What to include in a scholarship essay

College can have students paying off their education for years thanks to its high expenses. But for the people who are willing to put in the time and the work, student loan debt can decrease drastically. 

Every year, $46 billion in scholarship funds is awarded by the U.S. government and by colleges and universities of America, according to Debt.org’s article, “Scholarships and Grants for College Students.”

Applying for scholarships may pose a challenge for students. It can easily become overwhelming to make the decisions of what kind and how many scholarships to apply for. 

On top of that, figuring out how to set an application or an essay apart from the multitudes of others are considered. How can a student stand out from the rest when applying for scholarships?

Professor W.D. Blackmon, Missouri State English department head, recommends simply following the prompt and not overthinking it. 

“Sometimes I think students feel they have to be very clever in this type of writing,” Blackmon said. “Coming off as ‘cute’ in this situation is generally a big mistake for students.” 

Blackmon emphasized that all scholarships have different requirements and advises students to thoroughly explain why they fit the criteria and standards for each given one. 

“The universal approach for such writing is to show how your experience — in school, in your interests that apply — has prepared you to take full advantage of the study the scholarship will support, and how that study will prepare you for future schooling — graduate school, for example, if this applies — and for your career,” Blackmon said. “Those providing the scholarships tend to see them as investments in the future, not only for the student applying but for society as a whole.”

Moreover, Tracey Glaessgen, who works in the Center for Academic Success and Transition and First-Year Programs and hosts scholarship workshops each spring, explained that scholarship committees are looking for a sense of who the applicant is.

Glaessgen said students should start off their scholarship essays with an introductory paragraph which includes essential information such as a student’s year, major or program. She goes into detail about what the body of the paragraph should consist of. 

“The body of the essay may include why the student is applying for the scholarship, what their academic goals are, what their career plans are, rationale as to why this money might be particularly useful, what they have learned so far regarding their major, general education, public affairs and other relevant information,” Glaessgen said.

Lastly, Glaessgen suggested students wrap up their essays with a concluding paragraph, making sure to thank the committee for their time and consideration.

MSU offers institutionally funded scholarships for incoming freshmen, transfer students, currently enrolled students and graduate students. Donors including individuals, companies and groups also gift money to students.

Missouri State’s Office of Student Financial Aid’s website lists all of the different scholarship opportunities the university offers. However, it also recommends students search for outside scholarships using online resources.

While it may seem like a hassle or just another thing on a never-ending to-do list, applying for scholarships can save thousands for the students who are truly committed to the process.