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09/04/2019

Writing a scholarship essay?

QUESTION
Writing a scholarship essay?
I want to earn this scholarship for college, but I don’t know what to write about. The only thing I remember well enough and feel passionate about is very personal. If I were to write about it, I wouldn’t want anyone to see it, not even my family. But I feel like it would make a pretty decent essay. I just don’t know if things like these are released or shared where people outside the scholarship committee have access to it. It’s a very emotional time in my life that I still carry with me today, but I don’t want this part of me to be shared outside of academic circumstances. Do scholarship foundations usually do this kind of thing?

ANSWER
It’s possible, particularly for smaller, local organizations. Although it would be unethical, and most would not, the reality is that often scholarships committees are made up of volunteers, and sometimes they are not trained professionals when it comes to issues of privacy. People do like to gossip, so if it’s an intensely personal issue that you wouldn’t want your neighbors or a future employer to know about, you should probably pick a different topic.

Aside from that, a topic that is very personal may not go over well with the scholarship committee. It may make them feel uncomfortable, or it may deal with subject matter that some people don’t want to read about. For example, an older volunteer on a scholarship committee may not want to read an essay about a student who was sexually molested. Or, it’s possible that the person who reads it has a strong opposing position. For example, you write about your experiences as a gay teenager, but the essay is read by a conservative Christian who disapproves of gay rights.

If you feel that you must use this topic, try to keep controversial details to a minimum and concentrate more on the positive aspects of how you dealt with it. Although the experience was traumatic, avoid dwelling on the details, or venting your deepest feelings about it. Simply say what happened and how it affected you. Then quickly move on to what you did about it in your own case, and what it inspired you to do to help others. The object isn’t to make the readers pity you–it’s to show them that you would be a success in college and life because you are able to overcome obstacles and maintain a positive attitude.

For example, say you had a learning disability, and you were bullied unmercifully by your classmates because of it. You could give a brief description of what your disability is and how it made life difficult for you. But spend the majority of your space talking about how you eventually became a success in school in spite of it because of things like determination, hard work, and the support of a special teacher who went the extra mile to help you. Or you could talk about how your experience influenced your desire to help others. You would then be able to highlight how you volunteered for the Special Buddy program and tutored younger students with disabilities. Or you became a peer counselor at your high school to help other students who are experiencing emotional issues related to bullying or social isolation. Or you could talk about how your experience influenced your decision to major in special education or psychology.

Although it may not seem obvious, the scholarship essay isn’t so much about you–it’s about the organization’s goals and how their contribution to your education will help them achieve them. So, when writing that essay, your main focus should be on how this experience–whatever it is–made you the type of student that they want to support.