12 Tips on Writing an Effective Scholarship or College Essay

When it's the time to apply for scholarships, students have a ton of questions running through their minds, such as:

  • How do you write a good scholarship essay?
  • How do I make my scholarship essay stand out?
  • How do you start a scholarship essay?

Are you asking yourself the questions above? Or are you looking for practical tips for writing a college admission essay?

If so, then pay attention to the tips you're going to learn here.

"Nothing puts a lot of pressure on students than writing a scholarship essay," says Johansen Anderson, a renowned lecturer who also offers custom essay service to students online.

Writing an effective scholarship essay can be overwhelming, especially to students who don't have a lot of experience.

Remember that you're not writing to receive a better grade in the class. You're writing to convince the selection board that you're the right candidate to receive the money for your college education.

Unfortunately, writing a college essay is a must when applying for scholarship opportunities. You need to learn how to write an excellent college essay that stands out from the other essays. In this guide, we'll share 12 practical tips to help you understand how to write an outstanding scholarship essay.

So without further ado, let's dive in.

What's the importance of a college essay?

When it comes to writing college essays, many students wonder why it's important and how it can help them.

Generally, the scholarship essay offers you the opportunity to demonstrate your best qualities and show the scholarship committee what makes you stand out from the crowd.

In a nutshell, your college essay demonstrates something unique about you that you cannot reveal with your grades or test scores- that is your personality.

What Challenges Students Face While Writing a Scholarship Essay

When it comes to writing college essays, students face a myriad of challenges. According to college essay papers, the first challenge of writing a college essay is procrastination. Many students put off their essay writing until there's no time, which could add more pressure and make them get things wrong. 

There is also the challenge of explaining yourself in just 500 words. How is it even possible given the information running down in your mind? Students also focus on pleasing the committee to the extent of failing to demonstrate their actual experiences.

How Long Should Your College Essay Be?

When it comes to writing an outstanding scholarship essay, the length matters. No matter the tons of sources you're required to search for topics, you're required to stick to the supplied word count limit. Make your college essay too short or too long, and you miss the point.

As a rule, keep your college essay length close to the maximum limit possible. Usually, college essays fall within 500 and 600 words long. Does this sound good?

Let's get rolling.

So now, as you understood the importance and challenges of writing a scholarship essay, let's see the 12 tips for writing an outstanding essay:

Create A Plan Before You Start Writing

Part of the reason why many students fail to write outstanding college application essays is that they put off things until the last minute. If you fall for this trap, you're going to rush the writing process, and the quality of your scholarship essay will suffer. 

When the time to write your college essay comes, remember that you need enough to plan, write, proofread and edit, then polish your essay before submitting it.

As a rule, you need to plan your writing project to give yourself enough time for the entire project. You also need to know your audience. You see, your college application essay needs to address the scholarship committee of the college you want to join and not everyone.

Only when you understand who they are and what they are looking for only then, you'll be able to tailor your application essay appropriately.

So before you start writing your essay, find out what they are looking for in a potential candidate; and how you can demonstrate yourself as the deserving person for the money. 

Avoid over exceeding their expectations, though. Focus on demonstrating your strengths and how you can convince them you're the right candidate.

Understand the Essay Prompt

It sounds like a no-brainer, but many students have had their scholarship essays rejected for not addressing the prompt as required. When writing your college application essay, you don't want to leave any loophole they can use to deny you the opportunity.

Not understanding the essay prompt could give the scholarship committee a reason not to accept your essay, no matter how outstanding it is.

So, read over the essay prompt several times and be clear about what you're required to do. Some institutions will require candidates to choose from several prompts. 

Understanding the essay prompt will enable you to let the scholarship committee know more about yourself while complying with the writing standards required. Being clear on the prompt also allows you to stay on track. 

The following some common application essay prompts examples:

Example 1: The lessons we obtain from difficulties we experience can be fundamental to future career success. Describe a time when you encountered a challenge, difficulty, failure, or setback. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn from the experience?

Example 2: Think about a time when you challenge an idea. What prompted you to challenge it? Recount the outcome.

Example 3: Describe a problem you've solved or you'd like to solve. Explain its importance to you and what steps you took or you'd take to identify a solution.

Write As Per The Given Word Count

Often, the word or character limit for your essay is in the prompt or question. That means that if you ignore the essay prompt, then you're going to get the word count wrong- perhaps you'll write too much or too little. Usually, if required to keep your essay 250-words long, then know that you're required to write a one-page double-spaced essay.

Microsoft Word and Google Docs have features that let you feel your essay's length, but you can also use free online letter count/character count tools.

Choose An Interesting Topic

Sometimes you'll have some freedom to choose a topic for your college essay by yourself. In that case, select a topic that interests you.

Remember that the freedom to choose a topic for your essay can make things difficult for you. You might get tempted to select a topic only to find that you cannot get enough information about it on the internet. 

Ensure you choose a subject you can confidently research and write without scratching your head too much. The idea is to let the scholarship committee know your personality as a candidate.

Do A Good Research 

Up to this far, you're almost nearing the exciting part of your project- the writing process. But before that, you'd want to know more about the company or organization offering the scholarship opportunity. 

Browse through their website's home page, go to their About page to understand their mission and motivation for providing the scholarship.

It will help you know how to write the exact essay they are looking to read.

Create An Outline

To have an enjoyable writing process, you need to create an outline that shows all of the critical points you're going to discuss in your essay without going over or below the word limit. Write down all the main ideas either in bullet points or a list.

Creating an outline of your essay will help you stay organized and ensure that you don't wander during the writing process.

Basic Outline of Essay

Hook The Reader At Beginning

You're now into the actual process of writing your scholarship essay. Remember that the scholarship committee will be reviewing dozens of application essays, so your first impression matters.

As a rule, you need to capture the reviewers' attention immediately; they place their eyes on your essay. That's why you're required to craft a compelling introduction. 

Your scholarship application's first sentence can make the reviewers develop a desire to continue reading or stop and toss your essay into the dustbin.

To make your essay stand out, you need to know how to open strong. Hook the readers and drag them by their collars. Make your opening sentence as exciting and intriguing as possible, and then introduce your topic at the end of the first paragraph. 

Use the tips below to write an eye-catching introduction for your essay. Write it in your own words.

We advise you to start with a quote, a startling stat, or a question. When it comes to writing a scholarship essay, you need to write the introduction in your own words. Remember that the intro should tell the reviewer about you or your ideas.

Avoid Overused Phrases

As stated earlier, your essay needs to reveal your unique qualities. It needs to demonstrate why college should give you the money. Repeating phrases used for a long time shows that you cannot come up with your own ideas.

Show Them Who You Are

Your scholarship essay is about you. Even though adding stories about people makes your essay more interesting, the reviewers have an interest in knowing more about you. 

And even though your credentials can demonstrate your abilities, they cannot show your personality or character. Your essay needs to demonstrate your motivations, interests, and nature.

You shouldn't talk about your achievements too much, though. Your academic information has already shown them how smart you are. In this case, you need to talk about your inspirations, goals, and interests. It will help them know your personality.

Additional tips on how to nail a scholarship or college essay:

Be Proud, But Don't Brag

When it comes to making yourself stand out from the competition, it's easy to fall for the temptation to brag about yourself. The goal of the essay is to demonstrate why you deserve the opportunity anyway. But hold your horses.

You don't want to overdo it- but you shouldn't shy away from bragging a little bit while showing the committee you're human. Don't be afraid to mention instances when you failed. After all, failing is normal but what you do after failing is what differentiates you from the other failures.

Show Your Emotions 

When writing your scholarship essay, you want to make sure the reader can connect with you. You want the reader to see you as a person, not a faceless writer.

Showing emotions can help you achieve that. To show feelings, don't be afraid to demonstrate your vulnerabilities- after all, everyone is vulnerable. Showing times when you felt nervous, frightened, or defeated demonstrates self-awareness.

Show, Don't Tell

Someone reading your scholarship essay wants to know your experiences. Use real-life examples. Ideally, you want to show the reader how you've achieved your career success so far but not just telling them.

If you've achieved something worth mentioning in your application, show how you did it.

Proofread and Edit

Perhaps this is not the first, second, or third time you're reading about it. Still, you'll get shocked by the number of times admission officers have encountered application essays with a ton of grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes, sentence structure problems, and many other errors. 

Sometimes this happens when students rush their essay writing process up partly due to procrastination or other reasons. As a rule, you should give your essay writing process ample time so that after writing, you're left with more time to proofread it thoroughly.

You can use a spell checker tool like Grammarly and Hemmingway App or ask a friend to read over your essay for you.


To wrap up, here are the practical tips for writing a winning scholarship essay.

  • Plan your writing in advance
  • Understand the essay prompt 
  • Know the word count required
  • Choose an interesting topic
  • Conduct some research 
  • Create an outline
  • Start strong 
  • Demonstrate your character
  • Be proud, but don't brag
  • Show emotions 
  • Proofread and edit
  • Show, don't tell

That's how to write an excellent college application essay!

Good luck!