The Quick and Easy Guide to
Writing for College Admissions & Scholarships

Competing for College Resources

Getting into a college program or being chosen to receive scholarship awards will require more than just listing facts and figures on an application. Most scholarships and admissions applications ask the applicant to describe their goals, plans, values, strengths, weaknesses, understanding of their place in the community and/or a myriad of other topics of interest. Along with the interview process, this written component gives the admitting or granting organization a better view of the applicant as a person. As in any competitive writing, the writer must demonstrate an understanding of his or her audience and the application process. But for scholarships and admissions, the writer must also articulate an understanding of self.

Preparing to Write

Prior to starting the application, there are two important steps the writer should take to prepare.

1) Self-Assessment

Brainstorm for elements of your life that are relevant to the college or scholarship that interests you. As with all brainstorming, do not limit yourself at this stage - you will organize, categorize and choose the details that best fit your application later. Some areas to consider include the following: Sometimes it is hard for writers to be objective about themselves. Try interviewing or surveying those who know you (family, friends, instructors, employers, etc.) to get an "outside" view of who you are. It may also be helpful to describe yourself in the third person - "he" or "she", rather than "I."

2) Audience Analysis

Whether granting admission to a college or scholarship funds, the readers of applications are looking for someone who can be successful in collegiate pursuits and represent the values of the college or foundation. As the applicant, it is your job to persuade the audience that you are that person. To do this, you must consider what you reader wants to see in your application. This will vary by college and scholarship. Likely considerations include the following: Each college or scholarship will have a specific set of criteria for eligibility and selection. Of course, you should review the published materials provided by organizations, but you should also look for additional information on the college or foundation, past winners, mission statements and other relevant background. It is usually appropriate to contact the admissions officer or scholarship contact if you have questions about the application. The more you know about your readers, the better you will be able to match your profile with theirs. Of course, this only will work if you have done a good job of assessing both yourself and your audience.

Written Submissions

Applicants generally will be writing about themselves in one or more ways:

These elements should be treated as parts of a whole, rather than separate submissions. Try to develop a thesis or theme from your self-assessment and audience assessment that you can use throughout your application. This will help the reader recognize your main message, that you are a top applicant for consideration.

Most readers of admissions and scholarship submissions will only spend a few minutes reading the personal statements and essays. This means you must know what the reader is looking for and provide it as quickly and as clearly as possible. Obviously, this also puts constraints on length, paragraphing, word choice, etc. Only include relevant information that the reader will care about and do not repeat basic information available in other parts of your application.

Resources such as FastWeb and Purdue's OWL can provide a list of common personal statement questions asked for admissions and scholarship applications, as well as samples of personal essays. Also, many colleges and scholarship foundations provide profiles and even essays from past winners.

Suggestions for Writing Personal Statements and Responses

Formatting Your Submission

As in any competitive writing, your written submissions must be formatted correctly and without errors in grammar, spelling and other mechanics. Make sure to complete all questions and provide all required information. Note any length requirements or restrictions for essays and responses. For personal statements, make sure to use correct essay or letter form. (For more information on writing essays, see the Quick and Easy Guide to Essays.) Give yourself time in completing your application to proofread your submission and revise as needed. You may want to have someone else read it for help with problem areas.

Organize and deliver your application as requested, meeting all content requirements, deadlines and requests for supplemental material, such as transcripts, letters of support, etc. Incomplete applications are usually eliminated from consideration, so make sure you have all required material with your application.

Additional On-line Resources

Written By: George Knox © 2017
E-mail: [email protected]