Start Writing Your Award-Winning Scholarship Essay Today!

James Maroney, founder of First Choice College Placement writes a great guide to writing your award-winning scholarship essay! First seen on

The Award-Winning Essay

As an SAT tutor and a consultant who advises students on writing college and scholarship essays, I am often envious of my students.  They’re preparing for one of the most exciting and enjoyable experiences of their life – college!

I often tell my students how, after just a few hours of hard work, they have the ability to earn themselves thousands of valuable dollars, which can go a long way in paying for school.  There aren’t many legit ways of earning that kind of money in such a short time!

As you may be aware, higher SAT and ACT scores often equate to larger scholarships from schools.  But many students don’t know that writing great essays can also equate to a better chance of winning local scholarships.

Where Do I Begin?

Two points are critical when approaching the challenge of writing an award-winning essay:

  • First, you need to connect with your audience and relate to them in some manner, as I discussed in my previous article.
  • Second, you need to start early, so that you can give yourself enough time to revise your essay and have others proofread it for you.

The essay is the most difficult part of a scholarship application, and it’s often the only thing that separates the winners from the rest of the applicant pool.  Even the best writers struggle with the scholarship essay because it differs so greatly from academic essays.  But, as many of us know, the best writers are those who write, write, and rewrite; the best essays are those that have been rewritten several times with thoughtful revisions.

Scholarship evaluators generally don’t read essays from a technical standpoint (unless, of course, the paper is riddled with simple, lazy errors); rather, they read in order to get a better idea of the applicant’s personal history, qualities, and aspirations.  The essay is meant to give applicants a chance to convey ideas that cannot be expressed in an SAT score or list of accomplishments.  Everyone has unique characteristics, and with a few simple guidelines, anyone can write a successful scholarship essay that showcases these qualities:

How To Write an Award-Winning Essay

  • Start by gathering information and constructing a rough draft several weeks before you intend to submit the application for less stress and more time for fine-tuning.
  • Write down a list of the personal qualities and goals that you want to articulate to the scholarship’s evaluators, then choose something (perhaps a personal story) that clearly displays these characteristics.  Don’t write empty, aimless prose; aim to write with purpose, peppering your essay with useful, persuasive information.
  • It’s usually best to make an outline before starting the rough draft, but not absolutely necessary.  Some find it easier to just begin writing, especially when recounting a true story.  However, if you choose this approach, make sure that you have a specific story and well-defined points of emphasis in mind; again, don’t write aimlessly.
  • Work on the essay a little bit each day.  This gives you a chance to review the essay with a clear mind (if you write and revise it all at once, your ideas tend to blend together).
  • After you’ve written a rough draft, begin to revise with an eye toward content.  Don’t worry about grammar or prose quality until the final weeks because these errors are easily correctable.
  • Finally, make sure to use all of your available resources throughout the process; reach out to your English teachers, tutors, family, and even friends for pointers and feedback.

Essays can make the scholarship application process difficult.  However, no scholarship that’s worth having comes easily, and if you follow the advice above, any scholarship essay is achievable!

After exhausting all federal aid, scholarships and grants, you may still find yourself facing a gap to cover the cost to attend your college or university. Student Choice has partnered with local Credit Unions to offer affordable private student lending options to help cover the cost and make your dream a reality.

Not a member of one of our partner credit unions? Find a credit union near you now with our CU Select Tool!




A better deal from your local not-for-profit cooperative


More than 1,500 approved schools across the country


Answers to your most common questions


Financial resources to help you succeed in college and beyond