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Academic Advice: Scholarship Essays

Published on 7/15/2021 8:57:40 AM
By Sydnie Harrell, Office of Undergraduate Studies at Texas A&M University
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With most university scholarship applications opening in the fall and outside scholarships having deadlines throughout the year, it can be overwhelming writing scholarship essays. Whether it’s nerves on when to get started, what to include, or how much to write, students get help from the University Writing Center. We asked UWC Program Coordinator Thadeus Bowerman for his guidance on writing scholarship essays.

“For all of these questions, we have to acknowledge how little we know about the other people applying, about how many people are applying, and about the type of answers the scholarship committee is receiving,” Bowerman said. “We can guess, of course, but we want to focus on the things we control, and we can control how we write! Remember, the people reading your essay could potentially be reading thousands of them.”


When should I start writing my scholarship essay, and what should be my first steps?


“Now! Give yourself time to get familiar with the requirements and/or the organization, and definitely give yourself time to write, revise, and get feedback. Research the organization awarding the scholarship. This can help give you a sense of what they’re looking for and what’s important to them.”

 

What point-of-view should I write my scholarship essay in?


“First person is the standard for scholarship essays; the committees want to hear about you and your experiences. Don’t be afraid to say I, me, my, etc.”

 

How can I stand out among other candidates with my scholarship essay?


“One thing to focus on, to stand out among the pile of responses, is specificity—while all the other people sending in a scholarship essay likely participated in a student organization, you might be the only person applying who is a member of, for example, the Maroon Steel Pan Ensemble at Texas A&M. Think of this for everything—instead of just high school, use the actual name of the school. Avoid generalities, and be specific where you can.”


How can I best incorporate my accomplishments into my scholarship essay?


“If the committee will have your resume/transcripts/etc., then it’s only necessary to mention the accomplishments that directly relate to the topic of your essay. You don’t want to spend a lot of time repeating information that the committee already has.”


I have free reign on my topic—what should I write about?


“Focus on the details of the scholarship itself to find what the committee considers important. If, for example, the scholarship is designed for first-generation college students, then write about your experiences related to that topic.”


I’m stuck trying to write my introduction paragraph—what should I do?


“In general, an introduction should give the committee the main points of your essay—what’s the most important thing you want to get across to readers? What is it about the scholarship that makes you a good candidate for it?  Make it easy on the committee by providing a clear statement right away.

You also don’t have to write your introduction first. When you’re drafting, you might not be clear right away on your main point. You can write the introduction last if that works for you.”
 

Can I reuse an essay I already wrote?


“Absolutely, but you’ll have to be really attentive. Remember, you’re not just applying for ‘a scholarship’—you’re applying for their specific scholarship. You can reuse some essays, but you always want to make sure you’ve revised it to focus on the specific scholarship you’ll send that essay off to.”
 

My scholarship essay requires citations—where do I find reliable sources and how do I incorporate them?


“Talk to the TAMU library. A quick tip: use Google Scholar instead of regular old Google. Additionally, it’s best to avoid using long quotations; if you use any quotations, make sure it’s because the original source says something in a really distinct way. Otherwise, focus on saying things in your own words, and use citation guides in places where you’re unsure of how best to cite. You can get feedback from the University Writing Center on this, too!”


What is the optimal length for my essay if there is no word requirement?


“Remember that the committee might be reading a lot of essays. Focus on specific points you want to get across, and stop once you feel you’ve done that. Ideally, the writing will be concise and focused, but that can sometimes be difficult to judge when you’re assessing your own writing. This is a great place to get feedback from someone else—ye olde University Writing Center is open.”


I finished my essay; how do I start the editing process?


“Get feedback! It can be difficult to really know how your writing will sound to another person, so involve another person in your revisions. If you book a UWC appointment, we can look through your essay with you (or you can upload your essay for us to read) and give you our impressions.”
 

For additional resources, students can take advantage of the UWC's Writing & Speaking Guides (accessible online 24/7). Additionally, students can make an appointment with a UWC consultant, either asynchronous or through Zoom, where they can receive writing feedback and advice.

For more information on university scholarships, students can visit: https://scholarships.tamu.edu/

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Media contact: Anna Transue, transuea@tamu.edu