Applying for college scholarships is no picnic, and the essay, in particular, can send already anxious students over the edge and into a panic attack. But don’t fret: you have plenty of time to get the job done so long as you don’t procrastinate. And the sooner you get started, the more time you’ll have to write and rewrite until your essays are perfect. Still, it’s not enough to spew out the same boring stuff that gets you passing grades in English. You need to pull out all the stops. After all, your future could be on the line if you’re relying on scholarship funds for tuition and other expenses. So here are just a few tips to create a college scholarship essay that’s sure to get noticed.

  1. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Okay, using these tools correctly is not necessarily going to make your essay stand out. But if you make mistakes you’re going to stand from other applicants in a way that is not at all attractive, compelling judges to stamp a big “no” on your bid for funds. At the collegiate level, errors of this sort are not allowed and they will be glaringly obvious in your essays. So check and double-check your work, have your family and friends read it over, and take your English teacher up on his offer to take a look. The more you can do to avoid mistakes in spelling, grammar, and punctuation, the better your essay will look.
  2. Be eloquent but concise. You want to impress judges with your vast vocabulary and mastery of the English language, and the essay is the place to do it. Unfortunately, most applications impose limits on length. The thing is, they’re not entirely strict about them. Obviously they don’t have time to read a novella – top scholarship organizations see tens of thousands of applications annually. But they’re not sticklers for word count in most cases. Still, it’s easier if you shoot for just under the word count, paring down your essay to fit just within the set limit since electronic submissions can make the word count firm. It’s important to say what you need to say, but equally important to learn that to say it in a compelling and concise manner.
  3. Pick an interesting subject matter. Plenty of students have sob stories about the hardships of divorce, medical issues, or living without a lot of money. Some have even gone through discrimination or abuse by their peers and overcome. While you can certainly make such topics the focus of your essays, you might want to try straying from the beaten path if you really want to catch the attention of scholarship judges. Write about your summer spent building homes for Habitat for Humanity, or your love affair with the sport of parkour and the difficulties of training. Grab the attention of your readers. There’s nothing worse than being boring and predictable.
  4. Start and end strong. Your scholarship essays should be engaging throughout, but you want to grab readers in the beginning and leave a lasting impression, so pay particular attention to the opening and closing lines of your essay if you want to make sure readers remember your essay out of a stack of hundreds or even thousands.
  5. Speak from the heart. Most essays encourage you to reveal something about yourself, and not your favorite color or where you went on your summer vacation. Judges want to know that you are a real person who faces fears and comes out the other side, who struggles and overcomes, who has compassion for his/her fellow humans, or animals, or the environment. You have these things in you and essays give you the opportunity to wax poetic about something that drives you to do more and better, something that makes you want to attend college and become a professional making a difference in the world. If you can relate this to a scholarship panel by speaking honestly and from the heart, it’s sure to make the right king of impression. Whether you’re seeking a masters in accounting, medicine, law, or some other subject, college scholarship judges want to know why you deserve a shot and what you’ll do to make your dreams a reality. They want to know why you deserve their money and you need to tell them without sounding whiny or entitled.