Your essay is not complete just because you’ve typed the last word and hit “Save.” There are more steps you need to take before you seal and mail your scholarship application. They are the three “RE’s” to RE-member: Rewrite, Recheck, and Reuse.
The first draft of your essay is, well, your first draft. Before you go bragging to Mom about your masterpiece, read it over and see if you find places where your point could be clearer or where your prose could use some general improvement. A good way to tell how well the words of your essay flow is to read it out loud to yourself. If you stumble over an awkward sentence, you’ll know exactly what needs a bit of fixing.
It goes without saying, but along with your grammar and punctuation, you should take a second look at your spelling. In this age of computer software, there is no excuse for overlooking misspelled words, but you still must keep an eye out for misplaced homonyms that your spell check program cannot detect. You don’t want your essay to read: “When the village chieftain served me the meet, I new their was something amiss, because the animal’s feat were steel moving!”
Also, the rewriting stage is an ideal time to rethink some of your content and get rid of any stupid puns like,“They are the three “RE’s toRE-member.” You want to sound like a future college student, not Dr. Seuss!
When you are con dent that your essay is ready to be viewed by the general public, it’s a good idea to have several people read it over to offer suggestions and point out errors. And, no, this is not cheating. You are a resourceful C-student who knows how to get things done in the quickest and most efficient way! Learning is all about knowing where to find information that you need, if it’s not already in your head. When you get to college, there won’t be any rules about who’s allowed to proofread your essay. If the scholarship committee wanted to test your ability to write without research or assistance, they would lock you in an empty room with a piece of paper and a surprise essay topic.
The trick to getting help, however, is to find someone knowledgeable and reliable to read over your essay. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t show it to Mom, but she is probably too biased to give you constructive feedback. Remember how proudly she tacked that picture you drew up on the wall, even though it looked more like a deformed hippopotamus than the horse you meant it to be? Also, your little brother is not a good choice for a proofreader, even if you can get him to do it just by threatening to delete his MySpace account. A good, reliable critic could be an educated neighbor or extended family member, but one of your teachers is also an excellent choice. Your English instructor will probably be more enthusiastic about helping you than your shop teacher or gym coach, but you never know.
If you think it‘s worth the investment, you can get your essay edited and critiqued by one of approximately 8,000 writing services on the Internet. The more you are willing to pay, the quicker you will have your results in your hand. One of these services, PaperCheck.com, holds an essay competition twice each year for a $500 prize. This leads me to wonder how many essays their editors have critiqued only to have the new drafts submitted to their contest!
You can also hire someone to write your essay for you, but this is a very bad idea. Not only will your purchased essay fail to tell the judges anything about YOU, but there is also a monster that hunts down and eats people who cheat in scholarship competitions. You’ve been warned.
If you can make it work, it’s perfectly acceptable to tweak one of your essays for submission to multiple scholarship contests. No matter how much agony they put you through during the writing process, never rip up your essays or delete the files. You never know when a good essay on “How the Internet Has Changed My Grandmother’s Life” might come in handy later.
One excellent way to get more mileage out of old scholarship essays is to adapt them for submission in college application packets. Acceptance committees often use the same questions or topics you’ve encountered during your scholarship search. All socially conscious students should recycle!