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If you have begun to look at the requirements for college scholarship applications, you’ve probably already seen a wide range of question topics for the essays, and maybe you’ve asked yourself: Why are they forcing me to write about this!?

Remember, though: The bottom line is that the scholarship committees are offering you FREE MONEY, so you should cut them some slack and cheerfully write those essays no matter how “pointless” or “hard” you think their selected topics may be. If you win some scholarships, graduate from college, and become rich and successful, then YOU can give away your own award money and pose whatever essay questions you want!

Here are some general groupings for the most common questions posed in scholarship essay writing competitions:

Questions about you as an individual:

Scholarship committees want to know why they should award their money to you above everyone else, so it’s quite natural for them to ask for more details about who you really are. These types of essays may inquire about areas of your life such as your personal achievements, experiences, influences, goals for the future, background, or financial situation.

Some examples of “you” essay topics are:

  • Tell us about a time when you proved yourself to be an exceptional leader.
  • What would you most like to accomplish over the next ten years?
  • In what way has your racial heritage influenced the person you are today?
  • What advice would you give to high school students who are concerned about financing their future college education?

Questions about the organization’s primary interest:

Some scholarship sponsors are affiliated with a specific group or mission. In many cases, a scholarship essay will be assigned on a topic that relates to an organization’s specialty, which comes as no surprise. For instance, it’s completely logical to assume, even before you’ve read the rules, that science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard’s ongoing “Writers of the Future Contest” requires applicants to submit a work of fantasy or sci-fi!

Some examples of organization-specific essay questions are:

  • How has the American Miniature Horse affected your life? (The AMHA)
  • Write an essay on Lincoln and the Mexican-American War. (Lincoln Forum)
  • Write an essay on why hunting is important to you and/ or your family? (National Wild Turkey Federation)
  • Write an essay about the separation of church and state, and why this is important to our country.

Questions about your career choice:

Many scholarships are given to young people who plan to pursue a particular field of study. For these awards, the essay question often asks the applicants WHAT drew them to that specific career, HOW they plan to achieve their long-term goals in the chosen field, or WHY they think they have what it takes to succeed as a professional [fill in the blank].

Some examples of career choice questions are:

  • How will education advance your plans for a career in law enforcement?
  • What qualities do you possess that will make you a good animal trainer?
  • How do you intend to benefit your community with your training?
  • At what age did you decide to become an entomologist and why?

Questions about our world in general:

Frequently, scholarship essay questions will focus on commonly shared experiences such as current events or social issues. The sponsoring organization may have a vested interest in politics, environmental causes, or humanitarian efforts. Alternatively, the committee may simply want to see what applicants can do with an intelligent and thought-provoking topic. Essay questions of this type can be very specific, or they may ask something broader like, “What is the one thing you would most like to change about the world?”

Some examples of worldview questions are:

  • How could America’s economic policies be changed to help working families?
  • If you were a famous movie star, which charity would you choose to support with your abundant wealth?
  • How will your life change if our country exhausts its supply of oil?
  • If you had ten minutes with the president to talk about America’s health care crisis, what would you tell him?

Questions about something unfathomable:

Some essay topics are thrown out seemingly at random. The question may not seem to address anything of real importance, but before you decide that the scholarship committee was being lazy or whimsical, take a closer look to see if you can detect some subtle, underlying purpose or intention. No? Okay, now here’s your chance to embrace the challenge of revealing your special achievements and personality while sticking to a topic that doesn’t relate to you in any outwardly observable way.

Some examples of totally bizarre questions are:

  • If you could bring one animal back from the brink of extinction, which animal would it be and why?
  • Write an essay about the wildest party you ever at- tended.
  • If you were only allowed to keep ten of your current possessions, which ones would you chose?
  • If you had to emigrate, which country would you choose to live in and why?
  • How much wood do YOU think a woodchuck would chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
  • Do you believe that Elvis Presley is still alive?

Once you know the question you need to respond to, the most important thing to keep in mind when you’re writing is to make sure, whatever the topic, that your essay is really about YOU.

How the heck can I do that? I hear you ask. Check back soon to find out!

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

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