Scholarship Essays: Detailed Guide & Sample Questions For Practice

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Most scholarships have specific requirements with a majority of them including a personal statement or essay. Writing an essay can be a daunting task, let alone writing an essay for securing the required funds to pursue an education. In this blog, you will learn how to write a winning scholarship essay that is a true representation of yourself in front of the scholarship committee.


Also read: Easy steps to get a study abroad scholarship.

What are scholarship essays?

Scholarships are programmes that provide financial assistance to students in need. These programmes are open to students at every level, irrespective of whether you are in high school or a college student. Most of the scholarships out there require you to write an essay.

The scholarship essay you write will be your medium to convince the scholarship board why you deserve the monetary aid. Scholarship essays require you to provide a unique perspective of yourself apart from your academic performance, GPA and merits. No matter the essay prompt, you need to exhibit your writing skills and showcase them engagingly. An essay that keeps the scholarship committee focused and interested will be the one that is rewarded with the financial gains of the scholarship.

Scholarship essay format

A scholarship essay needs to be thought out well before you get to writing it. It is always beneficial to make a draft and outline of the essay following the prompt provided. Every essay needs to be written differently with a fresh view to captivate the readers.

For most scholarship essays, you can follow this outline to make your pre-writing process easier:

  • Hook introduction: A hook introduction is a powerful intro that addresses the scholarship essay prompt and ‘hooks’ the readers into reading further. The hook should not be exaggerated and should instead be a true reflection of your writing skills.
  • Body paragraphs between one to three: This is where you convince the scholarship committee of why you are deserving of the scholarship. The body of the essay should be relevant to the essay prompt, providing your personal point of view in the manner of a story that is captivating. Another point to keep in mind while writing the essay is to highlight what the committee is looking for, including your academic and career goals, why you are the best choice for the scholarship and any other point relative to the prompt.
  • Conclusion: While ending the scholarship essay, circle back to your interest in the scholarship with a seamless transition and emphasize how your life story makes you a strong candidate for the scholarship.

How to write a great scholarship essay

Every scholarship essay should be unique and provide something that the reader has never seen before. A few tips and tricks to writing a scholarship-worthy essay can always come in handy. Some of them are explained below:

Use a STAR Structure

A winning scholarship essay must have all the essential elements that emphasize who you are, what you can do and what changes you can bring about with your actions. A STAR structure helps you accomplish just that by dividing your essay into four paragraphs that end up creating a powerful essay. This is what STAR means:

  • ‘S’ – Situation – Situation provides the context, place and time of an event of your life that relates to the essay prompt. This helps in giving a personal touch to your essay and inducing authenticity.
  • ‘T’ – Task – Task shows what was the issue that arose in front of you, what role did you take up to make your contribution and what goal did you pursue. It shows your readiness in facing situations when problems arise.
  • ‘A’ – Action – The action paragraph explains what steps you took to resolve the issue and accomplish the goal. This paragraph exhibits your modus operandi and how you tackle problems.
  • ‘R’ – Result – The ‘result’ paragraph is a paragraph of self-reflection. You need to explain what you learnt after facing the situation, how your actions affected the results and how you grew as a person after going through such a situation.

Stick to the topic

Study and research the topic given to you to familiarize yourself with it. Create an outline of how you will approach the topic and stick to it. The scholarship essay should flow smoothly to keep the reader interested. Relate the topic to yourself and your story to create a lasting and unique impression on the scholarship committee.

Research, study, and brainstorm

Writing anything, be it a blog, article or essay, closer to the deadline will result in a piece that will not be good enough for selection. After receiving your prompt, research the prompt thoroughly, study the topic and brainstorm what you will present in the scholarship essay. If the essay prompt is focused on you, decide on what story of yours relates to the topic most powerfully. Choose strong points and spin the essay around them to create a masterpiece.

Be true to yourself

Being true to yourself is a major booster in every aspect of life. Staying true to your identity in writing the essay will provide the scholarship committee with something new and fresh that stands out. The aspects that you must integrate into your scholarship essay to be original are as follows:

  • Acknowledge your hardships and how you overcame them
  • Place yourself in a good light but be humble
  • Be specific and to the point
  • Paint a picture of your story rather than simply narrating it
  • Be honest about yourself and do not exaggerate
  • Explain why you deserve the scholarship without putting down other applicants

Authenticity is key in getting your message through to the scholarship committee. They can easily understand when you’re being inauthentic and writing what you think they want to hear. Let us show you what an authentic line in your essay looks like.

Inauthentic example – “I have established myself as a sportsperson after facing a lot of hardships.”

Authentic example – “Throughout my sporting career, I’ve been through major issues like the rupture of my anterior cruciate ligament in my dominant foot. During some phases, I wanted to give up and convince myself that I was not cut out for this path. Instead, I came back stronger from my issues and injuries and learned from them. This mentality has made me who I am today.”

Types of Scholarships that require different essays

Universities provides several scholarships to international students in a bid to make education easier and achievable for the students struggling financially. There are namely three categories of scholarships provided by most institutions. They are:

  • Government scholarships – These scholarships are given by the government in a bid to encourage students to study in their respective countries.
  • Non-government scholarships – These scholarships are provided by trusts, organizations and funds to students in order to increase participation and specialization in a specific field.
  • Institutional scholarships – These scholarships are provided by universities and institutes to the students who are studying in said universities and institutes.

Other criteria

  • Merit-based – These scholarships are provided to students who have good academic scores.
  • Language proficiency – As most international students do not have English as their native language, good scores in IELTS/TOEFL exams are also used as a parameter in some scholarships.
  • Extracurricular excellence – Involvement in activities such as volunteering, social work, etc., is another criteria of scholarships. The extracurricular activity that is judged depends on the stream you are looking to apply to. Along with scholarships, these activities also act as work experience and can be a plus point on your resume.

Sample scholarship essay questions

Mentioned below are a few scholarship essay examples that you can practise in order to get an idea of the type of essay you might be asked to submit:

1. Explain something that made a significant impact in your life.

2. Describe why you or your plans for studying abroad require this scholarship.

3. A few students have an identity, background, personal interest, or talent that is so crucial and deep-rooted, they believe their application cannot be completed without it. If you are one of them, then please share your story.

4. Please explain a personal trauma or catastrophic life event that you have gone through. How did you manage to overcome your issues? What did you learn from it, and how did it influence who you are?

5. Mention three things that are important to you. How did you decide what to include in this list? Will these things have the same importance to you in ten years? Why?

6. “The secret of our success is that we never, never give up.” – Wilma Mankiller. Tell us about a period when you were unsuccessful at something. What were the circumstances at that point in time? How did you respond to failure? What did you learn from it?

7. Please explain how volunteering and participating in community service have shaped your perspective on humanity and share your experience. Elaborate on how these experiences have influenced your mindset, future ambitions, and career choice.


Scholarships can be a boon to a student who wants to study further and do something exceptional with their life. Writing a scholarship-worthy essay can help you secure the most rewarding grants.

We hope you now have better clarity on how scholarship essays are written and what methods you need to use to write an essay that makes the scholarship committee choose your essay as the winner.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long should my scholarship essay be?

Ans. Your essay should be in adherence to the specified word limit. You should draft your essay before writing the one you will submit, as you need to make the most powerful impact within the limited word count.

2. Are scholarships necessary for admission to colleges?

Ans. No, scholarships are not necessary for admission, but a scholarship award provides financial aid that helps ease the burden that students often face.

3. Are scholarships available worldwide?

Ans. Yes, most of the scholarships are available for international students worldwide. You should find the ones that suit your financial situation and help you meet living expenses in the country you are planning to go to.

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Kanika took a detour from academics for the corporate world. Now she works as a senior editor specialising in content creation, marketing, and strategy.