Many scholarships draw in a large number of applications. After all, it’s free money for college. For a moment, put yourself in the shoes of the people that have to read through every single essay for these applications. If you read through the introduction of an essay and it hasn’t gotten your attention, do you think you’ll keep reading the whole thing?
Now, imagine that it’s your essay that didn’t get the reader’s attention. You put the effort into filling out the application, gathered all the required items, and asked for the recommendation letters.
How you start your scholarship essay is important. If your essay’s introduction doesn’t make the cut, the rest of your application will not stand out when it comes time to award the winner. That means all your hard work will be tossed aside, and barely considered.
Instead, set out to catch the reader’s attention with the start of your scholarship essay. Draw them in, and make them want to read more about you, your achievements, and better yet – why they should select you as a winner.
According to International Student, your essay gives the scholarship committee a sense of who you are and how dedicated you are to reaching your goals. In short, it’s usually the most important part of your application. So, let’s make it count!
Before you even start writing your scholarship essay, consider these tips for success.
1. Know your deadline.
You wouldn’t want to start your important term paper the night before it’s due. After all, your work would reflect that and you wouldn’t get the best grade. The same goes for starting your scholarship essay. Remember, you want your reader to read your entire essay. Give yourself plenty of time to thoughtfully share your thoughts so that your essay and application stand out above the rest.
2. Read the instructions.
Show the reader that you are able to follow instructions, and give them what they ask for. If they want the document typed in a certain word count, font, size or margin, then make sure you adhere to those specifications.
If they don’t specify those instructions, the standard format according to most sources are:
- Double spaced
- Times New Roman font
- 12-point font
- One-inch top, bottom, and side margins
Additionally, be sure you’re thoroughly answering any questions or prompts that are noted in the application.
3. Find out your theme for the essay.
Once you know the theme, you’ll want to create a “thesis statement” to include in your introduction. Don’t let the thesis statement part scare you. Many college papers will tell you to start with a thesis, so this is great practice. A thesis statement is just your objective of the paper, or in this case, your essay. Use this thought to frame the content, and go from there.
4. Use an outline to get started.
Since the words you use for this essay are often limited to a certain number, make all of them count. You can do this by creating an outline before you start your scholarship essay. This will make sure all of your thoughts are covered in an organized manner, and will help you frame your thoughts for a powerful and concise introduction to start your essay.
5. Don’t start your scholarship essay with a quote.
Many sources say that you should never start a scholarship essay with a quote. Instead, you can summarize a quote later on in the essay if it fits your idea, but don’t open your first paragraph with it. Better yet, give your narrative of an idea in place of a quote. It will show your own perspective and personality.
6. Make your essay introduction personal.
The beginning of an essay is an introduction to who you are. According to Scholarships.com, readers love a personal anecdote or well-told story about themselves. Of course, only share a story that applies to your topic. You want to keep the introduction cohesive with the rest of the essay. Don’t just throw a personal story in there just for show — it must make sense to use it. This can be a great way to set your scholarship essay and application apart from the competition, and will help show your passion towards the topic.
7. Keep it real and use words you know.
While we’re at it, remember this tip when you start writing papers in college. If you overuse your thesaurus, your professor will know — just like a scholarship committee will be able to tell. Get comfortable by writing words you use everyday (well, skip the slang and swear words, obviously). So, keep it real. If your writing shows how confident you are using the words you know, the reader will enjoy it more. If he or she needs to pick up a thesaurus to decode what you’ve said, your essay will probably leave a mark, but not in a good way.
8. Write the entire essay, and come back to the beginning.
Some people, even the most seasoned writers included, get a case of writer’s block when they are staring at a blank computer screen. Combine that with the anxiety you might feel, knowing how important your scholarship essay is to you, and it could make matters worse.
So, get comfortable and write most of your essay. Follow your outline and get the meat of your content down. Then, come back around to the beginning. With the rest of the essay’s content fresh in your mind, coming up with a powerful introduction to showcase it all may come easier to you.
9. If you are stumped, review some example essays.
There are several colleges and universities such as Estrella Mountain Community College, San Diego State University, and University of Florida that offer sample essays on their websites that fit a variety of perspectives. Check the website of the college or university you plan to attend, and see if they offer any essay examples. Simply reviewing these may give you the framework and mindset you need to get started.
10. Ask a teacher, mentor, or parent to proofread your work.
You’re about to put in a great deal of thought and effort to showcase why you should be awarded a scholarship. Don’t turn it loose without having an extra set of eyes look it over for grammar and spelling. Take it a step further, and ask your proofreader to put themselves into the shoes of a scholarship committee member. Did they want to keep reading — especially after the introduction?
Their feedback should be constructive and honest. Don’t take any criticism personally — use it to improve your work. That will be valuable experience for you as you write more scholarship essays, and eventually college papers.