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  • Writer's pictureJeff Boron

How to Write a Scholarship Essay - College Planning 101

Here at Send Your Kids to College, we pride ourselves on being the top college planning team in Western New York. We are seasoned in helping students and families better understand what they need to do to position themselves in the best way possible for financial aid and paying for college. You may have heard, but SYKTC does provide a unique scholarship opportunity for students of WNY...

Scholarships can be a HUGE help for students and their wallets. If you happen to be an athlete, you may be able to help pay for school with a partial or full scholarship, but not every athlete gets a scholarship, few do really.

In preparation for this season's 2022 Young Achiever's Scholarship, we wanted to provide a bit of a head start for students who may be applying or applying to another scholarship. Today we wanted to provide a few tips to think about when crafting your scholarship application essay.

Three Tips for Writing a Scholarship Essay

1. Show, Don't Tell.

This is possibly the best advice anyone will ever give you in the world of writing, and becoming a professional. Whether you are writing an essay for a scholarship application or writing your first research paper in college, this advice should stick in your head. This is the "cardinal rule" of creative writing. Paint a vivid picture for your reader, rather than over-explaining. Rather than saying how stressful juggling work and school and sports are, illustrate specific real-world stories that your reader can feel and visualize as they read.

Bottom line, use your creativity and patience to SHOW enough evidence to let the reader make the decision to award you, don't TELL them why you deserve it.

2. Brainstorm & Free-Write

If you haven't learned this key component of successful writing, we are here to remind you that brainstorming and free-writing are some of the most important phases of your final draft. You may think that until that X amount of words are down on paper, you aren't done, but really, your work is done (essentially) after the brainstorm and free-write phase.

How to "Free-Write"

Providing yourself with a free mind, and allowing your ideas to flow freely for 5-10 minutes without stopping is a great way to get the mind flowing.

  1. Clear your mind. Relax, forget rules and concerns.

  2. Set a time limit for your free write, 5-10 minutes for beginners.

  3. WRITE ANYTHING THAT YOU THINK OF, DO NOT STOP. Write whatever comes to mind, even if you have nothing on your mind. "I have nothing on my mind, I have nothing on my mind," you can keep writing this and it is okay. We are trying to free your mind and open it up.

  4. When your timer ends, stop and write nothing else. Now go back to the beginning, read it slowly, and underline your good ideas that surfaced.

  5. Take these best ideas and map them on a page, and if needed, repeat this process!

Having the first step of freewriting is not always taught, but it is a great way to start any creative process. Using an outline taking your free-write notes and brainstorming into an intro, body, and conclusion will be helpful in getting to the end of your essay with no extra fat...

3. Trim the Fat.

We certainly recommend being creative, using creative language to demonstrate your point, and separate yourself from your competition, but one thing to think about is getting to the point. You may have gotten away with some things in school that helped add words or sentences to the essay for nothing more than volume, but as you enter college, scholarship givers and your professors won't accept any extra writing "fat."

What is "Writing Fat?"

Anything that doesn't NEED to be said, doesn't NEED to be said. The simplest, most direct word choices are usually the most effective. You want to avoid making generalizations that don't provide direct, specific evidence. You don't want to use boastful or flowery language, but be succinct and effective in your communication.


The following sentence has a bit too much "writing fat."

"I think I am a good candidate for the scholarship because of my grades being high and because I am a ridiculously hard worker in the classroom."

Measure the effectiveness versus the following,

"Relentless hard work helped me achieve high results in the classroom."

We aim to continue this series to help scholarship applicants be better writers. Stay tuned here on the blog for more Scholarship Applicant Writing tips, in addition to future helpful information for students and families planning ahead for college! Thank you for reading and remember to follow us on Facebook! Keep on the lookout for the 2022 Young Achiever's Scholarship!


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