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

1. Develop a first draft to use as an outline for your essay.  This will help you to organize your essay. Before you write the draft, avoid frustration during the writing process by gathering documents such as transcripts and refer to the scholarship application preview and keep them in front of you for reference.

With some modifications, you can use the headings for the basis for the different paragraphs of the scholarship essay. These include:

  • 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.

3. 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.

Plan to devote one paragraph to each of these sections and introduce each section with a clear topic sentence indicating which area you plan to discuss.

  • Example: I have always chosen challenging courses, and have a very good academic record.
  • Example: I have developed strong leadership skills, and have learned to interact with a wide variety of people while working several different jobs.
  • Example: I also have a good record of community service.

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:

  • 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
6. 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.
7. 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.

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 (Nursing Student)

I am a junior in the UM-Flint nursing program, and I believe that my chosen profession will enable me to fulfill my desire to help others, to expand my knowledge base, and to travel. Throughout my life, I have participated in extracurricular activities, including valuable volunteer experiences. I have striven for academic excellence, always managing to work to provide some of my basic educational expenses.

While in high school, I took challenging courses, such as advanced placement English and calculus, physics, and chemistry. I enjoyed the arts and was involved in art, band, and choir. I was able to maintain an excellent GPA, allowing me to graduate with honors.

In addition to school related activities, I am involved with my local church. I teach a class of 3-6 year olds. I have participated in community cleanup, nursery day, and choir. I feel that by participating in community-related activities I am setting a positive example for the children.

Although education plays a significant role in my life, I am involved with many other activities. During high school, I was an active member of several clubs, and served as treasurer and president. I frequently tutored middle school students. I enjoy the arts and participated in many performances; often involving travel to other parts of the United States. I belong to the National Student Nurses Association, and I have volunteered my time to inform individuals about what nursing involves. I have also done community work, such as blood pressure screening, and offering information for those at risk for hypertension and diabetes. 

Until recently, I worked 16-20 hours a week to provide for educational expenses. Presently I work eight hours a week in the neonatal intensive care unit at Hurley Medical Center for premature infants.

I have faced many challenges, balancing work and school, and I have willingly given my time. My goal is to become a registered nurse so that I can perform tasks that clients cannot do for themselves. I know that when I reach my goals, I will be able to provide something meaningful to all of the patients.

Prepared by UM-Flint Faculty