You’re busy with school, homework, extracurricular activities, you name it. In your spare time, you’ve searched tirelessly for matching scholarships and finally found one you know you can win. You write a winning essay, and it’s ready to go. But wait! Before you congratulate yourself and send it off, there are few things you need to do.
Have you double-checked your essay thoroughly? Is it error free?
Proofreading your essay can make the difference between you winning a scholarship and not hearing back.
Here are some steps to get you there.
Confirm that you’ve completed all the requirements.
Did you follow all the instructions and answer all the questions? Be sure your essay follows the essay prompt if one was provided. The requirements include the word count and scholarship prompt — so be sure to follow them both.
Spellcheck your work.
Use a spellchecker, but don’t take what the spellchecker suggests as law. Check that the suggested spelling is accurate. Double-check that all possessive pronouns (its, ours, your, theirs) are spelled correctly. Did you accidentally use your instead of you’re or vice-versa? Did you accidentally spell its when you meant it’s? If you have trouble differentiating between the two, ask someone (like your English teacher) for help.
Check your grammar.
Did you use any incomplete sentences? If so, replace them with complete sentences. Did you use punctuations correctly? Did you add adverbs to words describing an action? For example: well versus good, wonderfully versus wonderful.
Search for any passive words and replace them with active words. These are words like “should be doing,” “I am doing,” “was done,” “My mind was opened by the book.” Active words strengthen a sentence. They are words like “I did” and “The book opened my mind.”
Run-on sentences are long sentences that seem to continue forever. Look for any culprits within your essay. Break any sentences that have two or more sentences into separate sentences. If you find phrases within these sentences, turn them into complete sentences when possible. It’s better to have shorter, clearer sentences than long ones.
Did you use capitalization correctly? Capitalize words like I, pronouns, and the beginning of sentences. Thanks to texting, it’s easy to forget capitalization every now and then. However, your scholarship essay is not the place to do so.
Stay away from abbreviations within your essay. These are other things we’re used to doing when texting. For example, use through, rather than thru; because, rather than B/C; and with rather than w/. You get the idea.
Read your essay out loud.
You’ll catch several errors when you read your essay out loud. There’s something about audible words that silent reading doesn’t see.
Using big words.
Is your essay rigged with words you need a dictionary to translate? This doesn’t impress the scholarship committee. They’re more impressed when you write clearly, so turn those big words into everyday words that are easier to digest.
Take a break.
Step away from your essay after you’ve finished it. You’ll return with a fresh set of eyes and ideas to perhaps move a sentence elsewhere or add new details you didn’t think of earlier.
Review your opening paragraph.
Does your opening paragraph grab the reader’s attention within the first few lines, or it is a generic opening that others often use? Examples include repeating the prompt question or starting your essay with a question or quote.
Ask for help.
Ask trusted people in your academic circle to read your essay. This may include a friend who’s really good in English, your teacher, a mentor, school counselor, or even your parents.
Check the word count.
With many applicants seeking the same scholarship, the review board takes word count seriously. Don’t give them a reason to eliminate your well-written essay because it’s over the limit. If your essay is slightly shorter than the word count, that’s fine.
Double-check that your essay refers to the correct organization or college that’s awarding the scholarship, where necessary. This is especially important if you’re using the same essay for multiple applications. Also confirm that all names are spelled correctly.
Check the spacing between words and paragraphs. Your essay should be double-spaced and in a readable font, such as Times New Roman. Use one-inch margins on all sides.
Review the conclusion.
Does the conclusion of your essay reiterate why you deserve the essay? Confirm that your closing is just as strong as the rest of your essay. Remember to leave a good lasting impression.