely. Tweak your essay until you feel confident about it. 

Get an extra set of eyes

You may finish writing your essay and think it’s absolutely flawless and there’s no way you won’t win the scholarship, but it helps to have other people look at it as well. If you’re close with any of your teachers (preferably your English teacher), get them to read over the essay for you. They might help you fix tiny errors you looked over or make suggestions you never would have thought of. If a teacher isn’t an option, a friend or parent will work too!

Related: 15 Helpful Tips to Make Your Admission Essays Shine


College is expensive and, unfortunately, we can’t all be blessed with a full ride to our dream school. That’s why little scholarships are so important, and it's even more important to put your best foot forward when applying for them. Good luck!

Find the scholarships you can really win on CollegeXpress using our Scholarship Search tool.

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About Tayler Butters

Tayler Butters

Tayler Butters is a high school student with a passion for music, photography, and writing. She loves spending her time in church and with her golden retriever, Lilly.


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