No matter what kind of scholarship you’re applying for, you are more than likely going to come across variations on the same basic scholarship essay questions. Most of these scholarship essay questions will be focused on your field of study, your personal achievements and challenges that you’ve overcome, your background, your plans and goals for the future, and/or people, things, or events that have inspired you in some way.

For example, you might see scholarship essay questions like:

  • Why do you want to study [your chosen topic]?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years? In ten years?
  • How will studying [your chosen topic] help you achieve your career goals?
  • Describe a challenge you’ve had to overcome.
  • How has your education thus far shaped who you are today?
  • Choose an influential experience in your life that has shaped who you are today.
  • Select a public figure you admire and explain why.
  • Select a book that has influenced you and explain why.

These are all very generic scholarship essay questions because they have to apply to all of the very different people competing for these scholarships. That said, you want your essay to be anything but generic. You want to stand out and show why you should be chosen for this scholarship. So, while the scholarship essay questions themselves aren’t necessarily inspiring, it’s time to find inspiration in your personal experiences and your plans for the future to write an amazing essay that will set you above the competition.

Read the Directions

First and foremost, before you do anything else, read all of the directions and requirements for your application and your essay. If you misread the requirements the first time and don’t go back to double-check, you could disqualify yourself.

You could, for example, write a beautiful 500-word essay that will be immediately dismissed because they wanted you to select two scholarship essay questions and write two 250-word personal statements instead. So, before you even start worrying about which question(s) to choose, read the directions again.

Brainstorm About the Question(s)

Once you’re clear on the requirements, it’s time to get started. If you’re given a choice of scholarship essay questions, take some time to brainstorm about each of them. At this point, don’t edit yourself. Write down everything that comes to mind. You never know when you’ll come up with the perfect idea for your essay.

We generally recommend setting a time limit for brainstorming. Sit down and really focus on putting all of your ideas down on paper for 20-30 minutes. If you’re having trouble, ask someone who knows you well to help you with the process. Brainstorming with a friend, one of your parents, or a teacher or mentor can bring out a lot of great ideas.

Narrow Down Your Ideas

Now, take out a fresh piece of paper and put it next to the paper on which you wrote all of your brainstorming ideas. Go through your initial ideas and start writing down the ones that stick out to you as good topics on your new sheet of paper. Some topics and ideas will fall away quickly and easily, but you may have trouble choosing between others. At this point, that’s okay; just write them down on your new sheet of paper with some space between them.

Once you’ve done this, take some time to write down the supporting evidence and/or experience you have for an essay on each topic. After you’ve finished, look at each item on the list and how much support you have for writing about it. The material you wrote to go with each topic will become the body of your essay, once you start writing in earnest.

In most cases, you’ll see a clear winner in this list. Whichever topic has the most supporting material should be the best topic for your essay. If you have two topics that are tied with a lot of material to back them up, choose the one that most interests you.

Know Your Audience

Now it’s almost time to sit down and start writing your essay. Before you actually write an outline or draft of your essay, do some research on the corporation or organization sponsoring your scholarship. Find out as much about them – and specifically about the scholarship judges – as you can. The more you know about your audience, the better you’ll be able to tailor your style, tone, and content to them.

Finally, sketch out an outline of your essay with a good beginning-middle-end structure and start writing. Once you’ve finished your first draft, get others to read it and make suggestions for revisions. Make as many revisions as necessary until you feel that your essay is polished and ready to go. Then proofread it one more time (and have someone else proofread it, as well) to ensure that you have no typos and no awkward wording, and send it off along with the rest of your application package.

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