Getting a scholarship is a blessing not only for a high school or college student but for the family as well.
It’s extremely difficult to obtain a full-ride scholarship, but you can easily find college scholarships that provide smaller amounts ranging from $1000 to $5000 if you have the right approach. This is a great remedy for mounting college debt and other costs.
But one obstacle you will have to go through to secure the financing is writing the scholarship essay. It’s hard to fathom that many students fail to realize and harness the tremendous power of a well-written essay. It is one of the basic requirements for college admission. Most, if not all exams to get into higher academic programs such as the MCAT for aspiring doctors, or the LSAT for those trying to get into law school, or the GMAT for those who aim for an MBA, have essay questions. The same goes for professional licensure exams.
An essay is meant to provide answers to those who want to know who you are, what you have to offer, and what do you stand for. And one of the top questions many students have to answer is: “Why do you deserve this scholarship?”
In this article, I will tell you exactly how to answer this question and maximize your chances of getting the scholarship. In the end, you will also find an example of an essay, you can use as an inspiration. Also, if you want to put your writing skills to the test, get my report on how to earn money from home as a freelance writer.
The keys to a successful scholarship essay (summary):
- The right length – around 500 words.
- Proper formatting, grammar, and vocabulary.
- Give strong reasons why you deserve it.
- Share powerful, memorable stories.
- Use language that will create an emotional impact.
- Give proof of your accomplishments.
- Grab their attention at the very beginning of the essay.
- Show your positive attitude.
- Paint a bright future for yourself.
- Politely ask for the money.
- Follow the essay instructions closely
- Cater to the scholarship provider’s mission and vision
The book also contains interview strategies and examples of bad writing to avoid. Available in paperback and Kindle edition.
Why do you deserve this scholarship – How to write an essay that will get the $$$?
1. Write at least 500 words
This will show that you care and really want the scholarship. But at the same time, the essay won’t be too long to bore the review committee.
2. Respect the grammar, vocabulary, and formatting rules
5 paragraphs (1 for introduction, 3 body paragraphs, and 1 for the conclusion). Make sure the essay is free of typos, and grammatical errors (use Grammarly to avoid embarrassing mistakes). That’s the first step to writing a winning scholarship essay.
3. Give strong reasons for why you deserve the scholarship and what will you do with the money – be specific.
Powerful reasons drive human behavior. You can think about your essay as a persuasive letter that needs to evoke certain feelings and emotions.
Brainstorm and come up with a few great reasons why you deserve it. Adding the word “because” dramatically increases the chances of eliciting a positive response.
A famous example from a persuasion study:
“I have 5 pages, can I use the Xerox machine before you because I’m in a rush” got a 94% success rate vs. 60% when no “reason why” was given.
An example you could use in your scholarship essay:
“I deserve this scholarship because I graduated top of my class, even though I still had to help my little sister with her homework”.
“I would be so grateful if I could receive this scholarship because my family is in a tough financial situation now, and my younger sister also dreams about going to college”.
4. Include a powerful, memorable story
There was one essay that got a student into 14 colleges, including Harvard, Stanford, and Princeton. Although a scholarship essay is a bit different, you can use principles from an admissions essay to achieve desired results.
The secret ingredient in this one, was a powerful personal story, about bullying, and reconciliation with a homeland.
Here’s an excerpt:
This memory has woven itself into my philosophy and my dreams. The very personal knowledge that millions live in a way such that electric toothbrushes are an unfathomable luxury (my cousin, Aina), has given me the following personal rules:
Education is an opportunity, not a burden;
You always have enough to share.
While I may not be certain of my future, I know for certain that I want to serve.
If you can, include a beautifully written, personal story like this in the essay, you will be so much closer to getting the scholarship you deserve.
5. Use words with an emotional impact
Pushing the right emotional buttons is key to persuasion. Don’t hesitate to share stories of your hardships.
If you’re in a tough financial situation, say it. If someone in your family is chronically ill and you need financial and emotional resources to help them, say it.
But mostly, focus on positive emotions. Talk about your childhood dreams, and about the great things you are going to do in the future.
In a great book called “Contagious”, emotional triggers were one of the five main elements that help things spread and make us take action. Use them.
Example: “Since I was a little boy I always wanted to be a great scientist. I used to hang posters of astronauts and planets on my bedroom walls and dreamed about making grand discoveries. This dream is still alive somewhere deep inside. But now I’m not sure how to nurture it. I would really like to concentrate on my studies, but because of my hard financial situation, I have to take odd-jobs instead of following my dreams”.
6. Give proof of why you deserve it
If you really want to convince the committee that you truly deserve to receive a scholarship, you need to back up your claims with solid proof.
It’s not enough to share powerful stories, and give strong “reasons why”. You also need to make the case more believable by proving that what you say is true.
You need to be really specific in this area.
You had excellent grades in high school? Your GPA is off the charts? Did you take part in interesting extracurricular activities? Do you have high achievements in the area of sports and athletics? Did you win an award for your accomplishments? An important person gave you words of praise? Did you score north of 1400 on your SAT or notched a score of at least 24 on the ACT?
You can use these things to make your claim more believable. Make it appear that you deserve the money because of your true and honest accomplishments and hard work.
Example: “In my senior year of High School, I received the MVP award for my accomplishments in football. My coach said he sees me in the big leagues if I work hard enough for it.”
7. Hook – get attention from the very beginning
The scholarship committee has to go through dozens and dozens of essays and applications every day. Most of them are quite bland and follow the same tired script.
To stand out, you need to come up with an attention-grabbing paragraph that will stop them in their tracks and get them focused. This is called a “hook”.
There are a couple of ways in which you can do it. You can start with:
- An anecdote
- An interesting number or are a statistic
- A powerful quote
- Asking a question
Example: “More than 70 percent of workers say they don’t feel satisfied with their career choices, and I believe we have a serious epidemic on our hands.”
8. Show the right attitude
Being humble yet eager and ambitious is the attitude you need to present if you want to get the scholarship.
Do not be demanding, arrogant, or appear as a beggar. This will disqualify you immediately.
Rather, be nice, positive, optimistic, future-oriented, respectful, and promising. This kind of attitude goes a long way.
9. Paint a bright future
Try to stir the imagination of the recipients of your essay. How this money is going to help you move ahead? What great things are you going to accomplish in the future? What do you want to do when you graduate? What are your goals for the next 5 years? How are you going to help people and contribute to society?
By answering some of these questions, you will prove to the committee that you are worth investing in.
Example: “Deep inside I know that I’m going to succeed, and help many other people on the way. This is just a matter of time.”
10. Call to action (close the essay with a bang)
At the very end of the essay, try to sum up why do you deserve the scholarship and then politely but firmly ask for the money. You need to state your intention – “ ask and ye shall receive, right?”
Example: “I have great expectations for the future and this scholarship would help me to move forward with my dreams. I will be eagerly waiting for your positive response.”
Additional tips for editing and managing the scholarship essay
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are over 750,000 scholarships available to students. That’s over $122 billion distributed every year. In fact, around two-thirds of students receive some form of financial aid during their time in college.
So – someone is getting the money. And that’s why you need to apply and send the essays to as many scholarship and grant-giving organizations as possible. Treat it as a part-time job.
Now, among these 750,000 organizations (whether federal, university-based, or private), the majority will ask in one way or another: “why should you receive this scholarship”?
Of course, you will not send a completely unique essay along with every single application.You need to learn how to intelligently recycle it, and adapt it to the specific situation.
For example, if you apply for a university scholarship, the focus should be on scholastic achievements and a future in science and technology. If it’s a military organization, talk more about self-discipline, organization, and willpower.
Religious groups? Adjust the essay so it relates to faith-based communities. Businesses? Talk about the entrepreneurship of the student, and their ability to get things done.
You get the point.
When writing the essay, put yourself in the other person’s shoes and think – “if I were this person, which reasons would convince me that this student deserves a scholarship?”
Turn yourself and your child into a scholarship-copywriter and adapt the approach as you go. There’s nothing that will get the application rejected faster than receiving a “cookie-cutter” type of essay that goes to hundreds of organizations without any changes.
An example of a “why do you deserve this scholarship” essay
Note: See how the essay includes the rules and elements I described at the beginning of this article.
Also: If you need more inspiration, here are fourteen examples of scholarship essays that won thousands of dollars.
Two-thirds of students who earned a four-year degree borrowed for college. And the average student loan is $28,500. These numbers seem mild in comparison to what I and my family are facing.
My older brother and sister are already in college because my mom always wanted us to be well educated and make a positive impact on society. But this has caused us to borrow, and now we’re over $60,000 in debt. Our father is never here to help us as he left us when we were still small children.
But this hasn’t stopped me from dreaming and painting a brighter vision for my future. I know that to get out of this situation, I will have to work harder than anyone else around me. Even though I’m young, I have already worked part-time in a local cafeteria and earned a little bit of money on the side as a blogger to help my family.
My true vocation is architecture. Ever since I was a child, I used to flip through the pages of “The Most Beautiful Buildings in The World” book in the nearby library, and think that one day, I too will be able to construct magnificent structures full of light and color.
I’m drawing as much as I can, and I have already filled 12 notebooks with my projects. I also receive straight “A’s” in mathematics and physics since the very beginning of my school time. I even got first place in my high school art competition and my teachers say I’m going to accomplish great things in the future.
I am dedicated to succeeding no matter what, but nowadays it’s becoming harder and harder because I have to save every penny and worry about money almost all the time.
I fear that instead of pursuing my dream, I will have to settle for a low-paying job simply to survive and help out my mom. But I don’t want to postpone my studies and wait until my siblings pay off their debt. I don’t want to put everything on hold.
If I received a little bit of financial help, it would be so much easier for me to go through college and become somebody.
I deserve this scholarship because of my hard work, dedication, fantastic grades, and my entrepreneurial spirit. I promise I will make this money go a long way and continue with my efforts to make the world a better place. I’m eagerly waiting for your response.
As you can see, writing a “why do you deserve this scholarship” essay is not as complicated as it seems. Once you have the final draft, you can use it as a template (with modifications), when applying for many different scholarships.
The important thing is to push the right emotional buttons, share the exact reasons why you deserve the money, and never give up until you get the scholarship.
Don’t trust the companies that say they will find the scholarships for you and write the best essay that will guarantee success. No one cares about your situation more than you, and it’s you who need to put in the work, to make it work. Good luck!