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College Scholarship Essays: 5 Things You Want to Know

Apr 2, 2008
Starting to write college scholarship essays may make you shake in your boots. After all, what you write could either win you a sizable chunk of cash, or not. But with some preparation, you can lower your nervousness and improve your writing. Take a look here for a few great ways to kick start your ideas, turn your brain on, and get started.

Finding Brilliant Subjects for College Scholarship Essays
Let's get into making more topics for your essays. If you haven't read any grant or scholarship applications, take a little time to look at them, especially the ones you want to win. You may have to invent a topic. Or you may be assigned one, like the Harry S. Truman Scholarship which requires essays that evaluate and appraise serious human and diplomatic concerns of importance today. Many use a simple, short kernel of an idea that you call a prompt to use to build an essay around.

Even with a prompt, the essay will have examples and personal features that you will think of and write. And in most cases, you and your life experience will form part of the essay. If you have more experiences to draw on, you can liven up your writing to provide more depth and create interest that draws your readers into the story.

For example, have you seen Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker in The Great Debaters? Denzel Whitaker's character closes the movie with a great speech during a debate. In that speech, he uses stunning detail from his own life. He plays Forest Whitaker's son in the movie, and Washington's student. In your essays, like this movie inspired by real event, you will do the same.

Who Awards The Scholarship?
Look at who will award the scholarship. Consider these five ideas to help focus your essay and find out who will evaluate you for the award:

1. What are the organizational purpose or do they have an agenda?
2. Can you go to a website and read the group mission statement?
3. Who has won in the past?
4. Have you looked up the history or the founder for more information?
5. Call and ask for information if you haven't found any.

After you have a feel for the organization, you can write down the governing principles or goals of the organization. Keep them brief, just a few words each, and make a short list of the ideas and trends you find in your research.

This research doesn't have to take all day for every scholarship. If the website gives some good background and a mission statement, that should do it. You don't need to find out the names of the committee, their alma maters, or the name of the founder's childhood sled (rosebud). You just want a good feel for what will make a good essay and what might not match their values.

Would you give you the scholarship? Why?
Now that you have formed a concept of the group or foundation's mission, evaluate yourself. Do you consider yourself a good candidate? For instance, the Billiards Education Foundation gives scholarships for high school seniors who play billiards. You have to recognize that if you don't play billiards, you won't get this scholarship.

The essay prompt specifically states that you expand on how billiards has touched your life. If you don't play, you really don't qualify, because you can't answer the question with sincerity. Half of you probably laughed when you read this paragraph and the one before, but this organization gives two types of scholarships, one for $5000 over two years, and 7 awards for $1000 each.

As scholarships go, $5000 can go a long way. Take your scholarship essays seriously, and remember who you will write to, and their aims. You also should recruit proofreaders for every essay to look for typos, grammar errors, style, flow and coherence. You want to sound good.

Last, keep applying. Don't let a little 500 or 1000 word essay come between you and $1000 or $5000 of money for college. Look, that amounts to between $1 per word on up to $10 per word. You can do it.
About the Author
Need more tips on scholarship programs? Come to my scholarship information page and download my free grant program ebook here to help with your search for more sources.
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