I can already hear you saying, “An essay? Are you serious? Have you forgotten about my straight C-average in English class?”
Yes, I have to agree with you. I loved writing in high school, but one of the few exceptions to my hobby was the dreaded scholarship essay…the gut-wrenching, time-consuming, ball- busting scholarship essay. It sucks. Writing can be fun when it’s on your own terms, but in an essay application you can easily get nailed with a topic that’s too stupid, too hard, or just way too booorrriiinnngg. Usually, the question will be something about you, and who wants to talk about themselves? It’s almost guaranteed that writer‘s block is going to slap you in the face over and over again until you’re dizzy! And on top of all that comes the incredible pressure! You know that you aren’t just writing for your own pleasure. You know that your written words are the ticket to your future college funding, and if you screw up this essay, it could mean curtains for your career dreams. The pressure to succeed is intimidating enough to make your fingers tremble above your laptop keys.
On that note, here’s my advice:
Suck it up and quit whining! Instead of fearing the required essay, you should embrace it. Even if you don’t think you’re any good at writing, creative essay composition is still an area where a C-student can flourish. This is your chance to stand out and be noticed! And, trust me when I say you’re going to need it. If you can’t impress the scholarship committee with your collection of awards and high GPA, your next best bet is to WOW them with a super-spectacular essay!
You may be proudly smug to write on your scholarship application that you were elected president of your drama club, but keep in mind that there are approximately 27,468 high schools in the United States (and this number includes only public schools). Every school has a drama club, and every drama club has a president—chances are you won’t be the only applicant to show up with dramatic distinction!
Long lists of volunteer work and extracurricular activities can be impressive, but they all read very much the same. Words written onto blank lines don’t tell much about the person behind the accomplishments, and these statistics can even be misleading. Do you really want to go head- to-head with Shirley Perkins, who belongs to sixteen different school clubs, if the scholarship award is based on application alone? Don‘t you want the chance to expose Shirley for the fraud that she is? Maybe you only volunteered for one non-pro t organization, but you poured your heart and soul into the cause. Shirley padded her application by showing up for only ONE day of work with twenty organizations she didn’t especially care about! Let’s see her write about her achievements with even a small iota of passion.
The scholarship essay is your best friend because it’s your only chance to rise above your mediocre GPA, your pathetic SAT score, and the fact that most of your “volunteer work” involved babysitting your little stepbrother and then finding out that Dad considers providing you with room and board payment enough to cover your lost time. Complete your essay carefully and thoughtfully, and you just might show up those Honor Society geniuses who were foolish enough to compete with your creativity!