College Essay Scholarships Writers

Hayley Capp, winner of the 2013 QS Leadership Scholarship, shares her top tips on how to write a winning scholarship application essay.

There is no one way to write a winning scholarship application. If you gathered together all the scholarship entries that have ever won a prize, you would find it difficult to identify what made them the same. Each would offer a distinctive style employed by the author; a unique insight into his or her past, present and future aspirations.

This uniqueness is the key, and the first point to remember when you pick up your pen to write. Make your scholarship application essay exclusive to you, personalize it, delve deep into your passion and drive to study your subject, and create a response that could only ever relate to you. It is this individuality that stands out, and that’s exactly what catches a judge’s eye and defines a winner.

I won the 2013 QS Leadership Scholarship, so will base my guidance on my own thought process when shaping my application essay. However, the basic principles that I highlight with this example can be extracted and applied to other scholarship essay writing processes.

1. Read and re-read the essay statement you are being asked to respond to, and identify the key themes.

From my own example, the essay statement was: ‘Where I have demonstrated responsible leadership, or innovation, and how it made a difference either in my community or in my work’. I identified the key themes as ‘leadership’ and ‘community impact’.

2. Understand the meaning of the key themes.

After identifying the key themes, it is important to understand what each of these ideas really means, beyond the initial level. For instance, I acknowledged that the meaning of ‘leadership’ involved identifying the effects my leadership had – the actions taken and results achieved under my leadership – and not simply describing the position I held and my responsibilities. The more depth you bring to your understanding of the meaning of each theme, the more examples you will be able to identify to demonstrate your abilities.

3. Fill your scholarship essay with keywords/synonyms of keywords used in the scholarship statement.

Using the keywords from the scholarship statement throughout your essay will demonstrate your commitment to addressing the question being asked. For instance, I made a special effort to ensure references to ‘leadership’; ‘innovation’ and ‘impacting communities’ ran throughout my essay.

4. Make an engaging start to your essay.

If you are struggling to start your scholarship application essay, why not include a quote or statement that relates to your intended course, and which you can later link to the main body of your text. Showing wider knowledge and aptitude for your subject will help convince the judges that it is a worthwhile investment to support you in your chosen course.

5. Understand the criteria used by the scholarship committee to evaluate application essays.

Based on my own experience, I have outlined what I believe to be the key criteria used by scholarship committee judges for evaluating scholarship application essays on the themes of leadership and community impact. My advice would be to address all of these areas in your essay, whether the question explicitly asks for it or not.

What to include in scholarship essays about leadership:

  • The extent of the leadership experience and degree of accomplishment. What were the results? Did you manage to grow a society from 10 to 100 members through your tenure?
  • Why you got involved in the leadership experience. What was your initial inspiration and how did the experience make you feel? This is a very important aspect as it allows you to show your sincerity and demonstrates your passion.
  • What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them? Inspirational stories of perseverance despite adversity make readers (especially judges) want to help you succeed. It also shows that you have great leadership qualities: the ability to adapt to new situations and the determination to not give up.
  • What did you learn?How did these lessons shape you as a leader? Every experience brings new lessons and personal growth opportunities and the best leaders are humble and realize this. Speaking about these lessons indicates that you have truly reflected on your experiences and that you understand what leadership is. (In other words, you know that leadership isn’t just about getting a title like “President” or “Executive Director”.)
  • What does this mean for the future? A scholarship isn’t just an award; it’s an investment in your future. So if you plan to continue being involved in your particular leadership activity in the future, tell the judges.

What to include in scholarship essays about community impact:

  • How much time did you dedicate to the activity? The scholarship committee is likely to be looking for applicants who made a fairly long commitment to a community activity.
  • Why was it important to you? Joy from helping others? Excitement of trying something new? Opportunity to form relationships with others? Having a genuine reason helps build a convincing essay.
  • Why was it important to the community? Ask the question: What would be different for your community if you didn’t do what you do? It is most important to show that you recognize the real needs in your communities, and act to address these.
  • What did you gain yourself through giving to the community? It is important to show that you understand how through giving, you end up receiving more in the end. Sharing what community service has taught you and how it helped you develop demonstrates that you have truly gained from your participation and suggests you will continue doing so in the future.

My final point of advice when writing your scholarship application essay or cover letter is to really show that you know who you are. What are the relevant past and present experiences that demonstrate your abilities and where are you headed? Use carefully selected language to emphasize your passion, ambition and enthusiasm and remember to adopt a positive mindset, in which you believe in all the great things you have done and plan to continue achieving in the future. If you don’t believe in yourself, why would the judges?

Good luck!

Hayley

You can browse our various scholarship listings here, and QS also offers its own scholarships. Also, you can download our free guide for more advice on how to find scholarships to study abroad. 

Hayley Capp is the winner of the 2013 QS Leadership Scholarship. Covering up to US$10,000 of course fees for a graduate program, the scholarship is awarded to the applicant best able to demonstrate his/her ability to use entrepreneurial and leadership skills to make a positive impact on a community.

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If you’re a skilled writer, a few hundred (or even a thousand) words is no biggie.

Students that can easily express themselves through writing flock toward scholarships with interesting essays and the scholarships on this list are just that.

All of the below scholarships require an essay entry – some as short as only 250 words – with interesting essay topics that range from safe driving and technology to America heroes and animal activism.

To help better organize your scholarship and internship search, please note that the following scholarships for writers are listed according to deadline, with the earliest deadline appearing at the top of the page. Deadlines that vary will appear at the bottom of each list.

If you enjoy expressing your opinions through writing, the scholarships on this list await your entries.

Scholars Helping Collars

Deadline: 2/15/18
Available to: High School Seniors
Award Amount: $1,000

The Scholars Helping Collars Scholarship is open to current high school seniors. You must submit an essay of between 500 and 1000 words with two to three photos of your volunteer efforts to help animals in need and how that involvement has changed your lives or shaped your perceptions on the importance of animal welfare in order to be considered for this award.

Learn more about the Scholars Helping Collars.

Live Deliberately Essay Contest

Deadline: 3/15/18
Available to: Ages 13-21 Years
Award Amount: 3 Awards of $250

The Live Deliberately Essay Contest is open to all students aged 14 – 21. You must submit an essay of no more than 750 words based on the prompts listed on the sponsor’s website. This year’s prompts will ask you to consider a time in your life when you pursued a path that was “narrow and crooked,” but felt like it was the right path for you. In what ways are/were you able to, as Thoreau advises, walk that path with “love and reverence?” How has navigating that path shaped you into the person you are becoming?

Learn more about the Live Deliberately Essay Contest .

AFSA High School Essay Contest

Deadline: 3/15/2018
Available to: High School Freshmen through High School Seniors
Award Amount: $2,500

The AFSA High School Essay Contest is open to high school students. To be considered, in a 1,000 – to 1250 – word essay, you must identify two cases – one you deem successful and one you deem unsuccessful – where the U.S. pursued an integrated approach to build peace in a conflict – affected country.

Learn more about the AFSA High School Essay Contest .

Brighter Future Scholarship

Deadline: 3/31/2018
Available to: College Freshmen through Graduate Students, Year 5
Award Amount: $500

The Brighter Future Scholarship is available to undergraduate, graduate or law students enrolled at an accredited college or university. You must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit 500 word letter of intent that identifies a problem and explains how you intend to use your education as a way to begin solving that problem, thus creating a brighter future.

Learn more about the Brighter Future Scholarship.

NPG 2018 Scholarship Contest

Deadline: 4/20/2018
Available to: High School Seniors through College Juniors
Award Amount: Awards from $750-$2,000

The NPG 2018 Essay Scholarship Contest is open to high school seniors and college freshmen, sophomores and juniors. You must submit an essay of between 500 and 750 words on one environmental issue from the sponsor’s chosen list and explain how it is made worse by population growth and describe what measures you would recommend our nation’s leaders take to ensure we protect our fragile environment for generations to come. You must also be a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident to qualify for this award.

Learn more about the NPG 2018 Scholarship Contest.

E-Waste Scholarship

Deadline: 4/30/2018
Available to: High School Freshmen through Graduate Students, Year 5
Award Amount: $1,000

The E-waste Scholarship is available to high school, undergraduate or graduate students. You must submit a short statement that completes the sentence “The most important reason to care about e-waste is…” and be U.S. citizen or legal resident to qualify for this award.

Learn more about the E-Waste Scholarship.

Feldco Scholarship

Deadline: 6/15/2018
Available to: College Freshmen through College Seniors
Award Amount: $1,000

The Feldco Scholarship is available to current and prospective college students. To be considered, you must submit a 700 – to 1000 – word essay on the following topic: “How has your family contributed to who you are today?”

Learn more about the Feldco Scholarship.

Immigration Scholarship Essay Contest

Deadline: 7/01/2018
Available to: High School Seniors through Graduate Students, Year 5
Award Amount: $1,500

The Immigration Scholarship Essay Contest is open to U.S. citizens attending or planning to attend an accredited college or university. You must submit an essay of between 800 and 1000 words on one of the five topics related to immigration listed on the sponsor’s website in order to qualify for this award.

Learn more about the Immigration Scholarship Essay Contest.

Love Your Career Scholarship

Deadline: 9/10/2018
Available to: College Freshmen through Graduate Students, Year 5
Award Amount: $1,000

The Love Your Career Scholarship is available to students attending an accredited college or university. You must submit an essay of at least 1,000 words describing at least three steps that you plan to take in the next year to start a path towards having a career that you love in order to qualify for this award. Topics may include: What are your passions that could be turned into a career? What are some ideas you have for a business based on things that you love and are skilled at? You must also interview a professional in your chosen field that has at least three years of experience.

Learn more about the Love Your Career Scholarship.

MajGen Harold W. Chase Prize Essay Contest

Deadline: Varies
Available to: College Freshmen through College Seniors
Award Amount: $3,000

Sponsored by the Marine Corps Gazette, the MajGen Harold W. Chase Prize Essay Contest is open to all Marines on active duty and to members of the Selected Marine Corps Reserve.

The contest honors the essay that proposes and argues for a new and better way of “doing business” in the Marine Corps.

Learn more information about the MajGen Harold W. Chase Prize Essay Contest.

Mary Grant Charles Prize Scholarship

Deadline: Varies
Available to: College Freshmen through College Seniors
Award Amount: Varies

The Mary Grant Charles Prize Scholarship is open to undergraduate students at Tufts University.

You must possess the same creative qualities in the writing of prose and poetry to qualify for this award.

Preference is given to students whose writing reflects an interest in ancestry and genealogy.

Get more information on the Mary Grant Charles Prize Scholarship.

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