Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Write your essays

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.

How to write the essays

1. Pick topics

Your first step will be deciding what you’re going to write about. You’ll typically want to focus on the topics you wrote about in the self-evaluation form you completed on Explore your strengths.

  • Career goal: This describes your career and academic plan that you wrote in part 1 of your self-evaluation.
  • Life experience: 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. This should help show what motivates you toward your goal.
  • Giving back: 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

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

  • Career goal: Outline your career choice, your academic plan, and the potential community benefit of this career.
  • Life experience: 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: State the service you are going to talk about, and outline two things you have learned by providing this service.

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

3. Get specific

Now that you’ve done all the planning, you can fill out your outline with the details of your story. Keep these guidelines in mind:

  • 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 yourself 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 and better details to use in your essays
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. Scholarship winner

Getting other people to read your essays and making revisions is crucial. You don’t want misspellings, poor grammar, and missed punctuation to be the reason you did not receive the scholarship.

Use every resource available to you:

You’re done with the hardest part! You’re almost done!