Scholarship Essays Dos and Don’ts: A Comprehensive Guide to Crafting a Winning Application

The dos and don’ts essay’s introduction is your first chance to leave a lasting impression on the committee.

It’s where you capture attention, introduce yourself, and highlight your best qualities, laying the groundwork for a successful application.

Scholarship Essay Dos and Don'ts
Avoid leaving everything to the last minute, as it leads to stress, hasty decisions, and increased chances of errors [Photo: College Factual for Students]

Scholarship Essays Dos and Don’ts of the Application Process

Securing scholarships demands not just compelling essays but also effective navigation of the application process.

Increase your chances of success by following these dos and don’ts.


  1. Start early: Initiate research and planning well in advance to avoid last-minute rushes. Early preparation ensures ample time for crafting strong essays and gathering the required materials.
  2. Read the instructions carefully: Each scholarship has specific requirements; carefully read the instructions to avoid missing crucial information or making avoidable mistakes.
  3. Gather the required materials: Organize and collect necessary documents (transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc.) well in advance to prevent last-minute scrambling.
  4. Plan your essay schedule: Allocate time for thorough essay writing and revision. Create a realistic schedule for brainstorming, drafting, and editing.
  5. Proofread meticulously: After completing your essays, meticulously proofread to eliminate grammatical errors, typos, or inconsistencies. A polished essay reflects professionalism.
  6. Submit on time: Adhere to specified submission deadlines without fail. Late submissions, even with exceptional essays, may disqualify you.


  1. Procrastinate: Avoid leaving everything to the last minute, as it leads to stress, hasty decisions, and increased chances of errors.
  2. Ignore instructions: Failure to closely follow instructions can result in an incomplete or non-compliant application, reducing your chances of consideration.
  3. Forget essential materials: Double-check that you have all required documents before submitting. Missing elements may delay or hinder your application.
  4. Rush the essay process: Avoid hurrying through the essay writing process; sacrificing quality for speed can lead to poorly written and ineffective essays.
  5. Submit proofed work: Never submit essays without thorough proofreading; grammatical errors and typos create a negative impression.
  6. Miss deadlines: Be mindful of submission deadlines and ensure your application is submitted on time or before. Late submissions are often disregarded, regardless of merit.

Eligibility for Scholarships Essays Dos and Don’ts

Scholarship eligibility considers factors like academic achievement, financial need, extracurricular involvement, and community service.

Some scholarships may have additional criteria, such as a specific GPA, major, or residency.

Scholarship Essays Dos and Don’ts
Grab the reader’s attention from the outset with a thought-provoking anecdote, a powerful quote, or an intriguing question. [Photo: ScholarshipOwl]

Features of a Strong Scholarship Essay

A compelling scholarship essay should be:

  • Well-written and readable.
  • Specific and focused.
  • Original and insightful.
  • Free of grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.
  • Persuasive and convincing.

Scholarship Essays Dos

  1. Begin with a captivating hook: Grab the reader’s attention from the outset with a thought-provoking anecdote, a powerful quote, or an intriguing question.
  2. Clearly state your main point: Concisely convey your essay’s essence and your educational aspirations.
  3. Showcase your personality: Let your unique voice shine, revealing your passions and motivations.
  4. Provide relevant background information: Briefly introduce yourself and your academic background, setting the stage for your essay.

Scholarship Essays’ Don’ts:

  1. Start with clichés or overused phrases: Avoid generic openings that fail to stand out.
  2. Overly focus on financial need: While it’s a factor, don’t make it the sole focus of your introduction.
  3. Apologize for shortcomings: Emphasize strengths and potential contributions instead of dwelling on weaknesses.
  4. Go off on irrelevant tangents: Stay focused on your introduction’s main purpose, avoiding unnecessary details.
  5. Use excessive jargon or complex language: Keep your writing clear, concise, and accessible to a general audience.

Writing a great scholarship essay requires careful consideration.

  1. Have your college application materials nearby:
    • Keep a list of your extracurricular activities, awards, jobs, and volunteer work handy.
    • It helps recall unique aspects that make you stand out.
  2. Don’t recycle your college application essay:
    • Avoid tweaking your college essay for scholarships; prompts often differ significantly.
    • Ensure your essay aligns precisely with the scholarship prompt.
  3. Choose to discuss what makes you shine:
    • Share your passions and unique experiences.
    • Don’t be self-deprecating; let your genuine interests captivate the reader.
  4. Don’t turn your scholarship essay into a resume:
    • Go beyond listing activities; delve into their impact on your life.
    • Quality matters more than quantity.
  5. Discuss your future plans:
    • Mention your intended college and major.
    • Scholarship committees want to see your goals and plans.
  6. Don’t turn your essay into a pity party:
    • Avoid excessive complaints about your past.
    • Focus on growth and overcoming obstacles positively.
  7. Send in a well-polished final draft:
  8. Don’t fill your final draft with unnecessary fluff:
    • Resist unnecessary changes suggested by others.
    • Keep your essay genuine and avoid overly formal introductions or conclusions.