Writing Scholarship Essays

Scholarship selection committees often receive many worthy applications for a limited number of possible awards. How can you make your scholarship application stand out? The GEO Scholarships team has developed a few tips to assist you in crafting competitive applications for any scholarship:

 

1.    Gather information and apply early.
The most common mistake that students make when applying for scholarships is waiting until it is too late. Deadlines for scholarships are often before, or well before, the deadline for the study abroad program application. Find out about all of the scholarships that you might be eligible for and take note of the deadlines.


2.    Do your homework.
Read through the scholarship application requirements and expectations before you begin. Think through which sections of the application will take the most time and effort, and plan ahead to organize your time. Do your research on the scholarship: who and what does the scholarship serve? What materials do you need? Does the scholarship require that you order official transcripts or request letters of recommendation? Double check the deadline: some scholarships are due at an exact time in a specific time zone. For example, the Gilman Scholarship is due at 11:59 PM Central Time Zone (which is 9:59 PM PST in Eugene, OR).

 
3.    Read and re-read scholarship instructions, and follow them closely.
If the scholarship prompt requires a PDF submission, do exactly as it says. Collect all the right materials and answer all of the questions. Make sure that your essays respond appropriately and thoughtfully to the prompts. Take note of the word limit or character limit.


4.    Let your voice shine through.
Make sure the scholarship selection committee gets to know who you are in your essays. Most study abroad scholarships are awarded to students who can make a compelling case of why they—given their background, major, goals, interests—would benefit uniquely and specifically by participating in the study abroad program that they have selected. Other factors like GPA and prior accomplishments may be considered too, but being able to explain who you are and what you want to achieve is especially important. This is what brings out your voice, your perspective, and your passion in an application. Address the mission of the scholarship, but also make it personally relevant to you; this will help your application stand out and be memorable.  


5.    A few common writing tips:

  • Be specific about the academic goals that you would like to achieve. Most scholarships will ask that you explain how your study abroad program fits with your major and/or your career plans.  
  • Do not assume that the audience will know everything about your selected study abroad program. Make sure that you take the time to explain how you will engage with the content and details of your program.
  • If the essay prompt has multiple sub-questions, do not assume that you need to structure your essay by answering each sub-question in mechanical order. It is often better to organize your essay in a way that flows naturally, and either tells a story or makes an overall argument.
  • Organization: Think through the purpose and structure of each paragraph. Try to have a topic sentence that gives shape and direction to each paragraph.  


6.    Edit, edit, and edit.
If you are a UO student, bring your essay drafts to our GEO Scholarship advisors. Make a scholarship advising appointment by calling (541) 346 3207, or send your scholarship essay drafts to geoglobe@uoregon.edu. Drafts should include the scholarship name, essay prompts, and your name. Be sure that they are in an editable format such as Microsoft Word so that we can edit and include comments. We can sometimes take up to 3-5 business days to respond depending on the number of drafts we are receiving, so make sure you plan ahead.

Have multiple sets of eyes on your application essays –friends, professors, advisors, family. Read your essays out loud to assess the flow and organization of your sentences. Proofread for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, or inconsistencies that can detract from the quality of your essay.

If you are a UO student, send your scholarship essay drafts to our GEO advisors at geoglobe@uoregon.edu. Drafts should include the scholarship name, essay prompts, and your name. Be sure that they are in an editable format such as Microsoft Word so that we can edit and include comments. We can sometimes take up to 3-5 business days to respond depending on the number of drafts we are receiving, so make sure you plan ahead.


7.    Save back-up files of your application.
Always have multiple drafts of your application, and store them in a separate back-up location. This can be an online shared drive such as Google Drive, your email, or an external hard drive. Computers can fail, and you don’t want to lose all of your hard work.


8.    Do not wait until the last minute to submit.
Things can happen – technology can break down, you could fall sick, or schoolwork could get overwhelming. Always plan to submit at least one or two days before the deadline in case life gets in the way.