WHAT THE ESSAY IS NOT:
The essay is not an autobiography. It is not a copy of your latest English paper. It is not a sample of your “writing style”. It is not something you pay someone else to do for you.
WHAT THE ESSAY IS:
The essay is an opportunity for you to say important and wonderful things about you that are not covered in the application itself. It can be humorous, serious, or dramatic, but it can be only two pages long (or within the number or words or characters indicated). It is one of many factors in deciding whether or not you receive a scholarship.
Your essay should help give a more complete picture of you, including your strengths and special talents. There is no right way or wrong way to present yourself, but your essay should be organized and pleasant to read.
The essay should tell:
- Who you were (a little background about things that contributed to your development; people who made you who you are today.)
- Who you are (how you perceive yourself now, how you think, about things that are valuable to you, what things you have learned about yourself, what things you consider critical.)
- And, who you want to be (your future plans, how you think you are going to achieve them, and what you think you will accomplish.)
If you are drawing a blank on how to organize the material about yourself, the following may be helpful: Do NOT use this as the gospel-truth about writing the essay, if you have a better idea, use your own idea.
FIRST PARAGRAPH: Personal background; Introduce yourself; briefly describe your academic and professional goals, citing factors that helped you define these goals.
SECOND PARAGRAPH: Why are you qualified for these scholarships.
THIRD PARAGRAPH: Activities and awards. Although you may have listed these in the application, were there reasons why some of these were more important than others? Were some harder to get than others? How have these activities and awards influenced you?
FOURTH PARAGRAPH: College aspirations. Discuss why you want to attend college; why is an education so valuable to you?
FIFTH PARAGRAPH: Career aspirations. What do you want to do when you graduate? How did you make this choice? Do you have a major in mind to achieve this goal? Are there special areas of humanity that you would like to explore?
SIXTH PARAGRAPH: Conclusion. Summarize your educational goals. Include any special circumstances that the Scholarship Committee needs to know to make a good decision.
It IS to your advantage to submit a thoughtful, well-organized, concise and grammatically correct essay that conveys your interests, experiences, personality, and future goals.
Before you can begin writing an essay, you need to collect (and recollect real data about yourself to jot down, notes about who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and where you are headed. Aside from its value for scholarship essays, this kind of self-assessment can be personally satisfying and enlightening. It can also help you be articulate in interviews.
To help put your thoughts into words, try the suggestion listed below. Work with as many ideas as you want in any order or length that you feel gives you the information you need.
List all your activities, including (1) school activities; (2) community services; (3) other activities (lessons, work, travel); (4) awards and honors. Include years of participation and offices held.
- Record major travel experiences. Note your strongest impressions and how they affected you. if you loved the Grand Canyon, for example, write down three specific reasons why, aside from the grandeur and beauty that everyone loves.
- Think of one or two sayings that you’ve heard again and again around your house, since childhood. How have they shaped your life?
- Describe an accomplishment that you had to struggle to achieve. Include what it was, how you tacked it, and how it changed you.
- List any shortcomings in your school record and explain why they occurred. If you could relive the last four years, what would you change and how?
A CHECKLIST OF TIPS:
Throughout the writing process—from first to final draft—consider (and reconsider) these tips for good writing:
- Keep your audience in mind. Remember that you are introducing yourself. The scholarship committee wants to know: (1) your intellectual and creative interests; (2) your personal strengths; (3) how well you write; (4) what’s special about you. Try for essays to provide positive, but realistic insights into all these areas.
- Beware of “Engfish”. Writers who try to impress readers with long-winded sentences are “Engfishing”, a common practice in school according to well-known writing teacher Kenneth Macrorie.
- Read the instructions carefully and give yourself plenty of time to thoughtfully prepare your essay.
- Follow the stated rules for format, paper, length, and content.
- Write about what is important to you and your goals and qualities.
- Personal characteristics that are important to convey include: creativity, intellectual curiosity and achievement, ability to overcome hardship, initiative, motivation, leadership, persistence, service, experience with cultural diversity, and rare talent.
- Describe one of your intellectual achievements and what you gained from it.
- Have a friend or family member give you feedback after you’ve written the essay to see if it gives adequate insight into the quality of your character and achievements.
- Don’t simply list your accomplishments and honors; a list tells the Scholarship committee what you’ve done, not who you are.
- Avoid stereotypical statements that do not give insight into who you uniquely are.
- Avoid giving information in a predictable manner.
- Don’t be so over-concerned with style of writing that you omit the heart of the statement – a clear picture of who you are.