Your scholarship essay is a very important part of your application. Through your essay the selection committee is able to see you as more than a GPA or major. A well-written essay allows you to single yourself out from the other scholarship applicants.


Steps in Writing the Essay

Before beginning to write you should gather your transcripts and a list of any awards you have received (if applicable). You will need these as a reference as you develop your essay.


Develop a rough draft to use as an outline.

Using the topics below as a guide, create an outline of achievements and experiences that you will include in your essay. As these questions refer to most scholarship criteria, you will want to explore as many of these topics as possible in your essay. However, don’t force it. If you have the experience, list it. If not, focus on other areas. You will most likely not be able to devote an entire paragraph to each idea, so instead, consider a way to logically group some ideas together into one section/category. (For example, community involvement may fit well in a paragraph with a discussion of your special knowledge or skills, or they could even fit with your academic and career goals).

  • Scholarships and awards and leadership roles

  • School and community involvement with an emphasis on active contributions to any club, association, or civic organization

  • Skills and special knowledge, special projects, research in your area of study (including teaching and tutoring)

  • Life and educational experiences that have motivated you or have demonstrated your ability to overcome obstacles and challenges successfully in order to continue your education

  • Academic and career goals

  • Address your personal financial circumstances, including any unusual or extenuating circumstances, and why you are a worthy candidate for scholarship consideration.


Start with a strong thesis or umbrella statement outlining your goals, and indicating the main categories you will be discussing in your essay.


Example: My academic achievements, my work experience, and my community service have all helped me to work toward my goals.

Be sure that each of your paragraphs begin with a clear topic sentence which indicates which topics you are focusing on in that paragraph.

  • Example: My volunteer experiences helped me choose the right career plan for me.

  • Example: I have developed strong leadership skills, and have learned to interact with a wide variety of people while working several different jobs.

  • Example:  Although I have faced many obstacles in my life, I am fully motivated to reach my career goal of being a psychologist.

3. You must stress how your experience helped you to develop the kinds of skills and qualities that selection committees are looking for in a good candidate. These include the following qualities taken directly from forms that are used for letters of recommendation for scholarships (Consider which ones fit your experiences best or others not listed here):
  • Scholarship, knowledge of chosen field, carefulness of work
  • Motivation, enthusiasm, seriousness of purpose
  • Creativity, originality, ingenuity in problem-solving
  • Ability to plan and carry out research, organization
  • Ability to express thought in speech and writing
  • Maturity, emotional stability, ability to withstand stress and face challenges
  • Leadership
  • Self-reliance, initiative, independence, adaptability
  • Responsibility, ability to make sound judgments
  • Effectiveness with people, tact, ability to work with others, communicate effectively
  • Community service, volunteerism

The challenge of the scholarship essay is to make sure that you stress a constant theme: that many of your past experiences have helped to prepare you to be a good candidate for the scholarship.


Choice of words is important. You must be modest and yet ‘brag’ about your abilities at the same time. Use words like ‘good candidate,’ ‘well-prepared,’ ‘good leaderships skills’ and other terms that remain modest while demonstrating your abilities. Avoid exaggerated terms like ‘fantastic background,’ ‘my eternal passion for learning,’ ‘my exceptional skills,’ ‘my outstanding leadership ability’. Instead, let the evidence speak for itself.

6. Have someone else read over your essay to make sure that you have not made any exaggerated claims, but have clearly given enough detail to indicate your skills fully and accurately, your thoughts are well articulated, and it is easy to follow.

Sample Scholarship Essay/Personal Statement

My life has been a struggle at times, but my hard work, determination, and enthusiasm for my education and my community has brought to UM Flint where I can pursue my dreams.

My academic plans are to major in pre-med and minor in chemistry. After graduating, I plan to obtain a nursing license. During my career as a nurse, I will attend medical school at the University of Michigan, studying forensic pathology. After medical school, I will do two years of residency to gain experience to complete my studies and training for my chosen field, a forensic nurse.

I’m a hardworking-dedicated student, who focuses on my studies, yet I have always enjoyed being involved in extracurricular activities. While in high school, I was captain of the varsity volleyball team for two years. I was also elected president of my class. I attended the Genesee Area Skill Center where I studied forensic science and was a member of the Technical Honor Society and HOSA (Health Occupation Student Association). I am currently involved in a scholarship program called CEO (Committed to Excellence and Opportunity) here at UM Flint. Next year, I plan to get more involved in college activities. I am interested in joining the student government club and a sorority. I am also active in my community. I volunteer at numerous places like the Humane Society and the North End Soup Kitchen. 

I am the oldest of four children being raised by a single parent. My mother, Charlene Jackson, is a hardworking woman who struggles to keep food on the table; I work two jobs to help support my family, but we barely scrape by. Sometimes even getting transportation to school is a struggle for me. Because my mom is endeavoring through these hard times, I try my best to keep my grades up, knowing that I have opportunities that my mother never had.