Essays

The pieces of your application:

essays fafsa transcripts letters other pieces of your application

Don't be scared

The scholarship essay can be one of the most intimidating parts of your scholarship application.  But don't worry, we are here to help.  Plus there are other people around you that want to help, too.  Let's get started.

Not all scholarship essays follow an exact formula, but these steps are a good place to start. Essays generally focus on the following three topics:

  • Career goal essay: describe your career goal and academic plan
  • Life experience essay: life experiences and motivation
  • Giving back essay: how you give back to the community

When should I do this and how long will it take?

Since many scholarship applications open in January, you can start in the fall. The bulk of your essay writing will happen in November through February. As far as the amount of time you should spend, everyone will be different, but a good rule of thumb is to spend 15 to 20 minutes a day on each essay until you are satisfied with them.

1. Pick topics

The hardest part of applying for scholarships? Writing the essays! - PCC Foundation
Scholarship Winner

You're first step will be deciding what you are going to write about. Go back to the self-evaluation you completed on Explore your strengths.

  • Career goal essay: This topic will be what you wrote in part 1 of your self-evaluation.
  • Life experience essay: From the answers in part 2 of your self-evaluation, select one response that shows you have learned from your challenges or appreciate the good things in your life.
  • Giving back essay: From the answers in part 3 of your self-evaluation, select one response that shows you are motivated to benefit your community.

2. Create outlines

Ask yourself, "How does this show that I am a tenacious person who will take full advantage of the few opportunities offered to me?" They want to know that an investment in you will pay off with a heartwarming success story. - Scholarship Winner

It's easier to write essays if you first make a clear outline of your thoughts.

  • Career goal essay: Outline your career choice, your academic plan, and the potential community benefit of this career.
  • Life experience essay: Outline the experience that you are going to talk about. Describe how it has affected you and what you have learned from it.
  • Giving back essay: State the service you are going to talk about, and outline two things you have learned by providing this service.

3. Get specific

Now fill out your outline with the details of your story. Keep in mind these guidelines:

  • Limit your scope: Make sure you are answering every part of the essay question, but don't try to cover too much material. You can get bogged down with trying to tell everything about you, when you should focus on just one or two things.
  • Focus on what you learned: If you describe challenges, focus on how you overcame them and what you've learned. Don't let your struggles be the bulk of your essay.  Show us how you have become stronger, wiser and better equipped for future challenges.
  • Tell your story: It doesn't have to be a research paper - you are making a personal connection with your reader. So tell your story as if you are describing yourself to a new friend.
Use details

Make sure your responses are detailed - specific examples will bring your essays to life.

Bad Bland Better
I have integrity. I tried to discourage cheating when I worked as a tutor. When I tutored in Geography, I noticed that a student was drawing a map on his hand before a test. I confronted him about it...
My family was a big influence on me. I saw how hard my family worked to ensure that I did well in school. My mom used to pass out math worksheets to keep me occupied on the long drive to see Grandma. And then grandma would grade them!
Education was not a big deal in my family. Knowing that education was not a priority in my family pushed me to do more. I would lay in bed at night dreaming about the chance to be the first member of my family to attend college. I made it a goal to make education a priority in my life.

4. Revision & feedback

Get feedback from multiple sources on each piece of the application (the more brutally honest the source, the better off you are). Rewrite and repeat until none of your sources can find anything wrong with it. Make sure that your essay shows you to be a person who is disadvantaged by circumstances and not by your current attitude toward life. - Scholarship Winner

Getting other people to read your essays and taking plenty of time to revise your essays is crucial. If your application is in the running for a scholarship, you don't want misspelling, poor grammar and missed punctuation to be the reason you did not receive the scholarship. Have a lot of people read your essays and give you feedback, especially people who will be honest enough to give constructive criticism and not just tell you it's good. You can always improve an essay.

Use every resource available to you: