How To Write An Impressive Scholarship Essay

Red neon sign with the word win. You need to write a good scholarship essay to win it

Scholarships are a great way to help pay for college. They are readily available, and the best part is they don’t need to be paid back. However, many students don’t know how to write a good scholarship essay that will impress the people who will award the scholarship.  Over the course of earning my 3 degrees (4 years), I applied to over 100 scholarships and received close to $40,000 in scholarships.

The goal of a scholarship essay is to help the scholarship provider understand the person behind the application. They need to get to know you because they want their money to go to the best student and additionally, many of the scholarship essays that they read are similar. This ultimately makes it difficult to compare and decide which student should be awarded the scholarship. Therefore, your essay is what will set you apart from other students.

Scholarship Essay vs College Admission Essay

Scholarship essays are very similar to college admission (application) essays. However, there is a difference. Scholarship essays are more about how the student’s interests and goals are associated with the organization that is giving the scholarship.

Example 1:

I am Native American, and many of the scholarships I filled out were for Native Americans only. Therefore, the prompt typically was about how I support and contribute to the Native community and/or my tribe. I had to use my scholarship essay to demonstrate how my educational goals align with the organization’s goal to enhance and benefit Native Americans. I had to prove to them that I was a good investment and that I could represent and uphold their organization’s goals. Knowing this, gave me a clear direction to write my essay.

Example 2:

If you are applying for a scholarship from an organization that is environmentally friendly or about sustainability you may gear your essay to align with this “green” focus. Write about your environmental experiences. Do you recycle, have you picked up trash or are you a part of an environmental club? Find a way to share your passion for the earth and green living.

The goal is to connect with who is sponsoring the scholarship. Always remember this as you write your scholarship essay. If you have to do some research to get a clear understanding of an organization’s goals and mission, it’s worth the extra time to learn a little bit more about the company.

College Admission Essays are more personal. Most college admissions will give you a prompt and want you to write in a specific style. Typically, that is an essay that is either a personal narrative or a memoir. Both styles draw upon real-life experiences.

These types of essays rely on thoughts, feelings, and experiences typically centered around a specific event in your life. This makes them very personal and unique to only the storyteller.

How To Write A Scholarship Essay

Your scholarship essay will look very similar to any basic essay. When writing your essay, the structure should be kept to the basics, introduction, body, and conclusion. You want your essay to have a clear beginning, middle, and end.


Most students start their introduction with their name, the school they attend, and the degree they intend to earn. You do not want to be like most students, they do not need to know your name in your scholarship essay, they have a completed scholarship application with this information. Remember the goal is to connect and show the organization that you will represent them well. Be mindful and don’t waste any of your word count on statements that are not needed.

Instead, introduce yourself by stating a passion, interest, or goal that aligns with what the organization represents. This grabs the reader’s attention. Include information about the degree you’re pursuing and what you intend to do after you graduate. Be sure to connect it and tie it in with what the organization embodies.


The body of your scholarship essay may be several paragraphs based on the different prompts the scholarship provider has and the length/word requirements of the essay. The body is your opportunity to connect with your reader on the things that are important to them. Since you don’t know specifically who is reading your essay, you will have to assume that the individual who reads your essay has the same values as the organization offering the scholarship.  


One of the scholarships I won had this essay prompt: how will your educational goals impact Native Americans and how do you get involved with the local community?

It is safe to assume that those who read my essay were looking for someone who beneficially impacts Native Americans and is an active member of the local community, in addition to being academically motivated to complete a college degree. Completing my education impacts the Native American community in many ways. I used a paragraph to demonstrate the different ways it affected the Native American community as well as how it would affect my tribe specifically.

It was also important to demonstrate my involvement in the local community. I used a paragraph to explain how as a Sensei, a 2nd-degree black belt in karate, I volunteer to teach classes several days a week to younger students. I am passionate about martial arts, and this was evident in my essay. Martial arts teaches life skills such as respect, discipline, self-esteem, communication, and so much more. Volunteering is a way for me to give back to my dojo and my community.

It was important for me to not stop my scholarship essay there. Technically, I satisfied the essay prompt, but I wanted to demonstrate that I go above and beyond for my community. I’m not just a student and a martial artist, I’m a good person. Therefore, I included my involvement at my school, providing an example of volunteer work for my school that was particularly memorable to me. This was an opportunity for me to explain how volunteering is rewarding and a great learning experience.


The conclusion summarizes the main points of the paper. When you write your scholarship essay start your conclusion by rephrasing your introduction statement. You want to remind your reader why you are the best candidate to receive the scholarship. Try and tie your introduction with your conclusion to bring everything full circle.

Female student sitting at a desk as she writes a scholarship essay on a computer

The Key To An Impressive Scholarship Essay

The key to a successful scholarship essay is making it personal. An essay that is real and meaningful will stand out. Remember the person who is reading the essay has probably read and reviewed hundreds of applications. Their eyes have glazed over, and you want to write something that snaps them out of it and creates a connection.

Revise And Edit

This is where you are going to fine-tune your essay into a final draft. Reread what you have written and make any necessary changes. Reorganize sentences or paragraphs to clarify or strengthen the paper.

Read your paper aloud. When you read aloud it forces you to read every word, you’ll catch errors and be able to hear the flow. Always check for spelling and grammar errors.

How To Find Scholarships

Now that you know how to write an impressive scholarship essay, let’s find some scholarships!

There so are different kinds of scholarships, some get pretty wild. However, the majority of scholarships will fall into 3 categories: need-based, merit-based, and minority-based. Within these 3 types, there are a lot of subcategories. Here are just a few.

  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Degree
  • Local community
  • Through your college
  • Religious

It’s important to know what types of scholarships you can apply for, as it will help you refine your search and save you precious time. If you qualify for a scholarship, I encourage you to apply for it.

It Will Get Easier After Your First Few Scholarship Essays

When I was searching for scholarships, I had it down to a science. I never qualified for need-based so that got rid of a lot of them. I am Native American so I could apply for some of the minority-based scholarships. However, I couldn’t apply for scholarships that were for minorities who were low-income. You will quickly figure out what you are eligible for which will help you dial in what to apply to.

The hard reality is you won’t get most of the scholarships you apply for. Don’t let this get you down. Get used to the rejections. Though hard, it’s a part of life and not a reflection of you as a person or student. When you apply for a scholarship, you are up against 100s, possibly 1,000s of other students. The odds are slim. Just let it go and keep applying.