If you ask students what they hate most about applying for scholarships, most of them will tell you that writing essays is the worst part (Well, that and not winning them, but that’s a topic for another post). And, it doesn’t matter if the essay requires 250 words or several thousand; most students would simply rather spend their time searching for ‘no essay’ scholarships than sit down and write another scholarship essay. Unfortunately, most scholarship providers aren’t willing to hand over free money for college without a little effort, and that’s where the essay comes into play. It not only gives providers more insight into your life, but it also helps them weed out potential candidates, especially when several have similar academic records. For those scholarship programs that don’t even consider your grade point average or financial need, the essay is the one thing that will set you apart from the other applicants. With so much riding on the line (no pun intended), it’s important to grab your reader’s attention immediately, which means you have about two to five sentences to impress the committee or else your essay is headed to the ‘denied’ stack. If you want a shot at having your entire paper read, there are three things you should avoid using in the introductory paragraph of your essay.
1. Spitting Back the Essay Prompt
Can you imagine how boring it would be to read the same opening sentence over and over again? I can tell you from experience that it’s very frustrating to see this in scholarship essays. There’s no need to include this for any reason. Trust me. Scholarship providers know what their scholarship prompts are and don’t need to be reminded. It’s also more of an elementary-style of writing and not quite up to par for someone heading to college soon.
2. Using Quotes
I don’t know who first used a quote to start an essay, but I would really like to kick him or her in the bum. Don’t get me wrong, an obscure quote can work well in an academic paper, but in general you should avoid using them in scholarship essays. Why? Chances are the quote you will choose is going to be used by several other students, which means your ‘original’ essay is going to get dumped into the ‘denied’ pile. If you must use a quote, use one of your own. That might actually get someone’s attention!
3. Introducing Yourself
Unless the scholarship essay instructions specifically state that you must include your name in your paper, don’t start your essay by introducing yourself. It not only seems a bit juvenile, but may also disqualify you from advancing. Most scholarship committees conduct blind readings. This means a reader cannot have any information pertaining to you. Even if the scholarship prompt asks you to share some information about yourself, refrain from starting your essay in this fashion. Instead, begin with something memorable from your life that will leave a lasting impression with your reader.
If you want to see some examples of creative ways to start a scholarship essay, I encourage you to check out the ScholarshipExperts.com winner’s page. I especially like the ‘I Have a Dream’ Scholarship responses, and those for the Flavor of the Month Scholarship.
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