The dreaded essay. This one item creates more fear, angst, and uncertainty in the scholarship application process than any other. I can’t tell you how many times my son just had no idea how to start. The essay assignment is generally pretty vague, which is intentional. The scholarship selection committee wants to see how you think more than anything else. Let’s take a look at the steps to creating a high-quality essay.
- Begin early. Like the recommendation and reference process, this is not something to work on the night before it is due.
- Assemble a trusted team of advisors and confidants. You need someone to edit/proofread, someone to help you assemble your thoughts, someone to review for content and flow, and someone to perform the sniff test (to see if it stinks). This can be one or several persons, but the more eyes you put on your essay the better. They should care about you enough to hurt your feelings, but for your own good.
- Carefully consider the question being asked or the topic given to you. Ideally the topic (and your response) will generate passion that comes from personal experience or firsthand knowledge of the topic.
- If you have multiple topics to choose from, and you’re not sure which to pick, ask others which one they would choose.
- Pay attention to the rules. You want to be sure that you submit the essay properly and aren’t disqualified based on a technicality.
- Put together an outline and review that with your advisory team. It will help you organize your thoughts.
- Form your thoughts properly. Using sales presentation techniques, keep this in mind – tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you just told them. Introduction, key points and details, summary.
- Resist the urge to be politically correct. The scholarship selection committee wants to hear your ideas and your opinions, so don’t be afraid of stepping on toes.
- Speak your response then play it back as you transcribe your thoughts to print. Since we tend to speak in short sentences, this will eliminate long run-on sentences and big, unnecessary words.
- Once you have typed the essay, do the basics – let your word processor do spell check and grammar checks.
- Read the essay and remove filler words and phrases along with any redundant sentences or statements.
- Get the essay to your advisory team to check for content and flow of ideas, then make recommended edits.
- Re-read your essay and see if it adequately addresses the topic, and just to make sure that it sounds like you, and make any final edits.
- Put it back in the hands of your advisory team then make any last-minute adjustments prior to submission.
- Thank your advisory team – they are an invaluable part of the process.
So you see, an essay is more than sitting down and spilling your thoughts. There is a lot of work involved if you want a good essay. Each essay should be unique so you may have to do this several times, but each time you’ll get better at it. The essay is often the deciding factor in a sea of highly-qualified applicants. Take the time to do it right.