Scholarship and College Application Essays

DO: Follow the prompt and other instructions exactly.  You might write a great essay but it may get your application rejected if you don't follow the word count guidelines or other formatting requirements.
DO: Be clear and concise.  Make sure each paragraph discusses only one central thought or argument.

DON'T: Open your essay with a quote. This is a well-worn strategy that is mostly used ineffective.
DON'T: Use perfunctory sentences such as, "In this essay, I will . . ."
DON'T:  Use words from a thesaurus that are new to you.  You may end up using the word incorrectly and that will make your writing awkward.   
                Keep it simple and straightforward.  The point of the essay is to tell your story, not to demonstrate how may words you know.


Scholarship and College Application Essays

1. Cluster the scholarship applications by common topic, but also create a calendar of their due dates
2. Brainstorm!
a) Freewrite
b) List
c) Cluster, map, web
d) Who, what, when, where, how, why
e) Talk to everyone who really cares about you and your ambitions—let them help you remember the important things about you that connect to the scholarship question
3. Research each scholarship—understand the values and key words/ideas—connect to them in your essays
4. Hook the reader in your introduction with a fascinating claim, a deep question, or fact that helps you stand out
5. Be organized—think about how the question can help you outline the essay; if there are no real tips there, then have a specific arrangement (three reasons, three ideas, three experiences, etc).
6. Use active voice. Research this.
7. Imbed a story—give them a vivid sense of your experience—let them get a sense of you—what you stand for, how you’ve lived, the importance of your ideas and goals
8. Include transitions between paragraphs—set up ideas in the very first sentence of each paragraph, letting readers in on how you are thinking (in addition, consequently, however, etc)
9. Conclude with your best reason, idea, or experience that wins you the $
10. Write precisely—cut unneeded words (“In my opinion,” “I think that”)
11. Follow length and format requirements precisely
12. Have others read your drafts not only for editing (sentence-level problems), but ideas—the moments when the writing goes flat or bores.

1. Procrastinate
2. Write the essays without help and feedback
3. Let parents, teachers, or friends get so involved that the essay stops being about you.
4. Think that one essay will fit every application
5. Rely on clichés to make your point
6. Use verb phrases when you can use a single verb
7. Use mechanical thesis statements (In this essay I will discuss…)
8. Say “it has been said…”
9. Use filler like “a lot” or “things”—avoid vague abstract nouns (society).
10. Try to be Mr. or Ms. Witty, saying something that says nothing about what’s important to you.
11. Never rely solely on a spellchecker

Obey Basic Comma Commandments!

Comma after an Introductory Element
Example: First of all, the students must understand the basic comma rules.

Comma in a Compound Sentence
Example: The student used commas well, so the scholarship committee showered her with money.

Comma in a Series
Example: I like gold, jewels and scholarship money.