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San Diego State University

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Scholarship Essay Tips

All SDSU scholarships available through SDSU Scholarship Search require that you submit an essay online.

Scholarship committees review many applications and may use the essays to differentiate applicants. Because the large volume of applicants makes it impossible for the committees to interview each candidate, a coherent and interesting essay may be what distinguishes you from another candidate.

The following information is essential to writing a successful scholarship essay.

Consider the topic

Read the essay requirements. Note any requirements for the essay topic that may be unique to the scholarship.

  • Think about each question or topic and make an outline of what you plan to write.

Prepare your facts

Plan your essay before you write:

  • Make a list of your achievements/accomplishments (both academic and other), community involvement and leadership positions you have had in school or your community.
  • Make a list of your personal characteristics including your strengths, weaknesses, and any obstacles you have overcome or are currently confronting.
  • Determine key pieces of information you feel the committee should know about you and have concrete examples to demonstrate your points.

Writing the essay

(View sample essays)

  • The introduction: Begin with a strong introduction. You want your essay to stand out from all the others. Be sure your introduction captures the readers' attention and compels them to learn as much as they can about you in the following paragraphs.
  • Be personal: Make sure the committee can assess what type of person you are and what motivates you.
  • Be specific: Give examples. Do not simply tell the committee you are a leader; give an example of how you have demonstrated leadership.
  • Turn negatives into positives: If you have an obvious weakness such as limited extracurricular activities, show the committee that you have been particularly involved with your family or the classes you have taken, depending on your personal situation.
  • Follow standard grammar and writing rules: Make sure your body paragraphs relate to your introduction and that your conclusion summarizes the points you have made in your essay.

Review your essay

Do we need to say this? Proofread, proofread, and proofread again!

  • Have several people read your essay.
  • Edit it for clarity, conciseness, grammar, and spelling.
  • Did you clearly address the essay topic?
  • Does the essay convey who you are and why you should receive a scholarship?
  • Is the essay interesting? Does it come alive when you read it?
  • Did you provide examples of your skills and abilities rather than broad statements and claims?
  • Does the essay meet but not exceed the word count requirement?

How to submit your essay

  • Prepare your essay for each scholarship in a word processing application before beginning the online application process.
  • Do not double space your essay or it will not fit into the online application essay text box.
  • After you are satisfied with your essay, copy it from your word processing application and paste it into the online application essay text box.
  • Proofread it again!