Writing the perfect essay can seem next to impossible. But 26-year-old Kristina Ellis says it doesn’t have to be. She won half a million dollars in scholarship money for college, and now she’s teaching others how to write award-winning essays in her book, “Confessions of a Scholarship Winner.”
Make a Connection
Whether writing about a personal hardship or a fulfilling volunteer experience, Kristina stresses it’s important to make an emotional connection so the judges remember you.
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“Everybody has stories and personal experiences that can really translate in essays,” says Ellis. “Share the highs, the lows, the ups, the downs, you know, and be real with the judges. They’re really just trying to figure out who you are.”
Ellis says the biggest mistake is writing about information the judges can find elsewhere in the application, like lists of extracurricular activities or GPA.
Less Is More
“Choose your words carefully. Most scholarship essays are only about 500 words in length, so you don’t have a lot of space to show them who you are. You want to make sure you package each and every word to have the maximum impact possible,” she says.
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Finally, review, review, review! Don’t let spelling or grammatical errors stand between you and free money for college. And get feedback. Ellis asked five to 10 people, including her English teacher and a financial aid officer at her local community college, to read each essay before submitting it.
“See if they catch any small errors, and also have them evaluate what kind of impact it makes on them,” Ellis says. “If you continually refine your essays and make them stronger and stronger, you’re going to increase your chances of really impacting the scholarship judges."
What are your essay-writing tips? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #FinFit.
Thank you to Vanderbilt University for their assistance with this video.