Though writing an essay for a scholarship application can be a daunting task, think of it as an opportunity to showcase your abilities and talents to the scholarship committee. By accentuating your strengths through your writing, you will be able to effectively communicate that you are a deserving candidate for their award.
Strive to illustrate your strengths and experience when writing essays for a scholarship application. Throughout your life, you continually discover your talents and abilities. As you develop these talents, they become your strengths in life. Try to demonstrate multiple strengths in your essays. Possible topics that you could illustrate in a scholarship essay include service, leadership, academics, arts, athletics, entrepreneurship, creative talent, leadership, diversity, challenges overcome, and community involvement. Decision-makers for the scholarship program will see your strengths and abilities as reasons why you are worthy of a scholarship.
Add Variety to Your Strengths
Convince selection committees that your talents and experiences are expansive. Demonstrate the variety of your strengths by dividing them into categories and highlighting each one. Below are examples of how you can emphasize the following strengths:
- Service by describing service projects you performed for your church, community, and school or work
- Leadership by outlining leadership positions in your church, community, and school or work
- Athletics by highlighting the top three sports that you excel in: football, soccer, tennis, cheerleading, track, field, or other
- Academics by specifying your top three academic subjects in school: math, science, history, civics, economics, English, or other
- Creative talent by explaining your talents: visual arts, music, dance, poetry, or other
- Any other talent or ability by identifying three ways you have demonstrated that strength in your life
Give Your Strengths Magnitude
In addition, you should show selection committees that you have developed each of your strengths extensively. Tell them how your accomplishments set you apart from others. Demonstrate the magnitude of your strengths by sharing at least three accomplishments within each category. We call this method of presenting your skills and accomplishments “powerstatements.”
Two important concepts govern the preparation of power statements:
- Highlight the skill you are presenting by using “power words,” such as motivated, organized, responsible, problem-solver, and other words that describe your particular strengths.
- Describe something you accomplished with the skill you are presenting. You may include a challenge you faced, actions you performed to overcome the challenge, and the results of your actions. Try to quantify the results of your accomplishments to show your value to a scholarship committee.
Some Examples of Power Statements:
I can achieve results. For example, I planned, organized, and led a charity project that packaged over 5,000 boxes of humanitarian supplies for victims of Hurricane Irene. The whole project was completed and shipped in one day.
I have organization management skills. For example, I reorganized my company’s manufacturing department, increasing yield by 15 percent.
I am an over-achiever. For example, I maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout college while working full-time, taking honors courses, and serving as the president of the Education Society on campus.
I am dedicated. For example, I won the city and regional championship in the 5K by training four hours daily to improve my running time by 45%.
I am creative. For example, I designed a new product line that increased my company’s revenue by $25,000.
By expressing the variety of your strengths, you will show that you are a skilled and well-rounded individual. By expressing the magnitude of your strengths, you will prove that you are accomplished in those areas of your life. Using power statements to deliver these messages will communicate your value with greater impact to selection committees. These applied techniques will create an essay that is more impressive and persuasive of your qualifications.
For more information about scholarships, see the following:
Letters of Recommendation
Scholarship Master Application
Topics for Scholarship Essays
How to Strengthen a Scholarship Essay
Finding Financial Aid on LDSjobs.org
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Having been blessed with scholarships that paid for about one third of my college education, I'll share a tip that helped me write strong essays: State accomplishments, not adjectives. In other words, this tip applies the classic writing advice, "Show, don't tell."
Accomplishments are clearer than adjectives are. See, anyone can write, "I'm very hardworking, dedicated, and responsible." Not everyone can write, "I have a 3.9 GPA, volunteer for six hours a week at my church, and am treasurer of the student council." Stating accomplishments shows how you're unique and possibly even how you're better than the other applicants. Adjectives give vague ideas of your abilities. Accomplishments clarify what you've done and what you can do in the future.
Detailing two or three accomplishments rather than stating four or five adjectives can also help readers get to know you better. Why is that beneficial? The more readers feel that they know you, the more memorable you'll be when it's time to select the winning essays.
Why do I advise detailing just two or three accomplishments? First, this will keep the essay focused, which also makes you a more memorable applicant. People probably won't remember essays that read like autobiographies. They're more likely to remember the essay about "the girl who survived cancer who now aspires to be an oncologist." Accomplishments are usually more interesting to read than adjectives. Capturing and maintaining readers' interest in your writing is vital.
Second, sticking to two or three accomplishments will keep the essay concise, which is important if there's a length limit. Even if there isn't a length limit, remember that scholarship providers are busy people. An essay that conveys its message in two pages will probably work better than an essay that needs three pages to do so.
Third, if you dislike writing transitions between points (which I did when I wrote my essays), including only two or three detailed points will lower the number of transitions necessary.
Try replacing adjectives with concrete accomplishments, and you could win the next scholarship you apply for!
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