Important Points to Consider:

  • Write for the particular audience.
    Free-write for a few minutes on who your audience will be and what they will be like. List these qualities here.
  • What do you consider your strengths?
    List these here. Be sure that you include strengths of character (honest, hard working, motivated, persistent) as well as strengths in academics, extracurricular activities, sports, and interests.
  • Read the essay topics carefully.
    Reread the directions. Reread the essay topic. Is there anything you don't understand? Get the information -- from the dictionary, the Writing Center, your adviser, the college or university to which you're applying.
  • Free-write an answer.
  • Go back now and add DETAILS.
    Explain your reasons. Give examples. Don't try to "pretty up" your writing, but DO make it detailed.
  • Check your answer against the essay topic.
    Have you answered the question? Is there anything you want to add? To take out? Do you stay with the topic throughout?

Writing the Essay

Scholarship donors and admission officers want to know more about their students than statistics and dry facts. Essays are an extremely important part of the admission and scholarship selection process, simply because they are the most immediate indication of who and what you are.

To begin, you are writing for a purpose; you are trying to convince either an admission officer, or a committee, that by virtue of your merit (academic achievement, athletic prowess, leadership interests, etc.) they should either admit you into their school, and/or award you money. In order to accomplish this, present yourself as clearly and fully as possible. Your personal essay should be dedicated to expounding your good qualities and achievements.

Committees and admission officers are impressed with personal growth and individuality. If you think that cannot possibly mean you, think again - it does. You are not the same person you were one, two or three years ago. You have matured, you probably have more family and/or work responsibilities, and you probably have become more involved in your academics and outside interests. If this weren’t true, you wouldn't be thinking about attending college, and you wouldn’t be reading this now. So think positively, and brainstorm! Don’t worry whether or not what you have to say is important enough or particular enough to catch someone’s attention. If you are writing about something that you truly care about, it will be interesting and worthwhile.

If you are applying for admission to college, you may be asked to write about these topics:

  • An experience or achievement that is especially meaningful.
  • A local or national issue and its importance to you.
  • A prominent figure in the arts, politics, religion, or science.
  • Your reasons for pursuing a university education (Often this is more specific: why do you want to enter engineering or how is the study of history related to your goals?

If you were writing on the last topic, you would want to tie together your desire to further your education and why that school is the best place for you. For example, you may want to write on the recent changes in the Soviet Union. You would first briefly discuss the importance of those changes in world politics. Then secondly, you would state how they relate to your interest in diplomacy (if that is true), and how, since their school has a particularly strong international relations program (if that is true), their school is particularly suited to filling your interests and career goals.

If you are applying for a scholarship offered by a private foundation (or by a school or university), consider the source. For example, if the Daughters of the American Revolution offers scholarships, what do you think they might ask you to write on? They are undoubtedly a patriotic organization; perhaps you should brush up on your U.S. history and government. If you are writing on a specified topic (e.g., “The Importance of Education to Minorities in the 21st Century”), you may need to do some research and reading. Whether or not you are answering a specific question, being aware of and tying pertinent news and events into your essay helps.



  • What are the positive things about yourself and your schooling up to now?
  • Why and how did you achieve your goals?
  • Are you answering a specific question?
  • Are you describing your goals or interests?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What are the most important facts about you that they need to know: Choose things that aren’t shown elsewhere in the application.



  • Identify one or two main points you wish to express.
  • Begin to develop your ideas into paragraphs.


  • Use the same voice throughout the paper.
  • Be consistent with personal pronouns and verb tense.
  • Make sure the end of one paragraph blends with the beginning of the next.


  • Use concrete language to convey your examples.
  • Don’t get lost on tangents.

Checking Over:

  • Does your introduction capture the reader’s attention?
  • Are you consistent in your verb tense?
  • Are you clear and coherent?
  • Are you concise enough to adhere to limits of length?
  • Have you checked for grammatical and spelling errors?
  • Does the essay present you as you wish to be seen?
  • Did another person check your essay for errors?
  • Would you remember your essay if you read 200 others?
  • Does you closing paragraph present you as you wish to be remembered?

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