University of Louisville
Scholarship Application Essay
Please note that we also have handouts regarding application essays for graduate school and personal statements if you are looking for information in those related categories.
The application essay is an important place for you to show how you uniquely fulfill the criteria that the evaluation committee is looking for. One of the most important things you can do is make sure that each application essay is tailored to the specific prompt that you are answering.
Analyze the writing prompt
· How many questions does the prompt call on you to answer?
§ For example: A prompt for a scholarship awarded to future educators might ask “What goals do you have for yourself as a teacher? What person or experience has inspired you to make them your goals? Tell us about your experiences and achievements related to teaching.”
o Note each request the prompt makes so that you can check later to make sure you have answered each request.
§ What goals do you have for yourself as a teacher?
§ What person or experience has inspired you to make these your goals?
§ Tell us about your experiences and achievements related to teaching.
· Does the prompt suggest an order or does it call on you to organize your essay as you see fit?
o Some essays will tell you to write about an experience first and then explain how that experience makes you a good candidate for their scholarship. Other prompts will allow you to decide how to organize your essay.
§ For the example prompt above, you can see that the questions in the prompt lead you toward a loose organization for your essay: You should talk about your inspiration and then describe an experience or two that display qualities that would make you a good teacher. Finally, you could connect your inspiration and experiences to the goals that you have for your future teaching career.
· Why is the prompt asking these questions? What are the judges trying to find out about you in this essay?
o Answering these questions will help you determine which of your qualities to emphasize.
§ For example: The prompt above asks about your source of inspiration even before asking about your experiences and achievements. It is reasonable to conclude that the organization values someone who is clearly determined and inspired to succeed more than someone who has a lot of experience, but is not as clearly passionate. You can adapt your response to emphasize your inspiration.
Study the organization granting the scholarship
· What is the mission statement of the organization?
o You might consider only applying to organizations that you know support qualities that you have.
o Make sure to emphasize any of your qualities that align with the organization’s goals.
§ For example: Let’s imagine that you go to a sponsoring organization’s website and find that it values volunteering. If you have volunteer experience be sure to emphasize it in your essay.
· What does the organization want to achieve with this scholarship?
o This question might lead to many of the same answers as the previous question, but in a large organization there might be multiple scholarships that focus on different organizational goals.
o Keep the goal of your specific scholarship in mind as well as the organization’s larger goals.
§ For example: If the organization’s goals are to improve the quality of education for a certain group or in a certain region, then you should focus on how your goals align with those of the organization. How will you help the organization achieve their goals?
Map out how you will appeal to the judging committee
· Using the information you have collected from analyzing the prompt and researching the organization granting the scholarship, you should now be able to decide which attributes, values, and experiences you need to focus on.
· Plan how you will appeal to the committee in your essay.
· Decide how those goals fit into a larger theme that will tie your essay together.
§ For example: If you are applying for a medicine-related scholarship you may want to show how your goals tie into how you will be a successful medical professional.
· Once you feel done with the essay, put it down for a couple days. Then read it over to make sure that the content and organization fulfill the requirements of the prompt and the plan that you made for the essay.
· Have someone else read through your essay and identify places that might need more explanation. Have the reader identify the main reasons why you should be selected for the scholarship. Do the reasons the reader identifies match the reasons you wanted to emphasize?
· Avoid clichés
o Remember that the purpose of your application essay is to make the committee see you as an individual worthy of support. Using clichés won’t make you stand out.
§ For example, don’t say “I am interested in becoming a nurse because I will have the chance to help many people in the course of my career.” Instead, use an example from your life to show how you have helped others in the past.
· Show, don’t tell (be specific)
o Just as the previous example indicates, it is better to show the committee your qualities rather than just tell them.
§ For example, don’t say “I am a good leader because I have had experience leading others in the past.” Instead, describe a specific case in which you showed leadership.
· Read your essay, re-read your essay
o Once you have read for content and organization, proofread your essay as closely as possible. If possible, have someone else proofread your essay as well.
o Before you send the essay, read through the final, printed copy one more time to make sure there are no typos or other errors.
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