First of all, what are the UAOnline Scholarship Essays?

On the UAOnline Application form, there are a series of "Profile Questions." Your responses (or "essays") will be processed by scholarship committees to find eligible recipients. Each essay is limited to 2000 characters (approximately 300 words) on the following subjects:

  1. Educational and career goals,
  2. Activities outside of the classroom,
  3. UA community involvement plans after you've completed your degree,
  4. Anything else that you would like the scholarship selection committees to consider.

Write for a wide variety of Scholarship Committees

The scholarship committees will be reviewing everything: applications, personal profiles, and any required supplemental information. Depending on the number of scholarships you're eligible for, your application essays will be reviewed by multiple committees. It is therefore imperative to write succinct essays that apply to a wide variety of scholarships. The committees' task will be to match the scholarship program with the scholar. So make sure you explain why you are the exemplary choice to receive a scholarship.

Committees evaluate your scholarship essays based on the following criteria: 

  • Leadership
  • Educational and career goals
  • Extracurricular involvement
  • Plans for UAA Community Involvement
  • Quality of written presentation (grammar, punctuation, etc.)
  • Any other special circumstances (information the committee should know about you or your application.)

Tell us who you are

  • Give as much detail as possible. While it is important to be brief in your responses, personal details are important to make you as an individual stand out. A good essay should show us how you think, how you solve problems, and how you interact with your environment. 
  • Avoid negativity. You do have something interesting to write about: yourself!
  • Tell us your story. Don't just write a resume (unless of course it is asked for separately.) let us know what makes you stand out among all the other applicants.

Composing your essays

To avoid losing your hard work, we strongly recommend that you compose your essays in a word-processing program such as Google Docs or Microsoft Word, and then copy-and-paste it into the box provided in UAOnline. Most word-processors have word-count and character-count functions, so that you can keep an eye on how long your essays are. Also, remember that the text boxes in UAOnline allow only very minimal editing, so if you choose to copy-and-paste from a word-processor, don't spend too much time formatting your text beforehand. Any arrangements you make to your work are not likely to remain by the time the committee members are reading it.


Even the smallest of writing mistakes can distract committee members from the content of your scholarship essays. In addition to using a spell-checker, make sure that once you finish your first draft, you take a break from writing. Do something else for a while to let your mind clear. When you come back with a fresh perspective, read very carefully through the material for grammatical consistency, word choice, complete sentences, and sentence cohesion. The simple act of taking a break from writing often catches many small but noticeable errors.


  • Emphasize the activities that relate to your educational plan or future career.
  • Describe a scholastic achievement you have made, and why it is important to you.
  • List contributions you have made to your community, and explain how those experiences have contributed to your growth.
  • Illustrate how a personal experience has influenced your development.
  • Describe where you see yourself 10 years from now.

General Writing Tips

  • Write logically, so committee members can follow your train of thought. Make sure your sentences flow into each other. Use paragraph structure and transition words to signify each change of thought.
  • Avoid redundancy of sentences and phrases. Since you only have 2000 characters, each phrase should be unique and important.
  • Use your own voice. You do not need to impress us with obscure vocabulary. People can tell when you're using words outside your native vocabulary, which makes your writing less compelling — the same goes for writing less formally than you're used to.
  • It is a good idea, however, to periodically consult a dictionary and thesaurus to find the right words to convey your ideas with precision. This only takes a few extra seconds with online resources, so taking the time to fine-tune your words really is worth it!
  • "Write what you know." If you are trying to impress the committee members with complicated subject matter about which you are neither passionate nor informed, they will probably know this and you will probably seem disingenuous.

Avoid Generic Statements

Generic statements are useful, but don't reveal why you are unique. Allow your detailed and personal descriptions to produce distinct mental images of your story and ideas. Here are some examples to illustrate this point: 


Generic Statement: "Being chosen as captain of the soccer team made me more mature."

Alternative Statement: "As the captain of the soccer team, I had to learn how to motivate and encourage my team-mates – not only when the game was going well, but especially when it seemed hopeless. I became a strong leader."


Generic Statement: "My mom is the most influential person in my life. She is supportive in everything I do and she is a great role model. I try to emulate her and follow her teachings in everything I pursue."

Alternative Statement: "I want to raise my children like my mother did. She would never use a guilt-trip to teach me wrong from right. When I was in 4th grade, I told her, 'I don't need to practice for my organ debut at Midnight Mass!' Her only response was: 'Well, have you thought this idea through?' That night, I started on the wrong note, barely stumbled through the finger patterns of the song, and played the piece completely off-key. The audience shifted in their seats, and tried but failed to stifle their chuckles. 

"As for my mother, she never let on whether she was embarrassed. If she was, I couldn't tell if it was for herself, or for me. She didn't really need to remind me that practice would have made the experience less harrowing, though. She knew how to use the subtle power of shame. She taught me the value of study and preparedness in the most meaningful way she could. It is an inspiration for me — not only as a mother, but as a teacher and a human being."


Writing Thank You Letters

Scholarship donors are generous and caring people who unselfishly give to support the educational endeavors of students like you.  They typically ask for nothing in return, but receiving a well written thank you letter from a student is always special and lets the donor know that his or her scholarship was greatly appreciated.  Your letter reminds them why they gave in the first place and often helps secure continuing gifts for future students. Please make sure the letter is free of both grammatical and spelling errors.  You are an important part of the University of Alaska Family, and the literacy demonstrated in your letter is a reflection on all of us.

Thank You Letter Tips:

  1. Write clearly and concisely.
  2. Double-check for typos and grammatical errors.
  3. Express enthusiasm.
  4. Be sincere.
  5. Make it personal; tell why this scholarship is important to you.
  6. Send it typewritten in business format.
  7. Use quality paper.

You were awarded a scholarship because your personal qualities and academic abilities stood above all other applicants.  Sending a typed thank you letter confirms that this scholarship was important enough to you to take the time to present yourself in a professional manner. Consult the following sample letters to help you compose your own thank you letter in a professional business format:


Writing Resources at UAA

There are many campus resources to help you write successful essays. Please take advantage of these resources!

  1. UAA Writing Center: No appointments necessary. Tutors are available on a first come, first served basis. Please bring a draft of your scholarship essay. 
  2. Career Services Center: Additional help may be available by appointment or via email from the UAA Career Services Center. 



Works Consulted

College Board "College Essay Writing Tips: Write an Effective Application Essay"

Norlin Scholars Program "Tips for Writing Scholarship Essays and Getting Strong Letters of Recommendation"