Sample Scholarship Essays
If you’re applying for a scholarship, chances are you are going to need to write an essay. Very few scholarship programs are based solely on an application form or transcript. The essay is often the most important part of your application; it gives the scholarship committee a sense of who you are and your dedication to your goals. You’ll want to make sure that your scholarship essay is the best it can possibly be.
Unless specified otherwise, scholarship essays should always use the following formatting:
- Double spaced
- Times New Roman font
- 12 point font
- One-inch top, bottom, and side margins
Other useful tips to keep in mind include:
- Read the instructions thoroughly and make sure you completely understand them before you start writing.
- Think about what you are going to write and organize your thoughts into an outline.
- Write your essay by elaborating on each point you included in your outline.
- Use clear, concise, and simple language throughout your essay.
- When you are finished, read the question again and then read your essay to make sure that the essay addresses every point.
For more tips on writing a scholarship essay, check out our Eight Steps Towards a Better Scholarship Essay .
The Book that Made Me a Journalist
Prompt: Describe a book that made a lasting impression on you and your life and why.It is 6 am on a hot day in July and I’ve already showered and eaten breakfast. I know that my classmates are all sleeping in and enjoying their summer break, but I don’t envy them; I’m excited to start my day interning with a local newspaper doing investigative journalism. I work a typical 8-5 day during my summer vacation and despite the early mornings, nothing has made me happier. Although it wasn't clear to me then, looking back on my high school experiences and everything that led to me to this internship, I believe this path began with a particularly savvy teacher and a little book she gave me to read outside of class.
I was taking a composition class, and we were learning how to write persuasive essays. Up until that point, I had had average grades, but I was always a good writer and my teacher immediately recognized this. The first paper I wrote for the class was about my experience going to an Indian reservation located near my uncle's ranch in southwest Colorado. I wrote of the severe poverty experienced by the people on the reservation, and the lack of access to voting booths during the most recent election. After reading this short story, my teacher approached me and asked about my future plans. No one had ever asked me this, and I wasn't sure how to answer. I said I liked writing and I liked thinking about people who are different from myself. She gave me a book and told me that if I had time to read it, she thought it would be something I would enjoy. I was actually quite surprised that a high school teacher was giving me a book titled Lies My Teacher Told Me. It had never occurred to me that teachers would lie to students. The title intrigued me so much that on Friday night I found myself staying up almost all night reading, instead of going out with friends.
In short, the book discusses several instances in which typical American history classes do not tell the whole story. For example, the author addresses the way that American history classes do not usually address about the Vietnam War, even though it happened only a short time ago. This made me realize that we hadn't discussed the Vietnam War in my own history class! The book taught me that, like my story of the Indian reservation, there are always more stories beyond what we see on the surface and what we’re taught in school. I was inspired to continue to tell these stories and to make that my career.
For my next article for the class, I wrote about the practice of my own high school suspending students, sometimes indefinitely, for seemingly minor offenses such as tardiness and smoking. I found that the number of suspensions had increased by 200% at my school in just three years, and also discovered that students who are suspended after only one offense often drop out and some later end up in prison. The article caused quite a stir. The administration of my school dismissed it, but it caught the attention of my local newspaper. A local journalist worked with me to publish an updated and more thoroughly researched version of my article in the local newspaper. The article forced the school board to revisit their “zero tolerance” policy as well as reinstate some indefinitely suspended students.I won no favors with the administration and it was a difficult time for me, but it was also thrilling to see how one article can have such a direct effect on people’s lives. It reaffirmed my commitment to a career in journalism.
This is why I’m applying for this scholarship. Your organization has been providing young aspiring journalists with funds to further their skills and work to uncover the untold stories in our communities that need to be reported. I share your organization’s vision of working towards a more just and equitable world by uncovering stories of abuse of power. I have already demonstrated this commitment through my writing in high school and I look forward to pursuing a BA in this field at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. With your help, I will hone my natural instincts and inherent writing skills. I will become a better and more persuasive writer and I will learn the ethics of professional journalism.
I sincerely appreciate the committee’s time in evaluating my application and giving me the opportunity to tell my story. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Scholarship Essay Do's and Don'ts
|Do:||Follow the prompt and other instructions exactly. You might write a great essay but it may get your application rejected if you don’t follow the word count guidelines or other formatting requirements.|
|DON'T:||Open your essay with a quote. This is a well-worn strategy that is mostly used ineffectively. Instead of using someone else’s words, use your own.|
|DON'T:||Use perfunctory sentences such as, “In this essay, I will…”|
|DO:||Be clear and concise. Make sure each paragraph discusses only one central thought or argument.|
|DON'T:||Use words from a thesaurus that are new to you. You may end up using the word incorrectly and that will make your writing awkward. Keep it simple and straightforward. The point of the essay is to tell your story, not to demonstrate how many words you know.|
Try Our Free Scholarship Search
Planners and Searchers
Prompt: In 600 words or less, please tell us about yourself and why you are applying for this scholarship. Please be clear about how this scholarship will help you achieve your personal and professional goals.
Being African, I recognize Africa’s need for home- grown talent in the form of “planners” (assistants with possible solutions) and “searchers” (those with desperate need) working towards international development. I represent both. Coming from Zimbabwe my greatest challenge is in helping to improve the livelihoods of developing nations through sustainable development and good governance principles. The need for policy-makers capable of employing cross-jurisdictional, and cross- disciplinary strategies to solve complex challenges cannot be under-emphasized; hence my application to this scholarship program.
After graduating from Africa University with an Honors degree in Sociology and Psychology, I am now seeking scholarship support to study in the United States at the Master’s level. My interest in democracy, elections, constitutionalism and development stems from my lasting interest in public policy issues. Accordingly, my current research interests in democracy and ethnic diversity require a deeper understanding of legal processes of constitutionalism and governance. As a Master’s student in the US, I intend to write articles on these subjects from the perspective of someone born, raised, and educated in Africa. I will bring a unique and much-needed perspective to my graduate program in the United States, and I will take the technical and theoretical knowledge from my graduate program back with me to Africa to further my career goals as a practitioner of good governance and community development.
To augment my theoretical understanding of governance and democratic practices, I worked with the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) as a Programs Assistant in the Monitoring and Observation department. This not only enhanced my project management skills, but also developed my skills in research and producing communication materials. ZESN is Zimbabwe’s biggest election observation organization, and I had the responsibility of monitoring the political environment and producing monthly publications on human rights issues and electoral processes. These publications were disseminated to various civil society organizations, donors and other stakeholders. Now I intend to develop my career in order to enhance Africa’s capacity to advocate, write and vote for representative constitutions.
I also participated in a fellowship program at Africa University, where I gained greater insight into social development by teaching courses on entrepreneurship, free market economics, and development in needy communities. I worked with women in rural areas of Zimbabwe to setup income-generating projects such as the jatropha soap-making project. Managing such a project gave me great insight into how many simple initiatives can transform lives.
Your organization has a history of awarding scholarships to promising young students from the developing world in order to bring knowledge, skills and leadership abilities to their home communities. I have already done some of this work but I want to continue, and with your assistance, I can. The multidisciplinary focus of the development programs I am applying to in the US will provide me with the necessary skills to creatively address the economic and social development challenges and develop sound public policies for Third World countries. I thank you for your time and consideration for this prestigious award.
Scholarship Essay Do's and Don'ts
|DO:||Research the organization and make sure you understand their mission and values and incorporate them into your essay.|
|DO:||Focus on your strengths and turn in any problems or weaknesses into a success story.|
|DO:||Use actual, detailed examples from your own life to backup your claims and arguments as to why you should receive the scholarship.|
|DO:||Proofread several times before finally submitting your essay.|
|DON'T:||Rehash what is already stated on your resume. Choose additional, unique stories to tell sell yourself to the scholarship committee.|
|DON'T:||Simply state that you need the money. Even if you have severe financial need, it won’t help to simply ask for the money and it may come off as tacky.|
Try Our Free Scholarship Search
Saving the Manatees
Prompt: Please give the committee an idea of who you are and why you are the perfect candidate for the scholarship.
It is a cliché to say that I’ve always known what I want to do with my life, but in my case it happens to be true. When I first visited Sea World as a young child, I fell in love with marine animals in general. Specifically, I felt drawn to manatees. I was compelled by their placid and friendly nature. I knew then and there that I wanted to dedicate my life to protecting these beautiful creatures.
Since that day in Orlando, I have spent much of my spare time learning everything there is to know about manatees. As a junior high and high school student, I attempted to read scholarly articles on manatees from scientific journals. I annoyed my friends and family with scientific facts about manatees-- such as that they are close relatives of elephants--at the dinner table. I watched documentaries, and even mapped their migration pattern on a wall map my sister gave me for my birthday.
When I was chosen from hundreds of applicants to take part in a summer internship with Sea World, I fell even more in love with these gentle giants. I also learned a very important and valuable lesson: prior to this internship, I had imagined becoming a marine biologist, working directly with the animals in their care both in captivity and in the wild. However, during the internship, I discovered that this is not where my strengths lie. Unfortunately, I am not a strong student in science or math, which are required skills to become a marine biologist. Although this was a disheartening realization, I found that I possess other strengths can still be of great value to manatees and other endangered marine mammals: my skills as a public relations manager and communicator. During the internship, I helped write new lessons and presentations for elementary school groups visiting the park and developed a series of fun activities for children to help them learn more about manatees as well as conservation of endangered species in general. I also worked directly with the park’s conservation and communication director, and helped develop a new local outreach program designed to educate Floridians on how to avoid hitting a manatee when boating. My supervisor recommended me to the Save the Manatee Foundation so in addition to my full-time internship at Sea World, I interned with the Save the Manatee Foundation part-time. It was there that I witnessed the manatee rescue and conservation effort first hand, and worked directly with the marine biologists in developing fund-raising and awareness-raising campaigns. I found that the foundation’s social media presence was lacking, and, using skills I learned from Sea World, I helped them raise over $5,000 through a Twitter challenge, which we linked to the various social media outlets of the World Wildlife Federation.
While I know that your organization typically awards scholarships to students planning to major in disciplines directly related to conservation such as environmental studies or zoology, I feel that the public relations side of conservation is just as important as the actual work done on the ground. Whether it is reducing one’s carbon footprint, or saving the manatees, these are efforts that, in order to be successful, must involve the larger public. In fact, the relative success of the environmental movement today is largely due to a massive global public relations campaign that turned environmentalism from something scientific and obscure into something that is both fashionable and accessible to just about anyone. However, that success is being challenged more than ever before--especially here in the US, where an equally strong anti-environmental public relations campaign has taken hold. Therefore, conservationists need to start getting more creative.
I want to be a part of this renewed effort and use my natural abilities as a communicator to push back against the rather formidable forces behind the anti-environmentalist movement. I sincerely hope you will consider supporting this non-traditional avenue towards global sustainability and conservation. I have already been accepted to one of the most prestigious communications undergraduate programs in the country and I plan to minor in environmental studies. In addition, I maintain a relationship with my former supervisors at Save the Manatee and Sea World, who will be invaluable resources for finding employment upon graduation. I thank the committee for thinking outside the box in considering my application.
Scholarship Essay Do's and Don'ts
|DO:||Tell a story. Discuss your personal history and why those experiences have led you to apply for these scholarships.|
|DO:||Write an outline. If you’ve already started writing or have a first draft, make an outline based on what you’ve written so far. This will help you see whether your paragraphs flow and connect with one another.|
|DON'T:||Write a generic essay for every application. Adapt your personal statement for each individual scholarship application.|
|DO:||Run spellcheck and grammar check on your computer but also do your own personal check. Spellcheck isn’t perfect and you shouldn't rely on technology to make your essay perfect.|
Try Our Free Scholarship Search
(May 19, 1935 to Feb. 15, 2009)
Dr. Diether H. Haenicke, president emeritus and distinguished professor at Western Michigan University, served as the University's fifth president from 1985 to 1998, and also served one year as interim president in 2006-07 during the national search that brought President Dr. John M. Dunn to Kalamazoo.
During Haenicke’s original 13-year presidency, WMU experienced significant growth in research, private support and enrollment. The University conducted a successful $62 million capital campaign and several major buildings were constructed, including the Student Recreation Center, University Computing Center, Lee Honors College, Gilmore Theatre Complex and Schneider Hall, home of the Haworth College of Business. Other major facilities were renovated and expanded, including Waldo Library, Read Fieldhouse and Waldo Stadium. More than $180 million was committed to the University during Haenicke’s two presidencies from cash, in-kind donations, pledges, and deferred and private grants.
Haenicke championed increased research at WMU, which greatly elevated recognition and ranking of the University as a research institution. WMU honored his efforts in 1999 at the dedication of Dr. Diether H. Haenicke Hall, a four-story, 94,800-square-foot science research facility. It features more than 60 laboratories and two specialized teaching areas that support advanced research and teaching for the departments of biological sciences, chemistry, geosciences and psychology.
A lifelong advocate of study abroad programs and international students, Haenicke's passion for global learning was celebrated in 1998 when the University gathered its international operations under one umbrella organization and named it for him. The Diether H. Haenicke Institute for Global Education is responsible for the global and international studies major, area studies courses, Universitywide internationalization of academics and faculty, and the offices of Study Abroad, International Admissions and Services, Immigration Services and the Center for English Language and Culture for International Students.
Haenicke also directed in 1998 WMU’s successful application to Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest and most prestigious honor society, to authorize a campus chapter of that organization at WMU, making the University one of fewer than 100 public institutions in the nation so honored.
A widely respected scholar, Haenicke was the author of more than 200 publications and papers on literature, history, academic administration, international study and educational finance. He was honored in 2002 by colleagues around the globe who created a Festschrift in honor of his 65th birthday on the Wayne State University campus. A Festschrift is a rare academic honor in which professional colleagues collect and publish one or more volumes of essays or articles to celebrate the lifetime achievement of a distinguished academic colleague.
Following his first tenure as president, Haenicke returned to the faculty in 1998 and officially retired from WMU as president emeritus in 2004. It was during this time that he was able to enjoy his “first love” of teaching students. He returned to the presidency in 2006, after being asked by WMU trustees to take the position on an interim basis while the University sought a new president.
Haenicke came back as though he had never left. He was, as one colleague put it “a guardian angel,” who preserved the University till Dunn arrived in fall 2007. During his second presidency, Haenicke reinvigorated the institution's reputation for student service and embraced the use of technology to stay in touch with students and hear their views. When Dunn took the reins in 2007, Haenicke knew the University was in good hands again. He returned to private life in 2007 at age 72 with more than 1,500 Facebook friends.
From Germany to the United States
Born on May 19, 1935 in Hagen, Germany, Diether Hans Haenicke was the sixth of eight children born to Erwin and Helene Haenicke. He was raised and grew up near the Werra River in Witzenhausen, a small town which bordered communist East Germany until the German reunification. It was here that Diether faced as a child the grim realities of fascism and the Second World War.
While Nazism pervaded the nation and reached into his idyllic small town, Diether found solace in books and music. Not surprisingly, his intellectual parents had similar interests. His father would often play portions of records for Diether and his siblings, and demand that they name the composer, the symphony, and its movement before dinner would be served.
As the war ended, and poverty and despair loomed over Germany, Diether continued to immerse himself in his studies. Having attended the Volksschule primary school and the Mittelschule secondary school, Diether went on to the Gymnasium, or high school, in nearby Bad Sooden-Allendorf. Diether loved school and would often tell his children that he looked forward to classes, exams, and even homework.
Following the completion of his required courses of study, Diether entered his studies in higher education at the Universities of Goettingen, Marburg, and Munich. His major fields of study were German and comparative literature, history, psychology and philosophy. He went on to earn his doctorate from the University of Munich, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1962.
It was in that year that Diether met and married a young American student named Carol Colditz, to whom he was married for 46 years, and with whom he spent his very last moments. Their life together was spent in universities, with eccentric friends, lively parties, and unforgettable laughter.
Carol and Diether had two children, Jennifer and Kurt, who enjoyed and benefited from the experience of being raised in a household that was anything but all-American. Nevertheless, Diether officially became a U.S. citizen in 1972, and was deeply patriotic towards the country he considered to be the greatest in the world. In fact, Diether was known for his arguments with Europeans who derided America. It was never a good idea to tell him that his adopted country “had no culture.”
Diether’s career in U.S. academia began in earnest when he arrived in the country as a Fulbright lecturer in the early 1960s and accepted a position teaching German language and German literature at Wayne State University’s Junior Year Program. Although he had always imagined that he would spend his life as a professor, it became evident that Diether had both the acumen and desire to move into higher education administration. He ascended from department chair to dean and provost at Wayne State University, before moving in the early 1970s to a Big-10 campus—Ohio State University—where he served as dean and academic vice president and provost.
Poised to move on to a major university presidency, Diether became interested in a job opening in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Many colleagues advised him to look elsewhere, but Diether clearly fell in love with Western Michigan University from his first visit there. It was a place, as he said, that he “could get his arms around.” Diether accepted the position of WMU president in 1985, and spent the rest of his career there despite offers and inquiries from some of the nation’s biggest and most famous institutions. Diether adopted WMU much in the fashion he had adopted America—with fierce pride and loyalty.
A proud and active member of the Kalamazoo community, Diether served as board member for numerous civic, arts and charitable organizations, including Bronson Methodist Hospital, the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and the Greater Kalamazoo United Way. Shortly after his 1998 retirement, Diether began writing a popular weekly column in the Kalamazoo Gazette, which he continued into 2009. A collection of his weekly columns, "Wednesdays with Diether," was published in book form by the Gazette in 2003.
Dr. Diether H. Haenicke, age 73, died on Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009, in Kalamazoo. A community celebration of his life was held on February 26, 2009 in Miller Auditorium.
Photos provided by: Carol Haenicke, Kahler Schuemann and WMU's Office of University Relations.