Suggestions for Writing Effective Essays
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 are eligible for based on your personal profile, your application essays may be reviewed by multiple committees. It is therefore imperative to write succinct essays that apply to a wide variety of scholarships. So make sure you explain why you are the exemplary choice to receive a
Committees evaluate your scholarship essays based on the following criteria:
- Educational and career goals
- Extracurricular involvement
- Any other special
circumstances (information the committee should know
about you or your application.)
- Quality of written presentation (grammar, spelling, etc.)
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
- 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
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.
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!
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
Avoid Generic Statements
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, by allowing me to gain experience. She is an inspiration for me — not only as a mother, but as a teacher and a human being."