If you’ve finished applying to college, it’s a great time to focus on college scholarship essays. Some deadlines for college scholarships (like the Coca Cola Scholars program) have already passed, but there are still plenty of opportunities to get cash for college.
And don’t fret: You should be well prepared. By now, most college-bound high school seniors have written one or more college admissions essays and submitted at least one college application. The majority of scholarships require essays.
There are two main categories for scholarship essay questions: Personal (What is unique about students born in 1994? Why should you get this scholarship?) and Issue (Why is free expression through independent media important?).
Organizations providing scholarship dollars ask for personal essays because they want to know who you are and why they should invest in your future. They can learn about you in your essay – a story about you. A strong essay can mean the difference between getting that plum scholarship and paying for college yourself.
While the questions may be different from the Common Application, the process is the same. You must understand the prompt, and preparation is paramount. It is critical that you understand what you are trying to achieve before turning your ideas into an actual essay.
Once you understand the prompt, you can begin the brainstorming process. To do this, write down several idea options, even if you are absolutely certain of your essay topic. Describe a time when you learned something meaningful about yourself. What did you learn? What experience led up to this insight? How have you continued to apply that insight to your life?
You might also try keeping an informal journal for a day (include places you go, and record sites, noises, smells, tastes). Something might trigger a topic. You can also ask a friend to come over to your house to interview you. Take turns. One writes; the other talks. Spend 15 minutes interviewing, then switch roles. What was the most sad/happy/embarrassing/scary moment of your life? Read back what you have written for each other. See where these details take you.
After you decide on your topic, focus on your theme. Every good essay needs a theme that answers these two questions: What happened? And why does it matter? More specifically, what happened to you, and why does it matter to the person who could help pay for your college education? Why are you a good candidate for this particular scholarship? Now you are ready to write your first draft.