How To Start a College Scholarship Essay (With 12 Examples)

By: Rafal Reyzer
Updated: Oct 4th, 2023

how to start a college scholarship essay - featured image

So, you have a college scholarship essay to write… are you already typing away?

Or are your fingers hovering over the keyboard, not knowing how to start?! Well, don’t panic! I’m here to help you get started. I’ll even give you a few content examples and pointers on how to start a college scholarship essay.

Starting a College Scholarship Essay – General tips

Let’s start with a few general tips to get you started, shall we?

Tip 1: Answer the question

Usually, you will have a prompt to focus your essay on, so start there. You might be asked about how you show leadership skills, or how’s your community spirit. Whatever the starting point, think about how you are going to answer that question. But it’s not just that, is it? You also need to sell yourself!

Tip 2: Make it personal

I know it seems tricky, but the reader doesn’t just want to read your answer to their question.

They also want to know:

  • Why they should support you in your studies?
  • What skills do you bring to your course of choice?
  • How you might grow if they offer you the scholarship?
  • What experience do you have that makes you a good candidate?

This might seem like a lot to cover, but don’t worry, I’ll walk you through it! I’m also going to give you examples of what to put in your piece, remember? So, you will know exactly how to start a college scholarship essay.

Tip 3: Don’t wait to get started

If you’ll remember one thing, let it be this: plan! Don’t leave writing your essay until the night before it is due. You won’t do yourself justice and it will reflect in the quality of your writing. Evangelist and founder of Navigators, a worldwide Christian organization, Dawson Trotman once said:

“The greatest amount of wasted time is the time not getting started.”

Tip 4: Stand out

Your essay will be one of the many submissions the university or institution has received, so you need to make it stand out from the crowd. The best way to do this is with a strong introduction. It needs to grab the reader’s attention and keep it. Ask a question, and speak to the reader. Citing statistics or RELEVANT quotes can also be a great way to do this. Find what works for you, but make sure you have a great hook in the first few lines. It’s also important that you avoid clichés. By definition, a cliché is an overused phrase. If you want your scholarship essay to stand out, don’t use them!

standing out from the crowd

Standing out in a field of thousands of applicants may seem easier said than done. But there are strategies you can employ to boost your chances of getting noticed.

How to Start a College Scholarship Essay – Examples of What to Write About:

Now that we’ve got some general tips, how about those content examples I promised you?! Here are some ideas on how you could frame your essay. If you still don’t know how to start your college scholarship essay, you soon will!

1. What are you passionate about?

You can frame your essay around something you are passionate about. It should also relate to the course you are applying for. Think about how you can show that passion. Examples from your childhood are always a winner here. Can you show you’ve been passionate about animals since you were a toddler and rescued a frog from the garden? Do you have an aptitude for math since kindergarten? Or perhaps, you are obsessed with robotics and building machines. Whatever is your chosen field of study, tell the reader why you care.

students learning the principles of engineering

2. Your 5-year plan

You can write about how your chosen course and college fit into your 5-year plan. How will this scholarship impact what you aim to accomplish? You need to prove the benefits of getting the scholarship. This also shows the screening committee you are serious about your future. You must impress them you have strong career aspirations. Remember when I mentioned the importance of planning with your essay? You can apply it in your life too!

3. When things go wrong

If you’re still wondering how to start your college scholarship essay, this is for you. You don’t always need to talk about things that are going well. Sometimes it’s great to write about a time when life didn’t go your way. Did you grow up in a dysfunctional home? Did you survive a life-threatening sickness or accident? It’s a learning opportunity, right? So, what did you learn from those trials and unfortunate chapters of your life? Showing the readers how you overcome challenges and adversities can tell them a lot about you as a person.

4. Your driving force

It’s interesting to learn what makes a person tick. Tell your reader what drives you to achieve your goals. Are you making family members proud? Trying to prove someone wrong? Whatever pushes you will explain a lot about your motivation. Trust me, it will interest your reader. You can project yourself to be like “The Little Engine That Could”, and others will root for you as you chug along to your target destination.

determined surfer

Strong motivation and determination can turn what seems impossible to possible.

5. Who believes in you?

Maybe the question isn’t what drives you, but who? If there is a special someone who believes in what you can do, let your reader know. There is someone who sees your strength and determination, so tell your reader why. They want to know that you will succeed if they support you. Explaining why someone has faith that you will reach your goals can be a great way to show that you will!

6. Quote of your life

A great way to summarize your story so far is by using a quote that does the work for you! This can also be a useful way to grab your reader’s attention. Starting your scholarship essay with a quote can be wonderful, but make sure it is relevant! An adage may sound interesting, but if you don’t live by its words, why would others care? Stating it willy-nilly is just a way to lose your readers’ attention. You don’t want to do that!

7. Personal connection

Do you have a personal link to the college or scholarship you are applying for? This is a great time to mention it! For instance, following in the footsteps of your ancestors is an interesting talking point. If you have that going for you, don’t shy away from it. You can even frame your essay around this. Start by explaining what character traits you have in common with them. After all, they were successful, so you will be too, right?

mom and daughter on graduation

Having a parent or other influential people in your life who graduated from the university you are applying to is worth mentioning in your essay.

8. Show off your research

When you were thinking about how to start your college scholarship essay, you did some research, right? You will have learned about the college or scholarship fund you are applying for. What did you find out along the way? If you learned something surprising or intriguing, this could give you a great start. It will show off your research and give you a chance to explain why you are a great fit for the college.

9. Learning through life

Most colleges want you to put what you learn into practice. Show them you already do! Discussing how you use your subject in your everyday life (with examples!) will interest your reader. They will want to know more about the practical applications of your studies. Do you use chemistry to create ‘magic’ or your knowledge of physics to design a new toy for your sibling? Practical examples of applied learning are exactly what your reader will want to see.

10. Are you ready?

The people who decide whether you are worthy of the scholarship will want to know that you are mature and ready to make the most of the opportunity. Are you ready? You can frame your essay by explaining how you know you are up to the challenge. You might even want to start with the signs you weren’t ready yet, and how they have changed over time. Whatever you say, conclude that you are ready to do your best now!

11. Why are you applying?

This might seem basic, but sometimes it’s the easiest to forget! Occasionally, we can be so busy trying to write unique scholarship essays that we forget the most primeval question… ‘Why are you applying?’ Make sure you address this! You don’t want to leave your reader wondering, that’s for sure.

12. Starting young

Did you find joy in a certain school subject from a young age? Demonstrating a lifelong passion for your chosen subject shows dedication. The scholarship committee wants to know if they are supporting someone who is fully committed. What better way to tell them this than showing you’ve always loved your chosen field?! For example, you’ve been practicing playing the piano every day since you were a kid, and you are now hoping to get accepted into Juilliard on a scholarship.

child taking piano lesson


These examples should provide some sparks on how to start your college scholarship essay. There are so many ways to go about it. Whichever way you pursue, remember: to focus on the question, make it personal, and find ways to make your writing stand out. Next up, you may want to explore a guide on how to write a narrative essay about overcoming a challenge.

Rafal Reyzer

Rafal Reyzer

Hey there, welcome to my blog! I'm a full-time entrepreneur building two companies, a digital marketer, and a content creator with 10+ years of experience. I started to provide you with great tools and strategies you can use to become a proficient digital marketer and achieve freedom through online creativity. My site is a one-stop shop for digital marketers, and content enthusiasts who want to be independent, earn more money, and create beautiful things. Explore my journey here, and don't miss out on my AI Marketing Mastery online course.