Know Your Scholarship Committee

Saturday, October 22, 2022 by Catherine Gilliland | Scholarship Essays

Does your student know the audience for whom they write when constructing a scholarship application essay? 

Scholarship committees seek specific evidence of who the student is on a deeper level. Judges ask, "Will  this candidate provide an excellent return on the financial investment of our organization?"  Clearly, all essay and application content is evaluated so that an estimation can be created of a candidate's success at their chosen institution and in life. In other words, those evaluating these essays look for confirmation of personal development,  highlighted accomplishments, and evidence of the applicant's moral principle, integrity, ambition, and exemplary standards.

Students must present themselves so they stand out as unique in all the appropriate ways. Judges remember students who capture their attention! Highlight self by intentionally selecting topics and achievements to share that are uncommon. Choose to highlight lessons learned and skills developed that are less obvious and require more thought. Pick impacts that are noteworthy. The applications shared from personal experiences to other parts of one's life should demonstrate a depth of insight that causes the judges to take note.

As the student writes, they must remember the committees are looking for examples rather than direct statements! Students must draw their audience into their personal story, keeping them captivated by reflecting who they truly are. The accomplishments, projects, awards, and volunteerism that makes the student most proud of themself can be used as a strong base for expressing a written picture of their life. Alternatively, a student may choose to use the story of how they overcame hardship as the foundation for their text. To the foundation of the story, encourage your student to weave in evidence of intentional personal growth, their aspirations, how their own character and soft skills stand out from others, substantiation of their optimistic attitude, and examples of personal initiatives taken. 

Students writing academic essays have honed that art for years by the time they are ready to graduate from high school. The type of writing required by scholarship committees is much less practiced, therefore students submitting these high stakes written pieces often benefit from specific instruction, personal guidance, and instructional feedback from a writing coach over a period of time. Begin the process early, even as early as midway through their high school years.