Sample Scholarship Essays
If you’re applying for a scholarship, chances are you are going to need to write an essay. Very few scholarship programs are based solely on an application form or transcript. The essay is often the most important part of your application; it gives the scholarship committee a sense of who you are and your dedication to your goals. You’ll want to make sure that your scholarship essay is the best it can possibly be.
Unless specified otherwise, scholarship essays should always use the following formatting:
- Double spaced
- Times New Roman font
- 12 point font
- One-inch top, bottom, and side margins
Other useful tips to keep in mind include:
- Read the instructions thoroughly and make sure you completely understand them before you start writing.
- Think about what you are going to write and organize your thoughts into an outline.
- Write your essay by elaborating on each point you included in your outline.
- Use clear, concise, and simple language throughout your essay.
- When you are finished, read the question again and then read your essay to make sure that the essay addresses every point.
For more tips on writing a scholarship essay, check out our Eight Steps Towards a Better Scholarship Essay .
The Book that Made Me a Journalist
Prompt: Describe a book that made a lasting impression on you and your life and why.It is 6 am on a hot day in July and I’ve already showered and eaten breakfast. I know that my classmates are all sleeping in and enjoying their summer break, but I don’t envy them; I’m excited to start my day interning with a local newspaper doing investigative journalism. I work a typical 8-5 day during my summer vacation and despite the early mornings, nothing has made me happier. Although it wasn't clear to me then, looking back on my high school experiences and everything that led to me to this internship, I believe this path began with a particularly savvy teacher and a little book she gave me to read outside of class.
I was taking a composition class, and we were learning how to write persuasive essays. Up until that point, I had had average grades, but I was always a good writer and my teacher immediately recognized this. The first paper I wrote for the class was about my experience going to an Indian reservation located near my uncle's ranch in southwest Colorado. I wrote of the severe poverty experienced by the people on the reservation, and the lack of access to voting booths during the most recent election. After reading this short story, my teacher approached me and asked about my future plans. No one had ever asked me this, and I wasn't sure how to answer. I said I liked writing and I liked thinking about people who are different from myself. She gave me a book and told me that if I had time to read it, she thought it would be something I would enjoy. I was actually quite surprised that a high school teacher was giving me a book titled Lies My Teacher Told Me. It had never occurred to me that teachers would lie to students. The title intrigued me so much that on Friday night I found myself staying up almost all night reading, instead of going out with friends.
In short, the book discusses several instances in which typical American history classes do not tell the whole story. For example, the author addresses the way that American history classes do not usually address about the Vietnam War, even though it happened only a short time ago. This made me realize that we hadn't discussed the Vietnam War in my own history class! The book taught me that, like my story of the Indian reservation, there are always more stories beyond what we see on the surface and what we’re taught in school. I was inspired to continue to tell these stories and to make that my career.
For my next article for the class, I wrote about the practice of my own high school suspending students, sometimes indefinitely, for seemingly minor offenses such as tardiness and smoking. I found that the number of suspensions had increased by 200% at my school in just three years, and also discovered that students who are suspended after only one offense often drop out and some later end up in prison. The article caused quite a stir. The administration of my school dismissed it, but it caught the attention of my local newspaper. A local journalist worked with me to publish an updated and more thoroughly researched version of my article in the local newspaper. The article forced the school board to revisit their “zero tolerance” policy as well as reinstate some indefinitely suspended students.I won no favors with the administration and it was a difficult time for me, but it was also thrilling to see how one article can have such a direct effect on people’s lives. It reaffirmed my commitment to a career in journalism.
This is why I’m applying for this scholarship. Your organization has been providing young aspiring journalists with funds to further their skills and work to uncover the untold stories in our communities that need to be reported. I share your organization’s vision of working towards a more just and equitable world by uncovering stories of abuse of power. I have already demonstrated this commitment through my writing in high school and I look forward to pursuing a BA in this field at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. With your help, I will hone my natural instincts and inherent writing skills. I will become a better and more persuasive writer and I will learn the ethics of professional journalism.
I sincerely appreciate the committee’s time in evaluating my application and giving me the opportunity to tell my story. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Scholarship Essay Do's and Don'ts
|Do:||Follow the prompt and other instructions exactly. You might write a great essay but it may get your application rejected if you don’t follow the word count guidelines or other formatting requirements.|
|DON'T:||Open your essay with a quote. This is a well-worn strategy that is mostly used ineffectively. Instead of using someone else’s words, use your own.|
|DON'T:||Use perfunctory sentences such as, “In this essay, I will…”|
|DO:||Be clear and concise. Make sure each paragraph discusses only one central thought or argument.|
|DON'T:||Use words from a thesaurus that are new to you. You may end up using the word incorrectly and that will make your writing awkward. Keep it simple and straightforward. The point of the essay is to tell your story, not to demonstrate how many words you know.|
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Planners and Searchers
Prompt: In 600 words or less, please tell us about yourself and why you are applying for this scholarship. Please be clear about how this scholarship will help you achieve your personal and professional goals.
Being African, I recognize Africa’s need for home- grown talent in the form of “planners” (assistants with possible solutions) and “searchers” (those with desperate need) working towards international development. I represent both. Coming from Zimbabwe my greatest challenge is in helping to improve the livelihoods of developing nations through sustainable development and good governance principles. The need for policy-makers capable of employing cross-jurisdictional, and cross- disciplinary strategies to solve complex challenges cannot be under-emphasized; hence my application to this scholarship program.
After graduating from Africa University with an Honors degree in Sociology and Psychology, I am now seeking scholarship support to study in the United States at the Master’s level. My interest in democracy, elections, constitutionalism and development stems from my lasting interest in public policy issues. Accordingly, my current research interests in democracy and ethnic diversity require a deeper understanding of legal processes of constitutionalism and governance. As a Master’s student in the US, I intend to write articles on these subjects from the perspective of someone born, raised, and educated in Africa. I will bring a unique and much-needed perspective to my graduate program in the United States, and I will take the technical and theoretical knowledge from my graduate program back with me to Africa to further my career goals as a practitioner of good governance and community development.
To augment my theoretical understanding of governance and democratic practices, I worked with the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) as a Programs Assistant in the Monitoring and Observation department. This not only enhanced my project management skills, but also developed my skills in research and producing communication materials. ZESN is Zimbabwe’s biggest election observation organization, and I had the responsibility of monitoring the political environment and producing monthly publications on human rights issues and electoral processes. These publications were disseminated to various civil society organizations, donors and other stakeholders. Now I intend to develop my career in order to enhance Africa’s capacity to advocate, write and vote for representative constitutions.
I also participated in a fellowship program at Africa University, where I gained greater insight into social development by teaching courses on entrepreneurship, free market economics, and development in needy communities. I worked with women in rural areas of Zimbabwe to setup income-generating projects such as the jatropha soap-making project. Managing such a project gave me great insight into how many simple initiatives can transform lives.
Your organization has a history of awarding scholarships to promising young students from the developing world in order to bring knowledge, skills and leadership abilities to their home communities. I have already done some of this work but I want to continue, and with your assistance, I can. The multidisciplinary focus of the development programs I am applying to in the US will provide me with the necessary skills to creatively address the economic and social development challenges and develop sound public policies for Third World countries. I thank you for your time and consideration for this prestigious award.
Scholarship Essay Do's and Don'ts
|DO:||Research the organization and make sure you understand their mission and values and incorporate them into your essay.|
|DO:||Focus on your strengths and turn in any problems or weaknesses into a success story.|
|DO:||Use actual, detailed examples from your own life to backup your claims and arguments as to why you should receive the scholarship.|
|DO:||Proofread several times before finally submitting your essay.|
|DON'T:||Rehash what is already stated on your resume. Choose additional, unique stories to tell sell yourself to the scholarship committee.|
|DON'T:||Simply state that you need the money. Even if you have severe financial need, it won’t help to simply ask for the money and it may come off as tacky.|
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Saving the Manatees
Prompt: Please give the committee an idea of who you are and why you are the perfect candidate for the scholarship.
It is a cliché to say that I’ve always known what I want to do with my life, but in my case it happens to be true. When I first visited Sea World as a young child, I fell in love with marine animals in general. Specifically, I felt drawn to manatees. I was compelled by their placid and friendly nature. I knew then and there that I wanted to dedicate my life to protecting these beautiful creatures.
Since that day in Orlando, I have spent much of my spare time learning everything there is to know about manatees. As a junior high and high school student, I attempted to read scholarly articles on manatees from scientific journals. I annoyed my friends and family with scientific facts about manatees-- such as that they are close relatives of elephants--at the dinner table. I watched documentaries, and even mapped their migration pattern on a wall map my sister gave me for my birthday.
When I was chosen from hundreds of applicants to take part in a summer internship with Sea World, I fell even more in love with these gentle giants. I also learned a very important and valuable lesson: prior to this internship, I had imagined becoming a marine biologist, working directly with the animals in their care both in captivity and in the wild. However, during the internship, I discovered that this is not where my strengths lie. Unfortunately, I am not a strong student in science or math, which are required skills to become a marine biologist. Although this was a disheartening realization, I found that I possess other strengths can still be of great value to manatees and other endangered marine mammals: my skills as a public relations manager and communicator. During the internship, I helped write new lessons and presentations for elementary school groups visiting the park and developed a series of fun activities for children to help them learn more about manatees as well as conservation of endangered species in general. I also worked directly with the park’s conservation and communication director, and helped develop a new local outreach program designed to educate Floridians on how to avoid hitting a manatee when boating. My supervisor recommended me to the Save the Manatee Foundation so in addition to my full-time internship at Sea World, I interned with the Save the Manatee Foundation part-time. It was there that I witnessed the manatee rescue and conservation effort first hand, and worked directly with the marine biologists in developing fund-raising and awareness-raising campaigns. I found that the foundation’s social media presence was lacking, and, using skills I learned from Sea World, I helped them raise over $5,000 through a Twitter challenge, which we linked to the various social media outlets of the World Wildlife Federation.
While I know that your organization typically awards scholarships to students planning to major in disciplines directly related to conservation such as environmental studies or zoology, I feel that the public relations side of conservation is just as important as the actual work done on the ground. Whether it is reducing one’s carbon footprint, or saving the manatees, these are efforts that, in order to be successful, must involve the larger public. In fact, the relative success of the environmental movement today is largely due to a massive global public relations campaign that turned environmentalism from something scientific and obscure into something that is both fashionable and accessible to just about anyone. However, that success is being challenged more than ever before--especially here in the US, where an equally strong anti-environmental public relations campaign has taken hold. Therefore, conservationists need to start getting more creative.
I want to be a part of this renewed effort and use my natural abilities as a communicator to push back against the rather formidable forces behind the anti-environmentalist movement. I sincerely hope you will consider supporting this non-traditional avenue towards global sustainability and conservation. I have already been accepted to one of the most prestigious communications undergraduate programs in the country and I plan to minor in environmental studies. In addition, I maintain a relationship with my former supervisors at Save the Manatee and Sea World, who will be invaluable resources for finding employment upon graduation. I thank the committee for thinking outside the box in considering my application.
Scholarship Essay Do's and Don'ts
|DO:||Tell a story. Discuss your personal history and why those experiences have led you to apply for these scholarships.|
|DO:||Write an outline. If you’ve already started writing or have a first draft, make an outline based on what you’ve written so far. This will help you see whether your paragraphs flow and connect with one another.|
|DON'T:||Write a generic essay for every application. Adapt your personal statement for each individual scholarship application.|
|DO:||Run spellcheck and grammar check on your computer but also do your own personal check. Spellcheck isn’t perfect and you shouldn't rely on technology to make your essay perfect.|
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Harvard Business School
Applicants: 9,134 (12% Admitted)
Dave Reyes - Harvard MBA; Investment Management (Bonds)
Dave is a graduate of Harvard Business School and Stanford University. Besides getting into HBS, Dave was also admitted to other top MBA programs including Wharton, Chicago Booth, and Columbia. In the process, he became well versed with the admissions process and with what makes a good MBA admissions consultant. Since then, he's helped many applicants get into HBS and other MBA programs. He currently works at an investment fund focused on bonds.
Prior to business school, Dave worked in investment banking with Goldman Sachs for 2 years and did another 2 years in private equity afterwards.
Thomas Chen - Harvard MBA; Investment Banking - Private Equity
Thomas Chen is currently pursuing an MBA at Harvard Business School, having also been accepted at other top schools like Stanford and Wharton. Prior to matriculation, Thomas spent several years at Bain Capital as a private equity associate focused on sourcing and diligencing investments in the technology and retail sectors. Prior to that, he worked at Morgan Stanley as an investment banking analyst for the global technology group. He is a graduate of Stanford University with a bachelors degree in Economics. While at Stanford, he founded and sold a startup providing car safety information and products to consumers.
Jeffrey - Harvard MBA; Real Estate
After receiving his MBA from the Harvard Business School, Jeffrey joined Morgan Stanley in their real estate private equity group in Asia, focused on residential and commercial property investment in the Greater China region. He has also spent considerable time assisting China Investment Corporation, China's sovereign wealth fund, in their outbound real estate investments. Jeffrey started his career as a management consultant at Bain & Company in Hong Kong, where he worked in various industries spanning from retail and consumer products to telecom. With a deep passion in the property market, Jeffrey then joined a local conglomerate that owned, developed, and operated retail properties across China. While there, he helped oversee the development of a major outlet mall in Beijing and executed various business development initiatives. Jeffrey received his undergraduate degree in Economics from Stanford University, where he also studied Japanese intensively. Jeffrey currently resides in Shanghai, China.
Stanford Business School
Applicants: 6,618 (7% admitted)
Paloma Ochi - Stanford MBA; Wealth Management
Paloma is an MBA candidate at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where she is a Dance Co-Director for the GSB Show, a Global Study Trip Leader, and a member of several clubs, including Entrepreneurship Club, Marketing Club, Product Design & Manufacturing Club, High Tech Club, and Retail Club. Paloma is currently interning in brand management at a CPG.
Prior to matriculating at the GSB, Paloma worked in management at Goldman Sachs in the San Francisco Private Wealth Management office.
Paloma received her BA from Stanford University, where she co-founded the Stanford Chapter of 85 Broads, as well as published research on personalization for online product recommendations while working in the Communication between Humans & Interactive Media (CHIMe) Lab. A native of Seattle, WA, Paloma enjoys dance, baking, digital media, and consumer psychology.
Tia Gao - Stanford MBA; Hi-Tech
Before earning her MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Tia worked in the field of software and wireless devices. She was an engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, and then started her own company that produced wireless medical devices. She has 20+ peer-reviewed publications in topics around wireless communications. While at Stanford, Tia was the president of the High-Tech club and the Asian Society.
After graduating, Tia became a product manager at Google, where she developed an expertise of planning and executing mobile product strategies. She then moved to the One Medical Group, where's she's responsible for developing innovative mobile technologies in healthcare. Tia is originally from Beijing and is fluent in Mandarin.
Wharton Business School
Median GMAT: 720
Paul Paprosh - Wharton MBA; Real Estate Private Equity
Paul earned his MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to Wharton, Paul worked in investment m anagement at BlackRock, sales & trading at Goldman, Sachs & Co., and business development at Visa. While at Wharton, he was actively involved with the Private Equity/Venture Capital Club, Real Estate Club, and Finance Club. He held various VP-level positions in alumni relations, mentorship, and social. He is also the winner of the Financial Times Best Social Investment Strategy Award for his start-up that incubated and mentored 13 ventures by student entrepreneurs; his start-up was acquired three years after launch.
During recruiting, Paul received multiple Private Equity full-time offers in the United States and Asia. After graduating, Paul joined a Private Equity firm in New York as an investment professional. Paul has a knack for identifying strategies for winning in all things competitive and has helped multiple mentees achieve admissions to top business schools, including HBS, Wharton, and Columbia.
Alex Schuster- Wharton MBA; Technology Consulting
Alex Schuster graduated from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvanias MBA Program for Executives. While at Wharton Alex won the Marketing category of the 2011 MBA innovation challenge, co-led his classs consulting club and routinely met with classmates to discuss career development strategies. Additionally, while at Wharton, he participated in multiple international study programs and leads a Management Consulting firm specializing in operations improvement to the companies in the financial services industry. Finally, he is one of the NYC-based admissions liaisons for new MBA applicants to discuss the school, its programs and its admissions process.
London Business School
James - LBS MBA; Advertising
James, a former GMATPILL-er, is a current MBA at London Business School, where he received the prestigious MSc13 Full Tuition Scholarship. Prior to LBS James worked at the advertising agency Lowe & Partners, as an account lead on the Unilever team. Responsible for overseeing the Knorr brand in 170 countries, James was part of a team that completely re-invented the Brand Strategy, into something now shared through Unilver as best in class.
James is also a part-time consultant for GMAT Pill. James earned a BA (with honours) and an MA in Medieval History from University College London.
Oxford Said School of Business
Median GMAT: 695
Kent - Oxford MBA; Financial Services
Kent, a former GMATPILL-er, received his MBA from the University of Oxfords Saïd Business School. Prior to his MBA, he worked at McKinsey & Company in New York City in the North American Financial Services Practice as a Research Analyst, serving many of the largest asset managers, pension funds, hedge funds, SWF, brokers, private banks, retail banks, payments and insurance companies across the Americas, EMEA, and Asia.
Before that, he held various internships at Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, and graduated with a B.A. in Economics from New York University. Always up for new experiences in different countries, Kent has lived in Toronto, Hong Kong, Florence, New York, Oxford, and now London, where he currently works in the internal strategy team at a top UK bank.
Kent is an active member of his alumni network, and regularly meets with students from his alma maters to share career advice. In his spare time, he blogs about his various travels, business, and fashion and other articles of interest.
Northwestern Kellogg Business School
Applicants: 4,490 (13% Admitted)
Matt Smith - Kellogg MBA; $1B+ Hedge Fund
Matt Smith earned his MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and has also been an alumni admissions interviewer for the school. While at Kellogg, Matt earned majors in finance, management and organizations, and strategy. He was also an active member of Investment Banking & Capital Markets Club, Net Impact, and Squash Club.
After graduating from Kellogg, Matt moved to New York to work as an equity analyst at a prominent hedge fund. Outside of work, he enjoys personal investing, competitive sports, and traveling overseas. Before business school, Matt worked for three years in capital markets and investment research at Morgan Stanley and Citigroup, and also spent two years in private equity. Matt graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in Economics.
Columbia Business School
6,669 (16% admitted)
Ryan Doberman - Columbia MBA; Investment Management ($35B Fund)
Ryan received his MBA from Columbia Business School. While at Columbia, he was selected into the Applied Value Investing Program and was President of Columbia Business School's Tennis Club. Since graduating from Columbia Business School, he has worked as a research analyst focused globally on companies in the natural resources, alternative energy and mining sectors at a $35 billion investment group.
Before attending business school, Ryan worked as an investment banker doing mergers and acquisitions focused on the healthcare services sector. His previous work experience includes investment consulting, strategy and business development. Ryan completed his undergraduate degree in economics at Amherst College where he was captain of the Varsity Tennis Team.
Chicago Booth School of Business
Median GMAT: 720
Michael Medrano - Chicago Booth MBA; Technology Entrepreneurship
Michael Medrano received his MBA from Chicago Booth. He is currently pursuing a career in entrepreneurship and technology. Michael is an active member of the Booth alumni community, administering alumni admissions interviews and working with career services to bolster entrepreneurship recruiting. Michael was a recipient of the Madelon and Richard Rosett Scholarship, a $50,000 scholarship for excellence. Prior to business school, Michael was a business analyst at YP.com and previously helped raise over $50 M for a Los Angeles based technology startup.
In addition, he co-founded an e-commerce company, growing the company to $X00,000 in revenue, hiring several employees, and returning over 10x invested capital. Michael began his career as an investment consultant, advising pension plans and endowments on Private Equity and Venture Capital investments. Michael received a BA at Stanford University.
MIT Sloan Business School
Applicants: 4,490 (13% Admitted)
Tim Sun - Sloan MBA; Economic Consulting
Tim Sun is a second-year MBA student at the MIT Sloan School of Management, with a focus on Enterprise Management. He is currently serving as Sloan's student body president, representing more than 1,000 students and leading a student senate of over 75. His major initiatives have been in increasing fellowships funding, expanding student access to career opportunities, and organizing activities that improve student life. Prior to Sloan, he was a senior analyst at Cornerstone Research, an economic consulting firm, where he provided clients with economic and financial analysis in the context of commercial litigation issues. He has a B.A. in Economics from Stanford University.
NYU Stern School of Business
Applicants: 4,416 (14% Admitted)
Eric Shih - Stern MBA; Business Development
Eric Shih graduated from the Leonard N. Stern School of Business at New York University with a concentration in Corporate Finance. At Stern, he was President of the Asian Business Society, promoting interest in the domestic and international Asian business environment among the Stern student body and connecting students with such opportunities. Prior to business school, Eric was a management consultant at Mars & Company, where he worked extensively in numerous industries including beverages, foods, automobiles and credit cards advising clients across a variety of corporate strategic functions.
Currently, Eric works in Business Development at the Madison Square Garden Company for MSG Media, developing new profit-driving initiatives for the companys linear television networks and interactive assets. Eric graduated from Brown University with a Bachelors Degree in Business Economics and Political Science.
UCLA Anderson School of Business
Applicants: 2,727 (29% admitted)
Nicole Hwang - Anderson MBA; Investment Banking
Nicole Hwang received her MBA from the Anderson School of Business at UCLA. While at Anderson, Nicole worked closely with the career center to advise first-year MBA students during their recruiting process and was the liaison in the tech community for current students and alumni. She was also a two-year recipient of the Boeing Fellowship Award for an outstanding record of excellence in scholarship and leadership.
After graduating from Anderson, Nicole moved back to the Bay Area where she is an associate investment banker at Jefferies, covering the technology sector. Before attending Anderson, she worked as a financial analyst at Lockheed Martin covering their satellite program and actively helped with the company's recruitment efforts. Nicole graduated from University of California, San Diego with a Bachelors degree in Management Science.
Christine Liang - Anderson MBA; Business Consulting
Christine Liang received a bachelors degree in bioengineering from the University of California, San Diego and a masters degree in bioengineering from Columbia University. Before attending Columbia University, Christine worked in academic research, publishing a paper in NeuroImage.
Leveraging her educational background, she worked for a boutique consulting firm in San Francisco that focuses on market research and consulting for biotech and pharmaceutical companies. After gaining in depth experience creating surveys, analyzing qualitative market research and conducting secondary market research, she joined Accenture, gaining skills in project management and technology development.
Taking this experience to American Express Business Intelligence group in 2011, she launched Business Insights Online for American Express, a new product that helps card accepting merchants analyze their transaction data and use the power of big data to better understand their customers. She developed an algorithm that could automatically help clients identify competitor businesses, created and managed a client services team and implemented communication strategies to maintain client engagement. This fall, Christine will join the class of 2015 at the Anderson School of Business at the University of California, Los Angeles.