How To Ace Your Scholarship Application Essays

“A scholarship essay is the first opportunity for the scholarship administrators to know us. Thus, it is important, unless the prompt specifies otherwise, to add a personal touch to our writing. “

In my opinion, the defining characteristic of a scholarship is that the recipient has to be chosen. The emphasis here is on the word chosen. And the only way to make a choice about a person is to know more about said individual. A scholarship essay is the first opportunity for the scholarship administrators to know us. Thus, it is important, unless the prompt specifies otherwise, to add a personal touch to our writing. Our personality and confidence must be able to show through, on top of an intelligent and well-crafted answer.

It is common for a scholarship essay to require several questions to be answered. With that in mind, the aim of this article is to give you some inspirations and ideas on how to write. Below are examples of answering common questions asked for a scholarship essay.

1. What is your course about?

This first question is quite straightforward to answer, and should require no more than two paragraphs to satisfy. In the first paragraph, describe what you intend to study in an intelligent, concise way. In the second paragraph, extend that answer to the importance of your course and, indirectly, how it would relate to you. For example, when I applied for Yayasan Khazanah scholarship, I described my study like so:

‘Chemical engineering is a fundamental of life that truly reflects human efforts through means such as the exploration of unknown substances, and making something of value out of simple, raw materials. It is the study of how to create and operate facilities relating to the manufacture of commodities essential for everyday life, in a safe, efficient and environmentally friendly manner.

Chemical engineering has an increasingly important role across a wide range of industries from pharmaceuticals to petrochemicals. By combining knowledge of physical phenomenon such as fluid dynamics and thermodynamics, as well as creating the right conditions for the proper chemical reactions to take place, we are able to manipulate substances to form materials that are to our benefit, such as soap and medicine. These processes not only require a creative and careful mind to design, but also extensive insight into mathematics and economics that guides the basis of chemistry to the industrial level.’

The trick is in the last sentence of the second paragraph, where I described qualities that studying Chemical Engineering would require. Phrases like ‘creative and careful mind to design’ and ‘ extensive insight into mathematics and economics’ lays a foundation for the background of the writer, as I would later explain why I see myself as being creative and careful, as well as my background in mathematics and economics. This way, my essay seems structured and flows much more smoothly, as opposed to answering questions separately.

2. How does your course benefit the country?

In the end, the basis of selecting a deserving scholar is to see what improvements or good they can bring to society. Picking directly where I left off, I wrote:

‘Malaysia, without a doubt, falls into the classification of an industrial country, with a fast growing economy, and a steadily increasing level of population. With this rapid growth, however, also comes a rising demand for normal consumer products such as detergents, preservatives, and fuel that comes from chemicals that are produced in a plant. These products in their making constantly take up valuable resources, many of which are found in our country such as copper, rubber and palm oil. Malaysia itself gains a large portion of revenue from exporting plastic-based products and latex gloves.
However, it is only so long that our limited resources can fulfil the unlimited desires of our country, and of the world. Even collaboration with foreign countries such as China provides an inadequate answer to this question. In fact, it is undesirable for Malaysia to depend so much on the big powers of the planet. We are an independent nation, and must constantly strive to be so. It is essential to have people of great skill and intellect appear from within our own country, as only people with debt and love for Malaysia will be able to help it.
Clearly, we are in constant need of skilled engineers that are able to design new and innovative processes to produce the goods that are demanded. It is only this way, through education, that we will be able to slow down the rapid consumption of our diminishing and scarce raw materials. There are, in fact, numerous solutions to this dilemma, despite the odds. One of the ways is to train fresh and eager minds and equipping them with specialized knowledge on the matter. Supporting pursuit of higher studies into chemical engineering is a way of doing this.’

To put it simply, the answer should clearly show a few things, such as your understanding of your country, a global overview, the dilemma and where your course fits in. I also managed to showcase my understanding of economics, as the old adage goes ‘show, not tell’. In this way, though I am answering an informal question, the reader still manages to form an image of me. I cannot overstress the importance of this. It also doesn’t hurt to show your care and patriotism for the country, if applicable.

3. Why are you qualified for this education/ scholarship?

This last question is often the most difficult to answer, as it traditionally requires us to convince ourselves that we deserve a scholarship. Not many people have the confidence to say that they should be chosen, among all the other potential recipients. There is a way around this, however.

For me, I had a mindset where I thought everyone deserving of a chance to pursue their studies. I did not think I deserve a scholarship more than the other person. Thus, in my head, the only thing that separated me from everyone else is how well I could describe myself. This required an extensive self-reflection, where I listed all my achievements and strengths, and how I could turn my weaknesses into incentives. Hence, I recommend for you to do the same.

As a guide, answering this last part should include several things. Firstly, your inspirations for pursuing your course and what you have done related to it. For me, it was my brother’s fourth grade science experiment that inspired me, and I joined competitions like the H&M Global Award Competition to further my interest.

Your answer should also include your academic credentials and leadership background. A key factor in the selection is their confidence that you can handle and excel in studies, as well as influence other people positively. I described briefly about my time-management skills and healthy lifestyle. To add to that, I wrote on attending leadership conferences recently and organizing an event for charity.

Lastly, you should write sincerely about your hopes or dreams, because a defining trait of a scholar is that they should be driven by a greater reason for doing things. Personally, to end my essay, I expressed my concerns on the growing chaos in the world, particularly in the Middle East, due to a lack of education and how I wished to be an example that others could follow to collectively bridge that gap.

To summarize, a scholarship essay must be written cohesively and show the intelligence of the writer. Most importantly, the essay must also be convincing and sincere, and this is done through forming an image of yourself in your writing. After all, no one wants to read an essay with no passion behind it. My final advice is to take your time and to be happy writing it. In a way, this is your chance to truly see yourself in a positive light, and everyone deserves at least that!

Have more questions?

Get into contact with the mentor behind this page, Azmi Bin Ahmad Rosehaizat, through our mentorships page

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