Applying for scholarships can be a crucial part of applying for college. Scholarships are a great way to help cover the cost of your education, and knowing how to increase your chances of getting one can make the process much smoother.
Many factors are considered when committees determine who they award a scholarship. Academic transcripts, extra-curricular activities and test scores are essential pieces of most scholarship applications.
Though these factors are undeniably important, the essay portion of a scholarship application is a key component because it shows who you are, both as a student and an individual to the scholarship committee. Writing a good scholarship essay can help you stand out from other applicants.
There are many tips to keep in mind when writing scholarship essays, specifically for African American students.
1. Research the scholarship before writing your essay.
A big part of increasing your chances of receiving scholarship money is knowing which scholarships to apply for, which means conducting thorough research. Many organizations have scholarships that are intended for African American students.
These kinds of scholarships have a far-reaching scope, in terms of amounts, application processes and requirements, making research a huge aspect of your scholarship success. Some scholarships are awarded by national groups, while others are funded by large companies. Colleges and universities often have scholarships geared towards African American students, so be sure to look for both internal and external sources of funding when making your list of potential scholarships.
2. Follow the scholarship requirements.
Paying close attention to requirements can help you because you will not only discover scholarships you might be eligible for, but you’ll also avoid wasting time applying to scholarships you don’t qualify for. Some scholarships are geared towards students who are first-generation Americans, first-generation college students, or students who meet particular racial or ethnic requirements. Students who are in particular fields, such as STEM, healthcare or the arts can also apply to some field-based scholarships for African American students.
Scholarships can get even narrower in their requirements, such as only being open to women or veterans. Make sure to read all of the requirements carefully and seek out opportunities that are unique to your situation.
Scholarship amounts can range broadly from hundreds to thousands of dollars, and all come with unique application requirements. Though each scholarship varies in what is required of applicants, most require an essay.
3. Follow the scholarship essay requirements.
Just as researching which scholarships you qualify for, whether specifically as an African American student or not, researching each individual essay requirement is equally important. The essay is your chance to make an impression to scholarship committees, and you don’t want to decrease your chances by not adhering to each scholarship’s requirements. Double-check word counts and formatting standards and be sure to address each prompt individually. Committees will be able to tell if you use a one-size-fits all approach to your essay.
Though each essay is different and some have more guided prompts than others, in general, essay prompts are open ended enough to let your personality and values shine. Essays should be personal, and rooted in what you really believe in. It’s important to stay genuine in your essay no matter the topic, and don’t just write about something because you think it’s what the committee wants. Committees recognize when an applicant is being true to themselves and writing about something they truly believe in.
4. Brainstorm your essay topics as an African American student.
Finding a topic you feel deeply about can be difficult, so allow yourself plenty of time for the brainstorming process. You can’t always rush this process, so allowing yourself ample time to plan and brainstorm will alleviate the pressure of having to come up with something too quickly.
Your experience as an African American student can be a good topic to focus on if it’s something you find has helped shape you as a student and as a person. Some scholarships that are geared towards African American students can be a good place to express these ideas in your essay.
Other African Americans whose work, ideas or values you admire can also make good essay topics. However, if you take this approach, it’s essential to demonstrate how their work has affected, changed, and shaped YOU. Double-check every prompt, and if there are multiple parts to the prompt, take care to address all parts of it in your essay.
5. Editing your scholarship essay is important.
Once you have chosen your topic and written the first draft of your essay, editing is the next important step. A big part of any scholarship essay is demonstrating what kind of person you are and why you deserve to be awarded scholarship funds.
However, another big part of a scholarship essay is to demonstrate what kind of writer you are — that you’re detail oriented and thorough in your work. Carefully check your writing to ensure it is free of grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors to show that you care about your essay and the scholarship itself.
It’s also helpful to have someone you trust edit your work. They can help you both with content and with the technical writing aspects of your essay.
Finally, pay attention to deadlines. Many scholarships are only awarded once a year and have strict deadlines. You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to help finance your education by missing a deadline. Stay organized and on top of the various applications deadlines for all the scholarships you apply for.
Your scholarship essay can help make paying for college easier. Taking the time for diligent research, giving yourself plenty of time to write a stand-out essay, and choosing a topic that makes you shine will all increase your chances for success.