Okay, you’ve found a bunch of scholarships you feel qualified to win, your applications are filled out and stacked in a neat pile with the first due on the top, you’ve got manila envelopes and a sheet of stamps waiting patiently in your desk drawer, but you can proceed no further without tackling the most nerve-wracking and time-consuming obstacle—the scholarship essays.
I’m not promising to make your essay spew forth from your heart and soul like Jolly Rancher candies from a broken piñata, but I hope I can alleviate the pain just a little with this upcoming series of tips and tricks.
My first suggestion is this: work hard, but don’t do extra work!
Many coaching materials for writing a winning scholarship essay advise you to prep yourself by first compiling lists of your achievements, hobbies, special attributes, and anything else that might make for a riveting essay topic. They even suggest that you write a few practice essays to get into the spirit of the effort. This is very wise advice, because as the cliché that you never should use in your scholarship essay goes, “Practice makes perfect.”
Innovative planning is great if it’s the summer between your freshman and sophomore years and you’re sitting at home bored because all your friends are away at band camp. In this case, sure, make those Excel spreadsheets of your accomplishments and study The Elements of Style. The distraction will keep you from obsessing over the advantage everyone else will have when completing scholarship applications because they went to music camp, while you stayed home singing along with oldies on the radio.
But regardless of whether you’re reading this post as soon as I post it in August and are ready to start working on your essay RIGHT NOW, or you’re reading this in the archives mid-way through your senior year and you’ve got several specific essay questions sitting in front of you (one with a submission deadline just two weeks away), it might be a better idea to go on ahead and jump right in!
Consider Old Mrs. Johnson’s freshmen writing class as your “practice,” and be grateful for the enthusiasm she used when applying her red correction pen to your papers. You’ve got a collection of scholarship essay assignments already, so you can ignore any instruction that doesn’t apply to your situation and focus solely on the task at hand —writing a brilliant essay that fits the needs for your most current scholarship competition. You may even have an advantage over the people who started worrying about their writing before they ever looked at a scholarship application. While you are casually perusing a website listing and saying, “Sweet, here’s an essay topic that truly interests me,” the others may be desperately scouring the databases as they moan, “I wrote an awesome essay about my views on global warming while I was practicing last year! Why aren’t any of the scholarship committees asking that question?”
So get writing already! And check back soon for more tips and suggestions on how to write the very best essay you can write.