Counselor, graduates offer tips to writing top scholarship essays

Strong essays can help deliver scholarships, but one CFHS guidance counselor and two CFHS graduates say applicants can follow six simple steps to success before applicants mail their essays in.

Essays determine who will get the scholarship, so Chris Wood, counselor and former Wartburg admissions counselor, warns students not to skim over the details. “My favorite line to students writing essays is to ‘dig deeper,’” Wood said. “Too often students just skim the surface of detail on essays.”

First, the path to success starts early, so make an outline to easier compile your thoughts based on the instructions you are given. “If your story doesn’t have vivid emotion, style, reflection, find a new story,” Wood said.

Second, be passionate. “Colleges want to see you take a risk with your essay. Don’t settle for the essay that everyone else is writing. Find your story, tell it to the reader and be passionate about it. If you’re not enthused about the story, neither will the scholarship committee be,” Wood said..

Third, “Just be honest, be yourself when you are writing it,” said CFHS graduate and now UNI student Marissa Nunez. People can tell when you are insincere.

“College admissions and scholarship committees read hundreds if not thousands of scholarship essays. If you’re writing what you think they want to hear, they’ll read half-way through your essay, rip it up and move on to the next one. They can see right through that,” Wood said.

Fourth, state your accomplishments without bragging. “Don’t talk about your G.P.A. if they can see that on your transcripts. Colleges and scholarship committees want to hear your story. Think of the scholarship essay as an opportunity, not a chore,” Wood said.

Fifth, use clear language. “Use clear detail. Don’t forget to add expression and show emotion throughout your essay,” Wood said.

Sixth, “Put a little effort, but take time to look over and have someone proofread it,” CFHS graduate and UNI student Kevin Bernard said.

So consider following these six simple steps from these three who’ve successfully navigated this daunting task.

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