Tips for Success at Writing and Applying for Scholarship Essays

Tips for Success at Writing and Applying for Scholarship Essays

Kate Kovachevich, Staff Writer

I can see it now: trading in parents for roommates, classes of 25 people for lectures of 250, and nights in for nights out. When I was applying for college in the tail-end of summer, my heart longed for private schools, the ones that have dorms that look like castles and are set in fairy tale-esque woods, but my I could feel my wallet getting thinner and thinner as I looked at the price tag. 25 thousand turned into 35, then 45, 55, and I stopped looking after 65 thousand for tuition alone. After that college “search,” I began to think state schools weren’t that bad. I would still get an education, right?

Fast-forward to early spring and here I am, applying for FAFSA to try and scrounge up any aid I can possibly get. I’ve answered the same questions on financial aid applications a thousand times. “Please list the total amount you currently have in all checkings/savings accounts as well as any cash assets.” Does a coupon for a free Qdoba burrito count as “cash assets?” If you’re anything like me and the 55% of seniors in Michigan (according to edcentral.org) who applied for FAFSA, and are still needing aid to pay for tuition, looking into private scholarships might seem like a good idea. However, to complete as many scholarship applications as possible, you will have to mentally prepare yourself. Keep the following tips in mind as you begin to exhibit early signs of carpal tunnel.

1.   Scholarship essay prompts are essentially all the same: they are all asking you to describe how you’re different from the rest of the greedy seniors who are “going places.”

Pro Tip: if you organize all of your scholarship essays in one place, you will eventually write enough to copy and paste a paragraph from each and formulate them into one killer essay. It’s a pastiche of great works, and the universality of scholarship prompts allow you to piece them together. A few tweaks and the scholarship essay readers will think you spent hours on this essay just for them.

2.   You may feel tempted to write sarcastic and catty responses to prompts, and that is okay. (i.e. “Why do you want to pursue a study in international relations and affairs?” “Because I want to.” or “In 500 words or less, describe why you should be awarded this award.” “Pls.”) I actually encourage you to write these type of responses: they better your chances at winning the awards.

3.   When an essay says it has a maximum word limit of something miniscule such as 250 or 300 words, you will have enough words to basically write your name. Alternatively, if the essay has a word limit of anything over 800 words, that means you will have to do hours of research in addition to the time spent writing the essay. This is not worth your time.

4.   The key to winning awards is increasing your odds at doing so. Pick essays with a word limit of around 500, and write 500 of those. You are bound to win at least one.

Remember, if all else fails, you are not above groveling. And if even that fails, being in debt for the rest of your life really can’t be that bad. Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor!