You’ve probably written several essays in your lifetime. In high school, you learned the correct formats and citation styles for narrative, descriptive, expository, and persuasive essays. You likely wrote a few short essays on demand during standardized tests like the SAT, too. If you’ve already applied to college, you had to learn yet another type of essay in order to finish the Common App.
Just when you think you might catch a break from writing essays, you discover that a college education can be expensive. If you’re in a healthcare major, such as nursing, you might also find yourself with extra expenses such as thick textbooks, nursing scrubs, supplies, and licensing fees. So, what is a nursing major to do? Private scholarships can help, but the process can be long and complicated.
Many scholarship applications require an in-person interview, an essay, or both. This is because private scholarships are often based on academic merit, not on financial need. Scholarship committees want to know what inspired you to pursue nursing and why you deserve the scholarship they are offering. After all, scholarships are free money that you don’t have to pay back, so they need to make sure it goes to passionate and deserving individuals.
If you’re faced with writing even more essays as part of your scholarship process, these easy steps can help!
1. Research all available opportunities.
Start with local scholarships offered by your university or local hospitals. Most private and public schools have funding for at least a few scholarships in various nursing programs. Large universities likely have lots of donors who have endowed them with funds to support nursing students.
Some hospitals also offer scholarships for students who work for them, or at least some tuition reimbursement for employees. These programs allow for your employer to pay you back for part or all of your tuition in a local school or online program.
Finally, search for scholarships funded by national organizations or business by using a scholarship indexing website, such as Fastweb, or through tools offered by the College Board. You’re probably already familiar with the College Board if you’ve taken an AP test or the SATs. Not many students know that they also offer a scholarship search engine. You can search for opportunities based on degree or level of education. A search for “nursing” currently yields 526 results.
2. Make sure you understand the guidelines.
This should go without saying, but the first thing you should do after finding a scholarship is determine whether or not you are qualified to receive the money you are applying for. Many scholarships are earmarked only for a certain kind of student, so you don’t want to waste your time applying for something you’ll never receive.
Simmons University has created a list of fifteen nursing scholarships, which may be a good place to look if you’ve exhausted local resources. These scholarships range from opportunities for oncology nurses to RNs working in gastroenterology, so make sure you read the guidelines carefully.
Consider applying to scholarships that you are uniquely qualified for, such as ones for minorities or the children of immigrants. These opportunities are just waiting for the right person to scoop them up!
Next, read the guidelines for the essay itself. Make sure you understand the questions you’re supposed to answer and the format you should put it in. If you fail to follow the guidelines, your application will likely be tossed in the trash.
3. Use what you’ve learned about yourself from writing your Common App essay.
Much like the essay you had to write to get into college, scholarship essays should be a reflection on your experiences. In this case, think about what you’ve done in your past that will help you stand out among potentially thousands of other applicants. Maybe you’ve volunteered at a nursing home or hospital. You can use that experience to prove your commitment to healthcare and/or reflect on the personal lessons you’ve learned while working there.
If you have no previous work or volunteer experience, ask yourself what about nursing appealed to you to begin with. Look back at your college admission essay and re-frame your previous insights. For example, if you wrote about how you showed perseverance during a particularly tough time in your life, consider writing about how that perseverance can be helpful in a healthcare profession.
If you’re still stuck about finding a topic, think about any academic achievements or special research projects you have worked on. You will stand out from the rest of the applicants if you have taken on advanced opportunities in high school or as an undergrad.
Ultimately, scholarship committees want to know who you are, so share your achievements proudly.
4. Set the right tone.
Be proud of your accomplishments and confident about your abilities, but don’t sound conceited or pompous. Write in your own voice, but also in a tone that is appropriate in a professional setting.
If you are writing about a particularly difficult subject, like your time working with Alzheimer’s patients in a nursing home, it might not be a good time to show off your skills in writing jokes. Instead, opt for a more serious, reflective tone. Just as you did with your college admissions essay, try to show how your experiences enhanced or brought out the good qualities in you. Scholarship committees want to know that they’re giving their money to someone who possesses qualities that will help them in the high-demand career of nursing.
It may seem difficult to find the correct tone, but if you think of this essay the same way you thought of your college admissions essay, you should be on the right track.
5. Revise and proofread.
You’ve probably received this advice before, but it bears repeating. No essay is perfect the first time around. There are so many ways you can ensure that your writing is as close to perfect as possible.
Share your writing with a professor or trusted friend and ask them to be a second set of eyes. Ask them to look for grammar and punctuation errors, which you may not be able to see on your own. Also, don’t forget to ask your second set of eyes to consider things like sentence structure, fluency, and adherence to the prompt. Far too often, students only concentrate on grammar and punctuation errors and forget the other aspects of effective writing.
Have you ever considered reading your work backwards? When we read forwards, we tend to not see errors in our own writing. If you read your essay backwards, however, you’re likely to pick up typos, misspellings, and things that just don’t make sense.
Another tip that you’ve probably heard before is to leave your writing alone for a day or two, then come back to it with “fresh eyes.”
No matter which method you choose, make sure that your essay shines before you send it in. Although there may be no such thing as “perfect,” you do want your essay to make a good impression on the scholarship committee. That may mean paying attention to those little details about writing that you tend to ignore.
6. Meet deadlines.
You would probably feel very uncomfortable walking into an interview half an hour late, so don’t get yourself into that position when writing your essay, either. Procrastinating won’t help you in this case. Give yourself plenty of time to plan, write, revise, and edit your writing before submitting it by the deadline.
Keep a calendar of deadlines and get your essays in with plenty of time to spare. You can even use your phone to set alarms if you’re afraid of missing deadlines. If your essay arrives late, it may end up in a trash can instead of a reader’s hands. If your essay arrives early, you probably won’t be penalized at all. The only downside will be the extra long wait you’ll have until you find out if you’ve received the scholarship!
You’ve already put in so much work into becoming an LPN or RN. You’ve graduated high school with an excellent GPA while taking relevant science and math courses. You’ve volunteered your time working with patients in a hospital or nursing home, maybe even while taking college courses. You’ve studied biology, chemistry, and anatomy. Your test scores are top notch and your professors have written stellar recommendation letters.
You’ve already proven that you have the academic skills and work ethic to become a nurse. Now, you just need the funding to start or continue your education. Like most parts of your college career, it may not be easy. It will take some time to find the right opportunities and carefully craft your essay. However, if you follow the tips listed here, you can make money one less thing to worry about while you’re pursuing your dream career.