Essays For College Scholarships Examples Of Thesis

Eight Steps Towards a Better Scholarship Essay


Writing a scholarship essay can be very difficult – especially if you want to do it well. Your essay will need to wow the reader, and speak directly to the goals of that organization, as well as the objectives of that award. If done properly, you will very rarely be able to submit the same application to multiple awards – it is not a one-size-fits-all; most essays will need to be tweaked or completely altered to show the reader that you are deserving of the award above and beyond any of the other participant who also applied.

Read on to find eight steps to help you write a better scholarship essay so that you can get the money you need to fund your international education.

Step 1: Read the Essay Prompt Thoroughly

Many schools and other organizations that give out scholarships will give you a "prompt" or a question which the essay is supposed to address. Read the question or prompt carefully and try to "read between the lines." For example, the prompt you are to answer might be, "Describe a book that made a lasting impression on you and your life and why?" Ask yourself, "Are they really interested in my literary preferences or is there something more to this question?" More than likely, they want to get a better idea of who you are—not only what types of books you like but also what motivates you and what sorts of stories or topics interest you. They may also be interested in getting a sense for how promising a student you are based on the type of book you choose and what you have to say about it.

Tip: Always keep in mind that any scholarship essay question, no matter the topic, should demonstrate your interests, your background, and most importantly, highlight the experiences you've had that fit with the goals and mission of the funding organization.

Instead of being given a prompt, you might be asked to write an essay on the topic of your choosing. Although challenging, this is also an opportunity to demonstrate your creativity. Finally, if anything about the directions aren't clear, don't be afraid to contact someone at the funding organization and ask for clarification.

Step 2: Make a List of Important Points and Keywords to Include

Looking for sample essays?
Check out our Sample Essay section where you can see scholarship essays, admissions essays, and more!

Regardless of the essay prompt, you will want to make sure to include the important and relevant information about your experiences and background that makes you an ideal candidate for the scholarship award. To complete this step, it can be helpful to first research the organization to which you're applying and try to find their mission statement on their website. Circle a few key words from the mission statement and make sure to include those buzzwords in your essay.

Scholarship committees are not only looking for good students, they are often looking for a person that fits their organizational goals. You should gather your other application materials such as transcripts and resumes so you can review your qualifications as well as make note of what is missing in these materials that needs to be included in the essay.

For example, if you're applying for a general academic scholarship, you might want to talk about a specific class you took that really piqued your interest or inspired your current academic and career goals. The committee will see the list of the classes that you took on your transcript but they won't know how a particular class inspired you unless you tell them. The essay is the best place to do this. Your list of important points to make might also include:

  • Any academic awards or other honors you've won.
  • Any AP or college-level courses you took in high school.
  • Any outside courses, internships, or other academic experiences that won't necessarily appear on your transcript.
  • Why your experience and the mission of the funding organization match.
  • What you plan to major in during college and how you think that major will be useful to your future career goals.
  • Any special training or knowledge you have, or a project you completed in school or as an extracurricular activity.
  • An example of how you overcame a challenge.
  • Your financial circumstances that makes it necessary for you to finance your studies through scholarship money.

The challenge now is to integrate those points that you want the committee to know with an essay that answers the prompt. You can see our example scholarship essays to get a better idea of how to do this.

Step 3: Write an Outline or a Rough Draft

Not everyone likes to make an outline before they begin writing, but in this case it can be very helpful. You can start with your list of important points to begin writing the outline. For many, telling a story is the easiest and most effective way to write a scholarship essay. You can tell the story of how you found your favorite book, and how it has changed and inspired you. Start with large headings in your outline that describes the basic storyline. For example:

  1. High school composition teacher recommended book
  2. Read it over one weekend
  3. Made me see the world around me differently
  4. Inspired me to pursue a career in social justice

Now you can start filling in the subheadings with points from your previous list:

  1. High school composition teacher recommended book
    1. Favorite class in high school
    2. Class opened my eyes to new ways of thinking
    3. Teacher noticed my enthusiasm—recommended outside reading
  2. Read it over one weekend
    1. Was the first time I was so drawn in by a book, I read it very quickly
    2. I realized my academic potential beyond getting good grades
  3. Made me see the world around me differently
    1. Started to look for jobs in social justice
    2. Interned for a summer at a law firm doing pro bono work for the poor
    3. This was a big challenge because I realized you can't help everyone and resources are limited
    4. Overcame this challenge by knowing that small change can be big, and working hard in a field you are passionate about will inspire you everyday
  4. Inspired me to pursue a career in social justice
    1. The book is a constant source of inspiration and will keep me motivated as I pursue my career
    2. The book will always remind me how people with limited financial resources can still make a huge difference in others' lives

Step 4: Write a Strong Statement that Summarizes Your Points

You will want to include one strong thesis statement that summarizes all the major points you will make in your essay. It is often easy to start writing with this simple statement. Your essay doesn't have to begin or end with the thesis statement, but it should appear somewhere in order to tie all the individual sections together.

For example, your thesis statement might be, "You will find that various experiences from both my academic career and my personal life align very well with your organization's mission: shaping community leaders who are working towards a more just and sustainable world." Starting with this sentence can help you organize your thoughts and main points, and provide you with a direction for your essay. When you've finished your essay, be sure to reflect back on your thesis statement and ask yourself, "Does this essay further explain and support my thesis statement?"

Step 5: Fill in the Missing Parts

Now that you have a thesis statement, an outline, and a list of important points to include, you can begin to fill in the missing parts of your story. The first sentence is particularly important: it should capture the attention of the reader, and motivate him or her to continue reading. We recommend starting your story by painting a vivid picture of an experience about which you will be talking in the essay.

For example: "It is 6 am on a hot day in July, I've already showered and I'm eating breakfast. My classmates are all sleeping in and the sun has yet to awaken, but I'm ready to seize the day, as I couldn't imagine spending my summer any other way but interning at a local law firm that specializes in representing the poor. I work a typical 8-5 day during my summer vacation and nothing has made me happier. But I wouldn't be here if it weren't for one particularly savvy teacher and a little book she gave me to read outside of class."

Step 6: Rewrite, Revise, Rewrite

A good writer rewrites and revises his or her work many, many times. After getting a first draft on paper, take a day or two away from the essay and then come back to it with fresh eyes. Make appropriate edits for content, and pay attention to proper spelling and grammar. If need be, you might want to write an entirely new draft and then integrate the best of both into a final draft. Writing a new draft can inspire you to think of new ideas or a better way to tell your story. Some other tips to think about as you rewrite and revise:

  • Make sure it sounds like your voice. You want the scholarship committee to feel like they are getting to know you. If you don't sound authentic, the committee will know. It is better to be yourself than to say what you think the committee wants to hear.
  • Strike a balance between modesty and arrogance. You should be proud of your accomplishments, but you don't want to sound arrogant. Don't exaggerate a story; instead be clear about what you did and the impact it had and let that speak for itself.
  • Check to make sure you are answering the prompt and fulfilling all other requirements of the essay as directed by the committee, such as font preference and word count limits.
  • Don't just list your accomplishments; describe them in detail and also tell the reader how you felt during these experiences.
  • A scholarship essay is not a dissertation. You don't need to impress the committee with big words, especially if you're not completely clear if you're using them correctly. Simplicity and clarity should be the goals.
  • Make sure your essay will be read from the beginning to the end. Committee members won't dedicate much time to reading the essay, so you need to make sure they are given motivation to read the entire thing. If you are telling a story, don't reveal the end of the story until the end.
  • Check to make sure the buzzwords from the mission statement appear. It is easy to forget the scholarship committee's goals as you write. Return to their mission statement and look for spots to place keywords from the statement. Be sure, however, that you're not copying the mission statement word-for-word.

Step 7: Have someone else read your essay

Ideally, you could give your essay to a teacher or college admissions counselor who is familiar with scholarship essays and the college admission process. If such a person is not available, virtually anyone with good reading and writing skills can help make your essay better. When your editor is done reading and you've looked over his or her notes, be sure to ask the following questions:

  • Was the story interesting and did it hold your attention?
  • Were there any parts that were confusing?
  • Did you find any spelling or grammar errors?
  • Does the essay sound like my voice?
  • Does the essay respond appropriately to the prompt?
  • Is there anything you would have done differently or something you thought was missing?

After having an editor (or two or three) look over your draft, it is time again to revise and rewrite.

Step 8: Refine the Final Draft

Once you feel satisfied with the draft, review it one more time and pay particular attention to structure, spelling, grammar, and whether you fulfilled all the required points dictated by the committee. If you are over the required word count, you will need to make edits so that you are within the limit. If you are significantly under the word count, consider adding a supporting paragraph.

Essay Writing Center

Related Content:

Misconception: No one actually reads your scholarship essay! – Wrong!

Fact: Your essay is the key to your scholarship application. It is an opportunity to demonstrate to the selection committee that you are a well-rounded individual, that you are more than your GPA, that you are a strong writer, and it gives you a chance to talk about your experiences and qualifications in greater detail than what appears on your resume or transcripts.

In college, there are many instances where you may be required to write a 250 word essay – your application, exam questions, small writing prompts, etc. A 250 word limit may seem like a novel to some, but others find it difficult to get their point across  with so few words. In this guide, we will look at a 250-word essay example, along with tips on how to write a great 250-word essay.

The Basic Format of a 250-Word Essay

All essays consist of the same three parts: an introduction with a thesis, a body paragraph or body paragraphs that support the thesis, and a concluding paragraph that summarizes the overall essay.

In 250 words, you will most likely have 3-4 paragraphs in total, each with 50-100 words. This will allow for 3-5 concise but detailed sentences per paragraph.

A Step-by-Step 250-Word Essay Example

To help visualize this process, let’s go ahead and write a simple 250 word essay.  You’ll see our writing sample in green and our explanation of what we did (and what can be done) with each section in normal text.

Without further ado, let’s get started on our essay!

TOPIC:  How has your family upbringing influenced your educational goals?

Step 1 – Write Your Thesis

Your thesis is the first thing you should consider in your essay. Simply put, it’s the main idea of your essay that will control everything else you write. If you could summarize the question in just one sentence, how would you do it?

For our topic  How has your family upbringing influenced your educational goals? our thesis will be:

My parents saw little value in a formal education. It was their lack of passion that led me to my educational goals.

Step 2 – Write Your Introduction

In the introduction, the first sentence can be a broad or general statement that sets the tone for the piece. It is usually supported by a second sentence that leads into the thesis. The optional third sentence may pose a question that the thesis aims to answer, or it may prompt the reader to think about the topic in a different light. The final sentence of the intro paragraph clearly establishes the thesis.

As a general rule of thumb, the introduction should go from broad to specific, sentence by sentence, gradually leading up to your thesis. Here’s a sample example of an introductory paragraph.

Parents are supposed to push you past your goals, or at least, that’s what I always believed. I was raised in the generation of “you can do anything if you put your mind to it.” My parents did not follow that philosophy, and they saw little value in a formal education. It was their lack of passion that led me to my educational goals.

Word count:  Introductory paragraph, 64 words. 

Step 3 – Write The Body Paragraph (s)

Next, we’ll continue with the body paragraph. Remember, body paragraphs should support the thesis and be about 3-5 sentences or 50-100 words long. In a short essay you may opt for only one body paragraph but in a longer one you may need more.

So how should your body paragraphs support your thesis? Think of each body paragraph as an argument that supports it.

Working with our thesis  “My parents never saw the value of formal education and that’s what lead me to my educational goals”, then each paragraph could be abouthow not seeing the value of formal education led to the writer pursuing it.

For example, maybe the writer didn’t want to end up in the same work as their parents. Or maybe it was the parents’ lack of belief in the writer that pushed them to pursue a better future.

Let’s have a look at what a body paragraph can look like for our 250 word essay.

From as far back as I can remember, I knew I didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of my parents, at least not when it came to work. My father had worked on the family farm all his life and my mother had been a housewife since graduation. They were both content with the simplicity of their lives and wanted the same for me. I remember my father telling me that college was “expensive and a waste of four years”.  I knew however, that I wanted a career in the city that would be more challenging than simple farm life could provide. The only way to make that possible would be through formal education and a college degree. 

Word count:  Body paragraph 119 words. Total essay is now 181 words. 

Step 4 – Summarize with a Conclusion 

The final paragraph is the conclusion. You may start this paragraph with “To summarize,” “As evident by X, Y, and Z,”  or a similar statement that highlights the biggest points in your essay. Use the conclusion paragraph to sum up the main point of your essay using different words. The last sentence can be something broad that leaves the reader wondering. Let’s see how we can write a conclusion for our sample essay.

While my parents may not understand the value of formal education, I know it is essential for my future. This has helped me immensely, by making me realize that without strong parental support, I’m the only one who’s responsible for my own goals. In a way this has been the strongest source of motivation. And for that, I am forever grateful.  

Notice how we summarize the main point of the essay in the first sentence. We then connect the first sentence to the a conclusion we arrive at. Finally we end in an optimistic tone by stating how this has been helpful and we are grateful. Unlike the introduction paragraph, which flows from broad sentences to specific, a conclusion generally flows the opposite way, from specific sentences to broader concepts.

Word count: Concluding paragraph 61 words. Total essay is now 242 words. 

Sure, we came up 8 words short. But being that close should not be considered an issue. If for some reason you are required to write 250 words minimum, you can make the essay longer by sprinkling in a few extra words.

The Entire 250-word Essay Altogether

Parents are supposed to push you past your goals, or at least, that’s what I always believed. I was raised in the generation of “you can do anything if you put your mind to it.” My parents did not follow that philosophy, and they saw little value in a formal education. It was their lack of passion that led me to my educational goals.

From as far back as I can remember, I knew I didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of my parents, at least not when it came to work. My father had worked on the family farm all his life and my mother had been a housewife since graduation. They were both content with the simplicity of their lives and wanted the same for me. I remember my father telling me that college was “expensive and a waste of four years”.  I knew however, that I wanted a career in the city that would be more challenging than simple farm life could provide. The only way to make that possible would be through formal education and a college degree. 

While my parents may not understand the value of formal education, I know it is essential for my future. This has helped me immensely by making me realize that without strong parental support, I’m the only one who’s responsible for my own goals. In a way this has been the strongest source of motivation. And for that, I am forever grateful.  

Should I Write More Than 250 Words or Less Than 250 Words?

When a professor or college entry application asks for a “250 word essay,” 250 words is generally a rough guide. No one is going to fail you if you go over or under the limit by a few words. We’d say a good gauge is plus or minus 50 words. As a general rule of thumb though, try to stay as close to 250 words as possible without going too far over or under.

Essay Writing Tips

Here are some quick tips for writing a great 250-word essay:

  • Write the first draft from start to finish without any pauses. This will make the writing sound fluid, and you can make adjustments after that.
  • Avoid over-editing your work. Ideally, you should take a long pause between editing sessions so you can clear your head and come back with a fresh perspective.
  • Try not to think about the word count too much. Once you get in the habit of writing four 3-5 sentence paragraphs, you’ll find your words naturally get close to 250.
  • Don’t throw fluff sentences in your essay. Professors see right through those. Instead, think of an additional sentence to enhance the support in your body paragraphs.
  • If you feel like you have concisely and sufficiently answered the question below the word count, trust your gut. Most instructors will value quality over quantity.

The more 250-word essays you write, the easier they will become. Feel free to practice with free essay prompts online to train your brain to write with this rhythm. You’ll soon be able to whip out 250 words without checking your word count!

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