Tips for writing a scholarship essay

Scholarship essays provide committees with a picture of who you are based on the questions they’ve asked. Often, these questions are meant to reveal where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going in the future. It’s also about learning how and why your experiences are important to you. For information about UM-Flint scholarship guidelines, visit: Deadline for UM-Flint scholarships is Friday, Feb. 15th.

Before you begin drafting, brainstorm to generate material about the following:

  1. What does the prompt ask of you?

    1. Make a list of each thing that’s asked of you
    2. Next to each: list several very specific examples from your life that fulfills that category. You may or may not use them all, but it helps you to find the strongest, most compelling ideas if you go beyond the surface
    3. Key: Be specific. Saying, “Ever since I was a child, I’ve always known I wanted…” to a reader this can sound boring, vague, and even if true, many people try to rely on this type of opening. So, why sound like everyone else? Find specific experiences that are interesting and unique to you.
      1. Example of a specific experience: “When I was 14, I visited a snake exhibit. I learned that snake venom was not only deadly but also a lifesaving cure. A herpetologist at the nature center demonstrated how they milk snake venom to create antidotes to treat deadly snake bites. I was fascinated and studied more about it in my high school biology class to understand how this was done. As a result, I realized I wanted to become a herpetologist, too.  To achieve my goal, I am currently majoring in biology at the University of Michigan-Flint.
      2. This example is specific and unique to this writer. It also shows what happened in the past to influence what the writer is doing now and wants to be in the future. What’s your unique story?
  2. What might the committee also be expecting that’s not listed in the prompt?
    1. First, who might your committee be and what might they be looking for?

      1. Professors: your academic aptitude, engagement as a learner, dedication, and your thoughtfulness and professionalism in writing. Consider showing examples from:

        1. Specific classes and/or class projects that connect in some way to your goals or interests
        2. What you value about your education and why
        3. A clean essay that demonstrates your maturity and professionalism in writing
      2. Donors: want to make a difference in some way to the field, the world, or a student’s education. They create scholarships to help that difference come true. Show them you can make a difference they can believe in. They are looking for your passion for the field, demonstrated interest in your education, and/or strong goals. Find examples that fulfil the prompt questions that come from:
        1. your life, work, volunteer, personal interests, education etc.
        2. A great reason why they should choose you

Once you’ve completed your brainstorming, you’ll have a much better idea of what you want to say and why. Organizing it can sometimes feel a bit daunting, but think of your essay like a picture, rather than a laundry list. Each step you’ve taken has led you somewhere. Show the cause and effect of the experiences and life choices you’ve had or made. Even if you’ve had challenges, they may have given you the opportunity to re-examine your life and make different choices. That shows learning and growth, just as much as the successes.

Try creating an initial draft or going to the Writing Center to talk with a tutor. Sometimes, having someone to talk to can really help you see what you want to say more clearly.