How to Write a Scholarship Essay

Starting an essay for a scholarship application can be super intimidating, but the good news is a lot of scholarships are usually looking for the same kind of answer. We’ve broken our essay-writing process into smaller steps here to help make it easier. Let’s get started:

Write Your Profile: Jot down a list of things that describe yourself. What are you good at, what have you accomplished, what are your future goals? How about any unique characteristics? Have you overcome any significant obstacles in life? The longer your list, the more ideas of things to write about. It’s important for you to talk about yourself using a clear story. This will shine through in your essay.

Develop an Outline: The hardest part is just getting started! Once you have the essay prompt, brainstorm a couple of ideas of things you can write about. This is the foundation of your essay. Preparing your outline before you get into the meat of your story will help you visualize your story from start to finish before putting too much time into writing the specifics. This will help the writing move forward with purpose!

Fill In Your Outline: If you have a good outline, it will move along much faster. Elaborate on your story, provide examples of your achievements and experience that are fluid and concise. 


Begin your essay by addressing the scholarship committee directly. Be as specific to the scholarship name or agency as you can. A direct address with a specific scholarship or agency name will personalize your essay and level up your application!

Dear [Scholarship name or agency] committee,

Thank you for taking the time to read my application. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to introduce myself and present my accomplishments.

Your essay is your chance to introduce yourself and make a first impression so make sure that your essay is clear, concise and quickly gets into your story. Read your essay out loud. If you’re not past your greeting and introduction within a few seconds, circle back to edit.


The story of each essay will be different, depending on the essay prompt, but here are a couple of things to keep in mind while you are writing:

You are here! But why? Why PSU? Why are you choosing to study your major?

With your past experiences informing your current goals, where are you headed? This is an opportunity to tell your story. How will college help you achieve your next big step? Think about if you were in the position to give a student a scholarship, what kind of characteristics would you look for? Make sure to highlight any events where you went above and beyond expectations or did the right thing even though it was hard. You are in a position where you are selling your skills, so it’s important to be confident! Don’t sell yourself short. It’s okay to boast here! With that in mind, it is also important to be gracious and honest. Try to avoid the feeling of entitlement or over-confidence.


The people giving the scholarship will want to know that the money will go to good use. How do you plan to use your degree to improve the world? Explain how this scholarship will help you achieve your goals. Don’t go generic here, list specific goals that will help you get to where you’re trying to go.

Avoid saying “I need the money because I am poor and do not want loans.” The judges do not want to feel bad for you, and this is a sure way to lower your chances of getting the scholarship. Use this opportunity to show how you have overcome adversity and plan to use this money for a good reason.


Re-read the prompt and make sure your essay actually answers the question. This is a common mistake students make. You can also have someone else read your essay and then have them tell you what they think the question is.

This might be obvious, but double and triple check for any spelling and grammar issues. Details matter.

Once you have completed one essay, you can save it and tweak it to fit other scholarship applications. You only need to craft one solid, core essay that highlights who you are, how you got here, and what your goals are for your degree. 


PSU Advising & Career Services Workshops

PSU’s Advising and Career Services offers a selection of workshops aimed toward helping you choose a major and career, answering your questions about internships, preparing you for interviewing, perfecting your resume and cover letter, and more. No need to sign up in advance, just arrive in their office prior to the time the workshop is scheduled to begin.

Visit the PSU Writing Center

The Writing Center aims to help writers at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to the final draft. It is helpful to bring two drafts, one for you and one for the consultant. 


Ready to use your essay to get some sweet scholarship money? Be sure to visit our other posts about our scholarship database and strategize your search to make the most of your time and effort!





%d bloggers like this: