Writing Scholarship Application Essays

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 Before completing essay responses within UAOnline...

  1. We strongly recommend applicants attend one of our UAA Scholarship Workshops, as we will be discussing the various scoring rubrics review committees across campus use to select recipients.  Handouts will be provided in order to help you understand what standard may be used to measure the clarity of profile question responses.
  2. Use a word processing program to write and save essays in the event technology issues occur while you are typing. Each essay is limited to 500 words. 
  3. Answer profile questions in essay form and limit the use of special characters and/or providing numbered/bulleted lists of information.

UAOnline Scholarship Application Profile Questions

Sign into the UA Scholarship Portal, where you will complete one (1) general application for all University of Alaska campuses. There are demographic questions and three, short-answer "Profile Questions." An asterisk "*" indicates a required question but all questions on the application are important and used to match applicants with scholarships. We recommend you do not leave any answers blank. Your profile responses (or "essays") will be reviewed by scholarship committees to find eligible recipients, and each entry is limited to 500 words. 

The following Essay Questions are provided below to help you compile a response:

  1. Tell us about your educational and career goals. What are your plans and time frame for meeting your goals?
  2. Tell us about your activities outside of the classroom. This could include things like volunteer work, sports, clubs, leadership roles, family activities, hobbies, employment, or cultural activities.
  3. Tell us anything else that you would like the scholarship selection committees to consider when evaluating you as a scholarship candidate. This could include things like your financial situation your family or cultural background, honors and awards you have received, challenges you face or have overcome, personal accomplishments, or anything else you believe is relevant.

Ready to apply? Sign into the UA Scholarship Portal  
You will need your UA Username and password to login

General Writing Strategies

Use a Word Processor!

  • Our most important suggestion is to write your essays in a word processor (Microsoft Word, Google Docs, OpenOffice, etc.) and then copy-and-paste the content into the browser when you are finished.
  • By composing your essay this way, not only will you be able to easily check your spelling and grammar, but the character-count of each response as well.
  • The "Submit" and the "Save & Keep Editing" buttons at the bottom of the online application will save your responses. You can keep editing your application as many times as you wish until February 15th at midnight to be considered for the following academic year (ex: apply before February 15th, 2021 to be considered for the 2021/2022 academic year). 

 Think of Your Essays Like a Story

  • Bring together important experiences from your past and present them with your future plans and goals in order to communicate the moral of your story: "I deserve/need this scholarship."
  • Like a story, the readers have not met the main character (you), so you have to summarize the important points of your story in a short space, and avoid non-essential details. Think of it as describing who you are today while at UAA, what experiences helped create this version of yourself, and what you've learned along the way.
  • Be genuine. In most cases, trying to impress the committee will result in a lower over-all score in comparison to a flawed but genuine essay.
  • It is also important to be unique. Good stories are in some way unpredictable and memorable. Depending on factors like your degree program, you may be considered alongside many other applicants, so separating yourself as a unique candidate greatly increases your chances.

Be Positive and Take it Seriously

  • Telling us your struggles is important, but explaining how you have overcome them is even more important. Confidence is one of your greatest keys to a successful essay.
  • Show that you have seriously thought about your plan for the future, even if you are uncertain about some aspects of it. Some of the highest scoring essays (briefly) outline that you've thought of backup and alternate plans.

Be an Active (Not Passive) Applicant

  • You don't want to seem passive in your essays. This means that you should avoid phrasing your responses as "this will happen to me" but rather "I will do this" or "I am...".
  • This means that in your essays you have taken OWNERSHIP of your goals, plans, actions.

Which Order Should I Write the Essays In?

Your story doesn't have to go straight from the beginning to the end and there is no perfect order in which to respond to the essay prompts. In fact, the general application essentially asks the questions in reverse chronological order: academic goals are a future endeavor, extracurricular activities are something from your past/present, and sharing any additional important details are typically going on in present day. 

Detail & Evidence

Generic statements don’t reveal why you are unique. Use detailed, vivid descriptions to produce distinct mental images of your story. Here are some examples to illustrate this point:

Goals and Plans -

Generic Statement: “I decided to become a chef because cooking runs in my family and plays a huge role in bringing everyone together. I plan to study Culinary Arts and it will take me two years to complete.”

Alternative description: I’ve known since I was a child that I wanted to become a chef. I first learned to cook from my grandmother. Watching her prepare a meal with love that would later be shared by our family and friends helped me to realize that food preparation, if done right, can have a transformative effect on a child’s life perspective. I learned to take pride in my work, connect with my culture and ancestry, share knowledge and nourishment with others, and to respect the process and the time it takes for something to transform from simple ingredients into something special. While at UAA, it will take me approximately 2 years to complete the remainder of my B.A. in Culinary Arts degree as I build upon the skills and principles first learned at a young age.

Extracurricular Involvement -

Generic statement: “One of my extracurricular activities is soccer. Being chosen as captain of the soccer team made me more mature.”

Alternative description: “I participate in many outside activities but one that has really helped me to grow as a human being and a leader was soccer. What I learned from being the captain of the soccer team was how to motivate and encourage others effectively when situations seemed hopeless.”

Other Considerations –

Generic Statement: “I need financial aid to help me pay for college.”

Alternative description: “I work fulltime and go to school fulltime, and while that is incredibly difficult to manage, it’s what I have to do to support a family of 4. All of my wages go to cover living expenses for my family, which means that I struggle to pay the added costs of my academic expense. In recent semesters, I’ve had to depend upon student loans just to cover tuition, fees, and books and a scholarship would really help. As you can see from my record, I’ve worked hard to keep my GPA up and am taking only essential courses required to graduate from my program.”

Keep it Simple

  • Don't directly address the committee or reader. You have no way of knowing who they'll be, so don't spend too much energy trying to optimize your essay for an unknown audience.
  • While rhetorical questions can be very effective, try to avoid them — especially direct ones like, "Will you support this dream of mine?"
  • Stay on topic. Don't mention something new for the first time in question 3 when it actually addresses question 1. As part of the writing process, you can expect to move pieces of your essays around.

Jump Right In!

  • We've probably all been taught at some point to write broad introductory paragraphs before the body of an essay. Unless you have something important to explain upfront though, feel free to leave it out and start by directly answering the prompt itself.
  • The very beginning and end of each essay should directly relate to the essay question. Try to even re-use some of the keywords and phrases from the question or rubric in the opening and ending sentences of your response. This shows that you take the essay seriously, and makes your essay as clear and concise as possible.

Working with the Essay Prompts

  • Try This: Break the prompts into a series questions.
  • Answer each of them clearly and concisely in one short sentence using some of the keywords and phrases from the prompt.
  • Then, provide a few (2-3) detailed afterward. End with another short sentence that reinforces (but doesn't just repeat) how the evidence fits your answer.
  • In the following example, note the balance of detail and evidence as well as the connections between educational and career goals:

Working with the Essay Scoring Rubric handout provided in our workshops

Essay #1: Tell us about your educational and career goals. What are your plans and time frame for meeting your goals?

"Student clearly articulates alignment between educational and career goals including reasonable time frame for accomplishing them."

  • The committee will be evaluating the clarity, not the sophistication, of your essays.
  • Don't treat your education and career goals as two separate things, but show their "alignment" and how they connect to each other.
  • Finally, demonstrate your responsibility and foresight by providing details and evidence that your time frame is "reasonable." The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate your ability to make reasonable plans, and that you have thought seriously about them.

Essay #2: Tell us about your activities outside of the classroom.

"Student notes high involvement and compelling evidence that extracurricular activities (work, sports, volunteer work, family, etc.) have shaped their character and academic development."

  • This question gives a variety of possible extracurricular activities to consider, but this does not mean you need to cram all of them into one essay. In fact, we recommend that you stick to a few of the possible extracurricular activities that relate most directly to your goals and plans.

Essay #3: Tell us anything else that you would like the scholarship selection committees to consider when evaluating you as a scholarship candidate.

"Student constructs a clear and exceptional [read "unique"] case, includes appropriate examples for deserving or needing a scholarship, and describes the impact that a scholarship would have on goals."

  • Do not leave this essay blank! This essay is the place for you to fill in the context for your need for or reason why you are a great candidate to receive a scholarship. Again, it is very important to relate whatever extra information you give in this essay back to your goals and plans.

Presentation & Grammar

  • "Essay is mostly free of significant grammar, spelling, and usage errors"
  • "Reflects application of critical thinking skills"
  • "Is thoughtful and articulated with clear command of syntax and vocabulary"

Your essays don't need to be perfect, but they need to be mostly free from errors. Also note that the committee is looking for a "clear command of syntax and vocabulary" rather than an "eloquent", "sophisticated", or "complicated" response . The main goal in writing these essays should be to make your essays as easy to read as possible, in order to convey your merit or need for a scholarship.

Writing Resources at UAA

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

  • UAA Writing Center: No appointments necessary. Tutors are available on a first come, first served basis. Please bring a draft of your scholarship essay. 

Attention "UAA Spirit Quest" Participants

The secret word answer to the "Scholarships, Scholarships, Everywhere Scholarships!" quest is PROOFREAD!

Works Consulted

College Board "College Essay Writing Tips: Write an Effective Application Essay" https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-in/essays/tips-for-writing-an-effective-application-essay-college-admissions

Norlin Scholars Program "Tips for Writing Scholarship Essays and Getting Strong Letters of Recommendation" https://www.colorado.edu/boettcher-norlin-scholars/norlin-scholars/apply