Below are some common scholarship essay questions. You can use these as a great starting point for a pesonal statement. Some of these essay questions are used in the Maricopa Scholarship Database.
- What life experiences have shaped who you are today and what challenges have you overcome in achieving your education (i.e. financial, personal, medical, etc.)?
- Explain why you need financial assistance.
- Describe your academic and career goals and your plans to achieve them and discuss any of your extracurricular/volunteer activities (both on and off campus) that you may perform.
- Describe an event in which you took a leadership role and what you learned about yourself.
This is a sample essay to help guide you when you are writing essays for scholarships. Keep in mind that all scholarship applications are different, so you may have to design your essay to meet those specific requirements.
(State an overview of what you are going to talk about in the essay. If the essay is about you, give a brief description of your experiences, goals, aspirations, family background, etc. Touch on why you want the scholarship.)
For as long as I could remember, I have wanted to be a veterinarian. I have been responsible for the care and feeding of pets ever since I was in the second grade. In high school, I participated in the 4-H club as well as the Junior Humane society. To reach my goals, I realize that I must pursue an eight year college education which will begin with the Fall 2010 semester. I am very excited about my future and feel that with the opportunity your scholarship will provide, I can help many animals.
Paragraph II & III
(Go into more detail on one of the topics listed in paragraph I. For example, elaborate on your previous experiences, family and financial situation, volunteer work, employment, academic career, future goals, college plans, etc.)
My love for animals has been encouraged by my family and friends. I have had the opportunity to volunteer with the local animal shelter and provide basic care to the stray animals. With the help of my biology teacher, I was able to start a 4-H club on campus. Many of the other students on campus developed an interest in the animals and now our club has 100 members. My family also has many animals for which I provide care, including basic needs as well as first aid. I find that I enjoy that aspect of pet ownership best. Unfortunately, my family cannot afford to pay for my entire education, so I hope to use my skills and love of animals to help me pay for college.
(Conclude your essay with a wrap-up of why you should be considered for the scholarship; how do your goals match those of the organization, etc.)
Your organization stands for what I believe in. Like your organization, I hope to help animals for the rest of my life. To reach my goals, I need as much help as possible. I already have the moral support of my family and friends, but that is not quite enough to make my dream come true. I hope that your organization can help me reach this dream by awarding me your scholarship.
Essays are the heart of fellowship applications. Selection committees read the essays for content as well as form: They want to know about your goals and plans, your personal background, and your motivation. They also want to know that you can organize your thoughts and communicate effectively in writing.
Your essays need to be engaging, specific, and thoughtful. And they need to model principles of good writing. Logical organization, effective transitioning, and precise language are essential. The tips below will help you produce the kind of essays that will persuade a selection committee that they want to interview you or offer you a fellowship.
- Work on your opening. The opening sentence (and paragraph) of an essay functions like a fishhook: You want to grab your reader and make him or her pay attention. Your introduction must send the message: READ ME; DO NOT SKIM; DO NOT FALL ASLEEP; THIS LOOKS INTERESTING. Avoid platitudes. Do not begin essays with sentences such as “From the beginning of time human beings have been curious” or “In America, education is the key to success.” These commonplace observations send the message: Fall asleep; skim this essay; forget this candidate.
- Be specific and concrete. Avoid abstractions and generalizations; use concrete details whenever possible. Rather than saying you are excited by policy issues, discuss a particular policy issue that interests you. Instead of saying that you are motivated, describe an instance that demonstrates your motivation.
- Keep your audience in mind. Most fellowship selection committees are comprised of well-educated generalists. Do not make your project proposal so field-specific that readers from different disciplines will have difficulty understanding--and thus caring about-- your work. Avoid disciplinary jargon whenver possible.
- Revise, revise, revise. Never be satisfied with the first version of any part of your essay. Reject a vague word for a more precise one; substitute a strong verb for the weak one you thought of first; choose one precise adjective rather than a list of three. Vary your sentence structure. Look at each of your sentences and explain why it begins and ends where it does. Excellent writers revise their work extensively; the fruit of their labor is clear, fluid prose that sends a compelling message.
- Proofread. Even if you feel that you have your essay memorized, read it over carefully before turning in the final copy. Proofreading on a computer screen is less effective than reading a printed copy. Try different proofreading techniques such as reading the essay from the bottom up or reading it aloud. When you think it's perfect, ask someone else who edits well to read your essay. You do not want to be the Rhodes candidate who is eliminated from consideration because of a typo in your essay's first paragraph.
Writing resources at Brown
- Attend a workshop on writing project proposals and writing personal essays. The Dean of the College office conduct such workships during the academic year as well as in the summer.
- Stop by 213 University Hall to read essays that successful fellowship applicants wrote. We have binders of winning essays for several of the nationally competitive fellowships, including the Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright and Truman.
- Make an appointment with the Writing Center to go over drafts of your essays.
- Offices that support particular fellowships usually provide editorial support for the required essays. Contact the office responsible for the particular fellowship(s) in which you are interested for more information.