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Tips for Writing a Winning Scholarship Essay

Scholarships can have a profound impact on your future. They can open the door to new opportunities and possibilities, and they can also provide peace of mind. When applying for a scholarship, grant, or award, there are specific requirements that you must meet, including some form of writing. 

Many students find the essay portion is the most challenging of their application. Whether you’re a naturally gifted writer or struggle with it, these tips can help you write a strong scholarship essay. 


It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re staring at a blank word document while feeling the pressure of a looming deadline. The best way to tackle writing a scholarship essay is to break up your writing process into multiple parts:

  • Read the instructions. Each essay’s requirements will vary according to the scholarship, so pay close attention to the details and make sure you have a clear understanding of the specifications. Make note of any key requirements such as minimum and maximum length, word count, formatting, font and font size, line spacing, submission deadlines, and any other guidelines or instructions. 

  • Outline your essay. Some essay prompts have multiple questions and parts, and you want to be sure to address each one clearly. Create an outline by dividing your essay into different sections based on the prompt and its questions. Then, brainstorm key points and examples you want to include in each section. This will ensure you don’t forget any important information and provide a solid framework to build your essay around. 
  • Write a draft. Once your outline is complete, start writing your essay using the outline as a guide. Elaborate and add details to fully tell your story. Once the first draft is complete, proofread it to make sure it’s error-free and has a good flow. 
  • Ask for peer reviews. Have a friend, colleague, or family member review and provide feedback on your work. A second set of eyes can help you catch mistakes you may have missed, and can improve your essay’s clarity and strength.
  • Edit, edit, edit. Apply any feedback and revisions you received. Then, give your essay one final look to ensure it’s grammatically correct, typo-free, and meets all formatting requirements. You can use free apps such as Grammarly to check your work. 
  • Submit correctly. This step is just as critical as all of the rest — especially since incomplete, inaccurate applications can disqualify you from candidacy. 

The most important thing you can do is give yourself plenty of time before the deadline to start writing your essay. Rushing to meet a deadline is not going to help you produce your best work. 


While the format of your essay will change according to the essay’s topic, prompt, and questions, there are some general best practices.


The beginning of your essay sets the tone. Start with a compelling introduction and grab the reader’s attention with a strong opening sentence. Briefly introduce yourself and explain what you are going to discuss in your essay, why you are applying for it, and end with a thesis statement. Keep your introduction concise and to the point.

Keep the Body of Your Essay Strong

The more creative you can be, the more you will stand apart from the other applicants. Don’t be afraid to be creative. Use your unique voice and let your personality show. Give the reader a chance to get to know you and connect with you on a personal level. 

Make sure that you keep a consistent tone throughout your entire essay. Use relevant stories and examples from your life to tie back into the answer to the prompt. Present facts in a way that emotionally appeals to your audience. Here’s an example: 

  • “I am a three-year member of tNSLS and am excited to continue my membership as a senior.” 
  • “The NSLS has had a profound impact on my college experience over the past three years, and I’m excited to take what I’ve learned with me into my senior year.”

As you can see, the second sentence offers much more in terms of storytelling and emotional appeal. 

When you’re writing your essay, keep the organization’s mission, vision, and values in mind. Convey that you understand and relate to their values by showing how your story and your goals align with them.

End Your Essay with Impact

Your essay’s conclusion has the opportunity to leave a lasting impression. Emphasize how the scholarship would help you, and thank the organization for the chance to be a member and the opportunity to be considered for a scholarship. 

What Makes a Strong Scholarship Essay?

At The National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS), we offer a range of scholarships, awards, and grants. During each submission term, we receive hundreds of applications. Since scholarships are highly competitive and have limited recipients, it’s important to make sure your application stands out. 

But how can you accomplish this? While each type of scholarship, and their respective essays have specific requirements, at the NSLS, we look for three main things: 

  1. Your scholarship essay should be well-written. Make sure it’s grammatically correct, contains proper sentence structure, and is organized and cohesive. Keep your essay focused by avoiding irrelevant words or content.
  2. Answer and address all aspects of the prompt/questions with thoughtful responses. Include examples that align with the prompt and tie in how these stories relate to the purpose or goal of the scholarship. Be sure to emphasize how your values align with those of the NSLS. 
  3. Be sure to submit all required materials on time. Being punctual is a critical part of the scholarship application process. Once the submission period closes, you won’t be able to submit your application, which is why this is always one of the most common scholarship questions we get asked.

Applications that are found to be inaccurate, incomplete, or falsified will be disqualified. Should a winner be found out to have submitted a fraudulent application, we have the right to revoke the award and their membership to the NSLS.

Apply for a Scholarship through the NSLS 

At the NSLS, we understand the stress that financial issues and tuition payments can create in our students’ lives. We believe that students shouldn’t be limited by monetary struggles, which is why we are proud to distribute over $400,000 in scholarships every year to our members.

Learn more about the scholarships, grants, and awards we offer at the NSLS, their specific requirements, the application process, and the scholarship window. 

Apply for a scholarship today (if the deadline hasn’t passed for this semester).