How to Write a Winning Scholarship Essay

Writing GuidesAdmission & Scholarship Essay
Feb 28, 2019

As the cost of education continues to rise and the competition for scholarships gets tighter, writing a scholarship essay is increasingly becoming an attractive option for many students. Writing a good scholarship essay, however, is a daunting challenge. In this post, we look at some scholarship essays tips on how to write a winning scholarship essay.

Structure and Specific Instructions

The structure of a scholarship essay generally depends on the specific instructions. Whereas some prompts give you more flexibility in determining structure, some prompts are stricter when it comes to how the paper should be organized. That being said, there are elements common to almost all written essays for scholarships, and these include the following:

1.Thesis Statement

Regardless of the topic of your scholarship essay, you will need to have a thesis statement. The thesis statement communicates the main idea of your paper. Because it is the core message that you are trying to convey to the reader, everything else in the paper revolves around it, from the introduction that leads to your thesis statement to the conclusion that reiterates it. The thesis statement is often located at the end of the introduction.


An introduction is another element common to most scholarship essays. As the term suggests, the introduction’s main purpose is to introduce your thesis statement to the reader as well as provide some context or background information. But more than this, an introduction needs to be interesting enough as to grab your reader’s attention and make him want to read the rest.


The body is where you expand, elaborate, and support your thesis statement. Depending on your scholarship essay topic, this part may present your thoughts, fact and figures, arguments, or counterarguments. As this is where you discuss your thesis, this part needs to be well-developed.


Finally, an essay also needs to have a conclusion. This is the part where you usually reiterate the thesis, review the main points, and leave final thoughts. The conclusion is where you wrap up your essay.

While these are the basic elements that make up an essay for scholarship grants, knowing and following specific instructions are very important. Nevertheless, knowing how to structure a scholarship essay is a good foundation since it will help you prepare for writing essays with more complex structures.

How to Write a Scholarship Essay Outline

Another strategy in writing a winning scholarship essay is by preparing a scholarship essay outline. An outline is essential for a number of reasons.

For one, it eases the writing process by giving you a road map. Deciding what goes into your essay can be difficult. Furthermore, when you write a scholarship essay without an outline, you may eventually find yourself unsure of how to proceed. An outline will tell you how to go about in writing. For instance, your outline organizes the main points that support your thesis. If you follow your outline, you can write the paper by simply elaborating one point before proceeding to the next until your reach the conclusion. For another, the outline gives your paper coherence. Without an outline, you’re at risk for veering away from your points. Countless papers actually suffer from this. They start out great, but then they stray away from the topic. Preparing a scholarship outline will help you keep only the points that are relevant and eliminate those that are irrelevant, thus making your paper consistent.

When writing an outline, start with your thesis, since this will be the core of your essay. Then, write the main points that support your thesis. Under each main point, include a number of subpoints and evidence if required. Also, include separate sections for counterarguments and their refutations if they are required. Keep your outline concise. For example, you can write the main points, subpoints, evidence, counterarguments, and refutations as short sentences rather than full paragraphs. Finally, include concise descriptions for the introduction and conclusion. Note that the thesis should be placed right after the introduction.

Remember that scholarship essay outlines vary as what you will include depends largely on what the specific scholarship essay prompt asks for. So be sure to review the instructions thoroughly before writing.

write scholarship essay 2019 outline paperHow to Start a Scholarship Essay

Part of completing your scholarship essay is the prewriting process. Remember, starting a scholarship essay does not begin with typing the first words of your introduction; rather, the prewriting process is the stage where you actually start. In order to learn how to start an essay for a scholarship, you must take note of the following:

1.Begin by understanding the instructions. 

Instructions for writing a scholarship essay can be very tricky. After all, a scholarship contest is designed to make the best students stand out. Thus, you need to read the instructions thoroughly and repeatedly until you develop a good understanding of what the task asks for.

2.Read up. 

Another way to start your scholarship essay is by reading up on your topic. Some scholarship essay questions require you to reflect only on your personal experiences. However, some require research to answer. If you receive a question that requires you to conduct research, then take the time to read and learn as much as possible about the topic.

3.Brainstorm for ideas. 

Brainstorming is also part of starting a scholarship essay. In this stage, you think about ideas for your essay. For example, many scholarship competitions ask applicants to write about a life-changing experience. Now, as an applicant, you may consider more than one experience as life-changing. You also need to reflect on these experiences’ implications. This is where brainstorming comes in. You need to come up with good scholarship essay ideas in order to determine which works best for you.

4.Formulate your thesis and create your outline. 

Finally, you start your essay by formulating your thesis and creating your outline. As mentioned earlier, the thesis is the main idea that you communicate. Think of it as the core of your essay—the single important message that you want to get across. Follow this with the creation of the outline.

A common misconception about writing an essay is that it begins with writing the introduction. However, learning how to start a scholarship essay begins with the prewriting process.

write scholarship essay 2019 start essayHow to Create a Great Introduction: 3 Useful Tips

As noted before, the scholarship essay template usually requires you to begin with an introduction. While there are many ways to answer the question of how to start a scholarship essay introduction, one thing is constant: the introduction for scholarship essay should grab your reader’s attention. Remember, your introduction gives the reader’s his first glimpse of your paper. Thus, it has to make a great impression so that the reader is enticed to read until the end. That said, here are three tips for writing an excellent scholarship essay introduction:

1.Create a  great hook for your essay

A hook, as the term implies, is an opening line that immediately catches the reader’s attention. It’s called a hook because it “hooks” your reader and makes her want to read more. Some of the ways to create an effective hook include asking a question, citing an insightful quote, presenting a fascinating fact, or narrating an amusing anecdote. As long as you stick to the prompt, don’t be afraid to get creative.

2.Keep it short and relevant.

Introductions serve to introduce, and it therefore should not be too long as to bore the reader. Include only what’s relevant, and do not attempt to fill space for the sake of making it longer. Overall, your introduction should only be as long as necessary.

3.Write it last.

Writing the introduction can be challenging, especially since it has to really make a good impression. However, you don’t need to complete the introduction first. If you find yourself unable to come up with an introduction that suits you, write it later. You can even write it last. Sometimes, ideas for an introduction come once you’ve produced the body of your essay.

There is no single scholarship template for writing an introduction, and introductions can vary wildly depending on the personal style of writers. However, the general rules are to keep it interesting, short, and relevant.

write scholarship essay introduction 2019Formatting and Templates

Another important consideration when writing an essay for a scholarship is formatting. The format for scholarship essay varies depending on the instructions. Whereas some prompts will include scholarship essay templates for you to use, other won’t. Assuming that you don’t have a scholarship essay format template to follow, here are some things you could do to make your work presentable and organized.

1.Choose the appropriate citation style. 

Citation styles prescribe different scholarship essay formats. Once you receive the prompt, determine which citation style you should use, and then follow the prescriptions of that style when formatting. In general, papers for natural and physical sciences, healthcare, and business use APA style, whereas papers for social sciences, arts, and humanities require the use of MLA style. 

2.Use headings if necessary.

For better organization, learn to use headings. Headings are short lines that describe the content of a section. For instance, a scholarship essay heading should be short and accurate. However, note that your scholarship essay format heading will depend on the citation style. For short scholarship essays, headings may no longer be needed.

3.Make it look professional. 

It’s never too early to start practicing making your papers look professional. By the time you’re in college, your professor will ask you to submit clean, crisp, and highly organized papers. Make the most of your time by learning proper formatting. 

There is no single way to answer the question of how to format a scholarship essay. But when formatting scholarship essays without a template to guide you, you need to choose the proper citation style so that you could apply the correct scholarship essay format.

The Most Popular Scholarship Essay Topics for 2019

Scholarship essay topics tend to change every year. However, not all topics are the same when it comes to popularity. This year, some topics will likely appear as prompts more than others. Here are some of the most popular scholarship essay topics for 2019:

  1. Life-changing experience that helped you grow as a person.  One of the more popular topics out there, this prompt requires you to choose an important experience that led to self-discovery and progress. When writing an essay for this topic, it’s better to choose positive experiences. 
  2. An experience that allowed you to demonstrate leadership.  Every school hopes that its students become future leaders. This prompt asking students to show their leadership abilities is therefore a staple among schools. When writing this essay, do not go overboard by making yourself look perfect. Instead, aim for a healthy balance between rising up the challenge and learning at the same time.
  3. Who you admire most.  While this prompt seems simple enough, it actually helps the school learn more about your personality. When deciding on a person, choose someone who is universally recognized and admired.
  4. A challenge you overcame.  This prompt asks you to talk about a particularly difficult time in your life. But don’t be fooled by the focus on a challenging experience; the key here is to show how the challenge made you a better person. 
  5. Why you chose your major.  Another popular prompt asks you for the reasons why you chose your major. This prompt is often intended to determine your motivations for choosing the major and your compatibility with it.
  6. Opinion on a current social issue.  Finally, scholarship essay subjects that require you to take a stance regarding a contemporary social issue are likely to appear this year. These are particularly tricky prompts, since social issues are highly debatable. In fact, such essays are often evaluated for the quality of writing and development of arguments rather than the stance itself.

Regardless of the scholarship essay topic you get assigned, the key is to exhibit good writing skills, show development of thought and argumentation, and showcase your competencies, personal values, and character. 

Proofreading and Language Editing

Another characteristic of a successful scholarship essay is refinement, and this is why editing and proofreading are essential components of the writing process. Editing and proofreading are important because they help you polish your paper. When you’re in a frenzy of writing, you might not notice that you’re committing typographical and grammatical errors most students make . There may also be vague parts as well as redundancies. It’s easy to make these mistakes while you’re focusing on the content of the paper. In fact, some errors don’t become apparent even after you’ve read the essay. It’s surprising to think that many students lost their chance for a scholarship because they didn’t bother to refine their essays. For this reason, you should edit your essay a number of times. Now, you might say that you’ve written a really good draft. But even the best first drafts will always feature aspects that could be improved, and thus the need for thorough proofreading before saving the final copy. Read your paper. Is there something that can be improved? Something that can be made clearer? Does it flow smoothly and coherently? These are just some of the questions you could ask yourself as you read your work.

write a scholarship essay 2019 proofread edit paperHow Can You Win a Scholarship? Tips from Experts

Because scholarship essay prompts tend to be very diverse, not to mention the preferences of those who read them, there is no single answer to the question of how to win a scholarship through an essay. Even guides for scholarship applications tend to have differing views. However, experts do agree on some points. write a scholarship essay 2019 tips success

  1. Start early.  One of the most common mistakes committed by students is not starting on the essay early. It’s hard to write, yes, but that’s not an excuse to put off the task. If you rush your essay, it will show in the quality of the content. Do not procrastinate and instead start working on your essay as early as possible. This will give you ample time in case you need to make changes or adjustments.
  2. Stick to the prompt.  Part of the purpose of a scholarship essay is testing your ability to answer the prompt. If you would notice, prompts often imply that your essay needs to have more than one component. For instance, consider the prompt that asks you to discuss a life-changing experience that helped you grow as a person. Look how this actually asks you to do two things: first, narrate the experience, and, second, explain how it helped you grow. Such prompts can be tricky, so you need to pay careful attention if you want to submit an essay that fully meets the requirements.
  3. Write with passion and conviction.  When completing your essay, choose to write about something that you truly believe in and feel passionate about. Don’t write for the sake of making yourself look good. In fact, don’t write anything that’s untrue. Remember, your reader is skilled in identifying essays that look artificial and contrived. The best essays are those that show spontaneity, sincerity, and above all authenticity.
  4. Be imaginative.  As long as you stick to the prompt and follow all other instructions, you can make your essay stand out by being creative. If you want to win a scholarship, prepare to think outside the box. Approach your essay in unexpected ways. Give your readers something that will make them remember you.
  5. Show your personality.  While your essay is a good place to showcase your competencies, it should not read like a list of your accomplishments. Simply reciting all the success and honors you’ve received will only bore your reader. You have the resume for that. Instead, write in such a way that you show your unique personality. Bear in mind that your readers are more interested in you as a person. In other words, make sure that your writing has a heart and a soul.
  6. Be concise and refined. A good essay doesn’t have to be extremely complex, so avoid producing work that’s too long or riddled with big words. Quality is not determined by the size of your vocabulary, after all. The winning scholarship essays are those that are simple yet clear, insightful, and moving.


Tasks for writing a scholarship essay for colleges are never easy. They are basically designed to be that way so that scholarship committees can determine who’s truly deserving of the scholarship. But by learning these tips, you’re given greater ability to craft essays that can win over even the most demanding readers. Some of the strategies for success include following the instructions accurately, knowing the correct structure and formatting for essays, making your content interesting and insightful, refining your writing and language, familiarizing yourself with common essay prompts, and listening to expert advice.

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