How to Make Your Scholarship Essay Stand Out

Scholarship Applications Now Open! from GRCommFound on Vimeo.

Each year Grand Rapids Community Foundation awards scholarships to students looking to pursue college. Our scholarships are offered to students from a variety of backgrounds, GPAs, areas of study and levels of education including high school seniors, undergraduates and graduate students. Our hope is to make the process simple, which is why we have assembled essay tips and topic ideas to write your scholarship essay.

Essay Tips

During the application process, you are required to submit a personal essay. It is important to write a strong essay with details about yourself so the reviewer can get to know you. Here are some tips that may help you make your personal essay stand out:

  • Think before you write. Brainstorm to generate some ideas, then create an outline to help you write smoothly. Be sure to address specific questions clearly.
  • Be original and creative in your answers. Use examples and stories to individualize your essay. Demonstrate the point you want to make and avoid being vague with your responses.
  • Proofread. Be sure to check grammar by sharing your essay with your friends, parents or teachers. Having your essay reviewed by various people can help identify errors that you may have been missed.
  • Be you. With this essay, your intention should be to create a vivid depiction of the person behind the grades, activities and awards. If the reader feels they know you after reading the essay, you have done your job. Creating a powerful emotional connection elevates your application and ultimately makes you stand out from others.

Other Questions to Consider

  • Have you had a special learning experience or completed special classes directly connected to the course of study you want to pursue?
  • Do you work or spend time volunteering? What have you learned about yourself as a result?
  • Have you had experiences, good or bad, that changed the course of your life?
  • Has another person, either in your life currently or from the past, inspired you or challenged you to be your best?
  • Do you have hobbies or interests that tell a lot about who you are and how you think?
  • Has another person, either in your life currently or from the past, inspired you or challenged you to be your best?
  • Has there been a unique challenge you have successfully faced which might explain a sudden drop in grades or a “less than average” academic background?  How did you deal with it and how did it change you for the better?
  • Have you had the experience of being recognized for doing your best and “sticking it out” despite the odds?  Is there something you have continued to pursue because of your dedication, even though you weren’t the star?

Inspiration from Scholarship Recipients

Need some inspiration from students like you who applied for scholarships last year? The following testimonials are from two students whose applications stood out and were awarded scholarships for the 2018-2019 school year! 

“As I continue my studies at Ferris State University for construction management, I am more thankful for the opportunity to grow as a young professional. I am looking forward to emerging as a leader in the construction industry and making positive impacts on those in the community who surround me.” - Russell Rothenthaler 

“At times I was Jaleah.gifon the verge of giving up and dropping out of school because I didn’t think I would get anywhere…Now here I am, in my last year of high school, making one of the most important decisions of life. Thank you so much for your contribution. This scholarship will make a very important impact on my future and my next step in life.”  -Jaleah Corp

Scholarship applications for the 2019-2020 academic year are now open through March 1 at Applicants will receive an email with decisions the second week of May 2019.