The essay: It’s the most important part of your scholarship application, and it can be the hardest.
But, the essay shouldn’t keep you from applying. Take a look at some commonly asked essay questions and use them to prepare for your scholarship applications. Brainstorm ideas, do some research or create your own “stock” of scholarship essays.
Your Field of Specialization and Academic Plans
Some scholarship applications will ask you to write about your major or field of study.
These questions are used to determine how well you know your area of specialization and why you’re interested in it.
• How will your study of _______ contribute to your immediate or long range career plans?
• Why do you want to be a _______?
• Explain the importance of (your major) in today’s society.
• What do you think the industry of _______ will be like in the next 10 years?
• What are the most important issues your field is facing today?
Current Events and Social Issues
To test your skills at problem-solving and check how up to date you are on current issues, many scholarship applications include questions about problems and issues facing society.
• What do you consider to be the single most important societal problem? Why?
• If you had the authority to change your school in a positive way, what specific changes would you make?
• Pick a controversial problem on college campuses and suggest a solution.
• What do you see as the greatest threat to the environment today?
Scholarships exist to reward and encourage achievement. So you shouldn’t be surprised to find essay topics that ask you to brag a little.
• Describe how you have demonstrated leadership ability both in and out of school.
• Discuss a special attribute or accomplishment that sets you apart.
• Describe your most meaningful achievements and how they relate to your field of study and your future goals.
• Why are you a good candidate to receive this award?
Background and Influences
Who you are is closely tied to where you’ve been and who you’ve known. To learn more about you, some scholarship committees will ask you to write about your background and major influences.
• Pick an experience from your own life and explain how it has influenced your development.
• Who in your life has been your biggest influence and why?
• How has your family background affected the way you see the world?
• How has your education contributed to who you are today?
Future Plans and Goals
Scholarship sponsors look for applicants with vision and motivation, so they might ask about your goals and aspirations.
• Briefly describe your long- and short-term goals.
• Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
• Why do you want to get a college education?
Many scholarship providers have a charitable goal: They want to provide money for students who are going to have trouble paying for college. In addition to asking for information about your financial situation, these committees may want a more detailed and personal account of your financial need.
• From a financial standpoint, what impact would this scholarship have on your education?
• State any special personal or family circumstances affecting your need for financial assistance.
• How have you been financing your college education?
Some essay questions don’t seem directly related to your education, but committees use them to test your creativity and get a more well-rounded sense of your personality.
• Choose a person or persons you admire and explain why.
• Choose a book or books and that have affected you deeply and explain why.
While you can’t predict every essay question, knowing some of the most common ones can give you a leg up on applications. Start brainstorming now, and you may find yourself a winner!
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For True Believers The Bible Sabbath Association (bible sabbath.org) is offering six prizes ($100 to $500) for essays supporting the seventh-day Sabbath -- that is, Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. Only high school and college students who keep the Sabbath and are Christian may enter, and every applicant gets a free one-year subscription to The Sabbath Sentinel. This year contestants are invited to discuss what they would do if they were compelled to work on the Sabbath or lose their job. Essays must be handwritten, with a typed copy attached for easy reading by the judges.
For Dog People The Dog Writers Educational Trust (dw etinfo.com) is offering $1,000 college scholarships to at least a half-dozen essayists who produce 250 compelling words on why people own dogs. It helps if the writer is also a dog owner or, at least, has worked with dogs. One of last year's winners, for instance, trained military working dogs at the naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. In the contest's 25 years, has a mutt -- or a mutt owner, to be precise -- ever won? ''I doubt that,'' says Hal Sundstrom, chairman of the trust.
For Wilde Fanciers Promoting its backlist, Penguin Putnam (penguinputnam.com) is offering five $1,000 scholarships for the best essay by a high school student on Oscar Wilde's ''Picture of Dorian Gray.'' Winners also get a Signet Classic library for their school. (Last year's book was Mary Shelley's ''Frankenstein.'' One winner lamented Victor Frankenstein's egotism and selfishness, clearly putting her out of the running for the Ayn Rand award.)
For Diplomats Giving peace a chance is the timely subject of two essay contests for high school students. The professional association of the United States Foreign Service (afsa.org) will pay $2,500 for the best essay describing how its members promote United States interests ''by participating in the resolution of today's major international problems.''
The United States Institute of Peace (usip.org) is offering a $10,000 college scholarship for the best 1,500-word essay about rebuilding societies after conflict. Essayists must provide ''practical recommendations on how to design and conduct a program of postconflict reconstruction that leads to stability and reconciliation.'' Perhaps the Nobel Peace Prize (upward of $1 million) would be more appropriate.
For Devoted Children Unfortunately, the most effortless essay competition has been canceled. Last year, College Parent Magazine (collegepar entmagazine.com) offered a $500 scholarship for an outstanding essay that had been submitted with a college application. ''Simply send us your favorite one, or if you are especially proud, send us all of them along with the topic assigned,'' the magazine's Web site urged parents.
Deluged with more than 45,000 submissions from readers, the publisher changed the topic this year. But, at least for parents, it's still heartwarming. The essay question: ''What was the most valuable way your parents helped you with the college application and selection process?''Continue reading the main story