Steps to Writing a Successful Scholarship Essay

December 28, 2022

Learn more about how to write a scholarship essay so you can get the financial help you need for school.

Scholarships are an important part of helping pay for your education. They can be just what you need to get the books you need for class or help pay for tuition or housing. Under most circumstances, scholarships are even generally tax-free so you don't have to worry about them too much when tax preparation season comes around. 

Many scholarships include essays you need to write in order to complete the scholarship application. Take heed to the following tips and tricks so you can learn how to write a successful scholarship essay. 

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How to Write a Scholarship Essay

Before we go over the key tips to writing the best scholarship essay, let's take a moment to go over the steps you should take when writing a scholarship essay. 

You might be tempted to draft up a quick essay response and move onto the next scholarship application, but if you go over these key steps to writing an essay then your essay will be a much stronger contestant. 

Step 1: Understand the prompt

Take a minute to make sure you understand the prompt of the essay. The last thing you want to do is misunderstand the prompt and write your essay incorrectly or miss a key aspect scholarship essay reviewers will be looking for when reading your essay. 

Read and jot down all the essay requirements and all the aspects of the essay prompt. Then incorporate those sections of the prompt into your essay outline to make sure you don't miss any aspect of the prompt. 

Step 2: Outline the essay

Before you actually start writing, make an outline. Start with a simple outline that includes the essay and prompt requirements you need to meet. Then add to the outline ways you can go above and beyond in meeting those minimum requirements. 

As your essay outline becomes more detailed, writing your essay later will become both easier and quicker. 

A typical essay includes 3 parts: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. The biggest keys to using these 3 parts are to give each section a clear purpose and seamless transitions and connections to each other. 

Step 3: Write and rewrite 

Once you have a good outline it's a lot easier to start writing. Make sure your essay reaches the appropriate word or page count suggestions and that it does not exceed these suggestions by too much. 

Don't be afraid to rewrite your entire essay. 

A first draft is just that—a first draft. Even for a simple essay, first drafts often serve better as architecture for your final draft rather than as a final draft. 

Take a moment to read over your first draft and mark up any changes or ideas you might have. 

Then, open up a new document right next to your first draft and start rewriting your essay. You'll find that some things stay the same while other parts change completely for a more thoughtful and structured final piece. 

Step 4: Proofread 

Always, always, ALWAYS proofread your essay before submitting it. Ideally, listen to or read your essay out loud, and have someone else read it to check for mistakes. 

Sometimes, while rereading our own writing, our brains fill in the blanks or fix our own mistakes as we read, so we don't notice them. This is why listening to, reading out loud, and having a second pair of eyes that aren't your own to review your essay is so essential. 

Tips for Writing Scholarship Essays

Now that you know the steps to write an effective scholarship essay, it's time to talk about essay writing tips and other essay help. 

Don't submit the first draft 

It can be really tempting to submit the first draft and move on with your day. But other applicants are going to put in the work to redraft their essays at least once or twice. If you don't also put in this extra effort, you'll lower your chances of measuring up to the essays other candidates submitted. 

Balance between personal and professional 

Try to strike a balance between being personal and professional in your essay. The person reading your essay wants to connect with you in a personal way, but sharing too much personal information, especially when it isn't relevant to the prompt, can become a hindrance. 

Above all, stay on topic with the prompt and focus on evoking positive emotions and associations with you in the content you give reviewers to read. 

Make connections 

Make lots of connections in your essay. Connect yourself and your academic endeavors with the prompt as much as possible. If you want to talk about a personal experience, make sure the connection to the prompt is made clear. 

At the end of your essay, make sure you wrap up all the things your essay brought up into a neat and tidy conclusion. 

Scholarship Essay Format Example

Many scholarship essays might not come with specific essay format requirements. But there is a gold standard for how to format a basic essay submission. Adhere to these basic essay format guidelines to take your essay to the next level of professionalism. 

How to format a scholarship essay document: 

Download a Scholarship Essay Template.
  • Submit your essay as a Microsoft Word or Google Document. Avoid using notepad document files as these are considered less standard than a Word document. 
  • Format your essay document using the Times New Roman font, a 12-point font size, and double-spaced line spacing. 
  • Use the normal, default margins and text color. 
  • Use a first-line indent for your paragraphs, but don't indent the very first paragraph. Indented paragraphs are used to distinguish individual paragraphs within a body of text, so this indent isn't necessary for the first paragraph. 
  • In the top left-hand corner of the paper include a heading. A standard scholarship essay heading should include your name, your contact information, the name of the scholarship, and the date. 
  • While not necessary, it can be helpful to include a title or the essay prompt at the top of your essay as well. 

How to start off an essay: 

All essays begin with at least one introductory paragraph. The introduction should reiterate the prompt in order to let the reader know you understand the prompt completely. Then it should go over how the prompt will be addressed in your essay. 

How long should an essay be? 

In general, scholarship essays are meant to be about 500 words or one page in length. 

Many scholarship essays will provide some kind of minimum requirement for the word or page count of your essay. But if you can't find one then you are generally fine to stick to 500 words or one page. 

The longest part of any essay should be the body paragraphs. These body paragraphs should tackle the prompt in more detail. Here is your chance to thoroughly answer the prompt and show that you meet the criteria the scholarship committee is looking for in a winning applicant. 

How to end an essay: 

Always include at least one closing paragraph at the end of your essay to sum up your points and wrap everything up into one neat package. 

Here is your chance to drive home the fact that you understood the prompt, answered the prompt, and meet the criteria the committee is looking for from the prompt they provided. 

Apply for the Richard Rawle Memorial Scholarship

The Richard Rawle Memorial Scholarship is a community service scholarship from Check City. This scholarship looks for members of the community who go above and beyond to make a difference in the world around them through community service and volunteer work. 

In Conclusion, 

The essay you submit for a scholarship is one of the primary things the scholarship committee will review to decide whether you make the cut or not. It is up to you to take the time necessary to make sure your essay does this job before making your final submission.