How To Start Out A College Scholarship Essay Contest

If you’re a skilled writer, a few hundred (or even a thousand) words is no biggie.

Students that can easily express themselves through writing flock toward scholarships with interesting essays and the scholarships on this list are just that.

All of the below scholarships require an essay entry – some as short as only 250 words – with interesting essay topics that range from safe driving and technology to America heroes and animal activism.

To help better organize your scholarship and internship search, please note that the following scholarships for writers are listed according to deadline, with the earliest deadline appearing at the top of the page. Deadlines that vary will appear at the bottom of each list.

If you enjoy expressing your opinions through writing, the scholarships on this list await your entries.

Scholars Helping Collars

Deadline: 2/15/18
Available to: High School Seniors
Award Amount: $1,000

The Scholars Helping Collars Scholarship is open to current high school seniors. You must submit an essay of between 500 and 1000 words with two to three photos of your volunteer efforts to help animals in need and how that involvement has changed your lives or shaped your perceptions on the importance of animal welfare in order to be considered for this award.

Learn more about the Scholars Helping Collars.

Live Deliberately Essay Contest

Deadline: 3/15/18
Available to: Ages 13-21 Years
Award Amount: 3 Awards of $250

The Live Deliberately Essay Contest is open to all students aged 14 – 21. You must submit an essay of no more than 750 words based on the prompts listed on the sponsor’s website. This year’s prompts will ask you to consider a time in your life when you pursued a path that was “narrow and crooked,” but felt like it was the right path for you. In what ways are/were you able to, as Thoreau advises, walk that path with “love and reverence?” How has navigating that path shaped you into the person you are becoming?

Learn more about the Live Deliberately Essay Contest .

AFSA High School Essay Contest

Deadline: 3/15/2018
Available to: High School Freshmen through High School Seniors
Award Amount: $2,500

The AFSA High School Essay Contest is open to high school students. To be considered, in a 1,000 – to 1250 – word essay, you must identify two cases – one you deem successful and one you deem unsuccessful – where the U.S. pursued an integrated approach to build peace in a conflict – affected country.

Learn more about the AFSA High School Essay Contest .

Brighter Future Scholarship

Deadline: 3/31/2018
Available to: College Freshmen through Graduate Students, Year 5
Award Amount: $500

The Brighter Future Scholarship is available to undergraduate, graduate or law students enrolled at an accredited college or university. You must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit 500 word letter of intent that identifies a problem and explains how you intend to use your education as a way to begin solving that problem, thus creating a brighter future.

Learn more about the Brighter Future Scholarship.

NPG 2018 Scholarship Contest

Deadline: 4/20/2018
Available to: High School Seniors through College Juniors
Award Amount: Awards from $750-$2,000

The NPG 2018 Essay Scholarship Contest is open to high school seniors and college freshmen, sophomores and juniors. You must submit an essay of between 500 and 750 words on one environmental issue from the sponsor’s chosen list and explain how it is made worse by population growth and describe what measures you would recommend our nation’s leaders take to ensure we protect our fragile environment for generations to come. You must also be a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident to qualify for this award.

Learn more about the NPG 2018 Scholarship Contest.

E-Waste Scholarship

Deadline: 4/30/2018
Available to: High School Freshmen through Graduate Students, Year 5
Award Amount: $1,000

The E-waste Scholarship is available to high school, undergraduate or graduate students. You must submit a short statement that completes the sentence “The most important reason to care about e-waste is…” and be U.S. citizen or legal resident to qualify for this award.

Learn more about the E-Waste Scholarship.

Feldco Scholarship

Deadline: 6/15/2018
Available to: College Freshmen through College Seniors
Award Amount: $1,000

The Feldco Scholarship is available to current and prospective college students. To be considered, you must submit a 700 – to 1000 – word essay on the following topic: “How has your family contributed to who you are today?”

Learn more about the Feldco Scholarship.

Immigration Scholarship Essay Contest

Deadline: 7/01/2018
Available to: High School Seniors through Graduate Students, Year 5
Award Amount: $1,500

The Immigration Scholarship Essay Contest is open to U.S. citizens attending or planning to attend an accredited college or university. You must submit an essay of between 800 and 1000 words on one of the five topics related to immigration listed on the sponsor’s website in order to qualify for this award.

Learn more about the Immigration Scholarship Essay Contest.

Love Your Career Scholarship

Deadline: 9/10/2018
Available to: College Freshmen through Graduate Students, Year 5
Award Amount: $1,000

The Love Your Career Scholarship is available to students attending an accredited college or university. You must submit an essay of at least 1,000 words describing at least three steps that you plan to take in the next year to start a path towards having a career that you love in order to qualify for this award. Topics may include: What are your passions that could be turned into a career? What are some ideas you have for a business based on things that you love and are skilled at? You must also interview a professional in your chosen field that has at least three years of experience.

Learn more about the Love Your Career Scholarship.

MajGen Harold W. Chase Prize Essay Contest

Deadline: Varies
Available to: College Freshmen through College Seniors
Award Amount: $3,000

Sponsored by the Marine Corps Gazette, the MajGen Harold W. Chase Prize Essay Contest is open to all Marines on active duty and to members of the Selected Marine Corps Reserve.

The contest honors the essay that proposes and argues for a new and better way of “doing business” in the Marine Corps.

Learn more information about the MajGen Harold W. Chase Prize Essay Contest.

Mary Grant Charles Prize Scholarship

Deadline: Varies
Available to: College Freshmen through College Seniors
Award Amount: Varies

The Mary Grant Charles Prize Scholarship is open to undergraduate students at Tufts University.

You must possess the same creative qualities in the writing of prose and poetry to qualify for this award.

Preference is given to students whose writing reflects an interest in ancestry and genealogy.

Get more information on the Mary Grant Charles Prize Scholarship.

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Co-authored by Renae Hintze


College is expensive, but what if I told you that you could make up to $500 per hour in high school to offset the cost!?

Amidst your student’s busy life of after-school sports, school dances, sleepovers, and more…college is on the horizon. And it’s an expensive horizon.

While there ARE 11+ billion dollars in merit based scholarships out there that will actually pay for your student’s good grades and high tests scores, why miss out on the opportunity to get a piece of the 2+ billion dollar private based scholarship pie that are awarded based off essays?

These 10 steps + your application = BIG SCHOLARSHIP MONEY! So let’s go for it. Here’s how to write a winning scholarship essay in 10 steps.

Step #1: Get an Early Start

My essay isn’t due for 3 weeks, why would I start it now? 

Ah-HAH! I see you there, you last-minuter you. Don’t think I don’t know what you’re up to. And I’m telling you, DON’T PUT IT OFF.

If it helps, here’s an example of what can happen when you procrastinate. Here is one ASU student’s story:

“Once upon a time I took a class that worked with Photoshop. I had a project where I had to create a fake CD cover for myself. I put it off until the last day and I finished it the night before it was due and went to bed — that’s right, the project was DONE. And it was BEAUTIFUL.

My class was at 7:30 am the next morning (A little slice of college for ya) and I hadn’t printed it out yet. And here comes the lesson in timing: My printer broke. The short version of this is that I ran around the entire college campus trying to find a printer at 6:00 am in the morning to no avail.

My finished project received a non-negotiable 0.”

Soooo 2 things here:

  1. NEVER trust a printer to print when you’re in a rush
  2. But most importantly, mistakes happen when you wait till the last minute.

That being said, I recommend you follow a 3-week timeline for writing your scholarship essay.

Step #2: Read ALL of the Instructions

You may write a scholarship essay equivalent to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, but if you didn’t follow the instructions, you’re not getting that scholarship. So remember: FORMAT MATTERS.

Here’s what I suggest — don’t just read the instructions… read them twice. Print them out and highlight important things to remember. 

Not winning an essay contest based on the sole fact that your essay didn’t follow directions just stinks. Don’t do it to yourself.

If the format isn’t specified, play it safe this way:

  • Double-space
  • Use Times New Roman
  • Use 12 pt font
  • Have one-inch margins all around
  • Write 2-3 pages

Step #3: Know your Audience

What do I mean by your audience? 

I mean the people you’re talking to in your essay. The people who will decide whether or not they want to give you their scholarship!

Here’s the thing. You want to be genuine about yourself and your passions, but AT THE SAME TIME, you want to make sure that what you DO share about yourself in your scholarship essay is something that your reader would be interested in. 

How do I learn what’s important to someone?

You need to research your audience and find out what they value.

Let’s look at an example. Say Nike offers a scholarship to the winner of an essay contest:

You can see that Response #1 does a good job of answering the prompt, but doesn’t really relate directly to Nike. Nike is an athletic company with the motto “Just do it.” They encourage their customers to push their limits in the athletic world.

Overcoming a fear (heights) that is central to who you are through a challenging sport (rock climbing) is something that directly relates to Nike’s values.

Where can you find that information??  It’s simple:

  1. Look up their website and take the time to review it. Focus on the about us page to get a solid idea of what they do and stand for.
  2. After you have a good idea of who they are, find their contact information and give them a phone call stating the following:

What will this phone call achieve?

  1. You will learn more about your audience. This allows you to tailor your scholarship essay specifically to what the company stands for. (Remember the Nike example?)
  2. Stand out by building a relationship with someone on the scholarship committee.

#2 brings me to my next point!

Step #4: Talk to someone who is part of the scholarship committee.

Now this is not always 100% possible. Some scholarships have rules that won’t allow you to talk to anyone on the scholarship committee.

If this is the case, skip this step and just talk to someone within the organization that helps you get a better idea of the company’s mission and values. With that said I always recommend at least trying!

If you do get a hold of someone, here are some important steps to follow:

Listen for Conversational Hooks

Conversational hooks are words or phrases said within a conversation that allows you to expand on the other person’s interest, providing a more in-depth conversation that builds rapport and trust.

Expand on the Conversational Hooks

If you listened for those conversational hooks you will be able to expand that conversation further in several directions. Try and hit as many conversational hooks with your response so it allows them several responses!

“Wow I love fitness as well! I actually am on the track and field team in my high school. As the team captain I really try to help my teammates and inspire them to be better athletes as well. What do you do to maintain your fitness and how do you inspire people and help athletes within the company?”

See what this does?

  1. It shows that you relate which builds rapport and trust with the scholarship committee member.
  2. It get the scholarship committee member excited to talk to you because EVERYONE LOVES TO TALK ABOUT THEMSELVES!

Keep the Conversation Going Until They Say They Have To Go!

Keep listening for those hooks, expand on them, and build that relationship!

The longer you can remain on the  phone with them talking about THEIR INTEREST, LIFE, AMBITITIONS, AND JOB the more you will be able to relate back to them. This makes you stand out to them when you submit your essay.

Almost done.

Write them an email or (better yet) send them a “Thank you” card thanking them for their time.

Gratitude can go a long way. Wait 24 hours and send them an email thanking them for taking the time out of their busy day to speak to you. Make sure to include something from the conversation that you two really connected on.

OR if you have their address, send them a handwritten card!

You now not only know your audience but have someone in the scholarship committee that is probably rooting for you!

Step #5: Brainstorm Ideas

Ideas don’t always come naturally. In fact, often times when we NEED a really great idea to come to us, this is when we draw a blank. Save time staring at your paper by using a version of brainstorming called “mind-mapping”.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Write the name of your scholarship at the top.
  2. Write down everything that comes to mind about it — this includes the person/organization giving the scholarship, what they do, what they are asking for, what YOU do, what YOU like, etc.

I made an example for you here, with the “L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Scholarship”,  a scholarship that asks students to write a short science fiction novel.

See how I connect different thoughts by drawing lines between them?

Your mind-map can be much bigger than this. But you can see now that I might choose to write my novel on a pilot traveling across the ocean, who is saved by pirates after his plane is taken down by a giant squid…where he meets a clone of himself!

Pretty exciting stuff, right?

Step #6: Pick a Topic You Care About

Scholarship essays are all about the person behind the essay.You want your readers to FEEL your passion about whatever it is you choose to write. And, they want to find someone who is passionate about the same things they are.

But be careful. Your essay is not a sales pitch. You need to be genuine about what you say, and this is why you need to care about the topic you choose. It will also make it easier to write!

Step #7: Create an Outline

This is something you need to do BEFORE you write the essay. And if you do, it will make writing the essay go faster!

I’ve created an example outline for you here. It shows you how you should think about structuring your scholarship essay.

Here also are some great scholarship essay examples from International Student that you can check out!

Step #8: Tell a Story

Tell a story? They want me to write them a book? 

No, but they don’t want you to write a resume either! People who review essays for scholarships go through hundreds and thousands of essays. You may be super accomplished, but so are hundreds and thousands of other kids.

That’s why you can’t just throw your achievements at your readers. Write something that opens a window into your life for them. Like the characters in a book, they need to feel that they are getting to know you better through your essay.

To help you stay on track, here are some Scholarship Essay Do’s and Don’ts.

Step #9: Double-check Your Essay

Ever typed a word into your phone and had it auto-correct to something you didn’t mean to say? It’s the same with your computer. Don’t rely on spell-check to free your essay of errors.

After you’ve finished writing, re-read your essay from start to finish, out loud. It may seem silly to read what you just wrote, but trust me, it’s a good idea.

Ok, but why do I need to read it out loud? 

Sometimes sentences you don’t remember writing can sound strange. Sometimes you may use one word so much that it sounds repetitive. You can catch these kinds of errors much faster if you see AND hear them.

Step #10: Have a Professional Review Your Essay

Are you still listening?? This step is important!

Think about if you were to enter singing auditions for American Idol, or the Voice. You could just wing it, but more likely you’ll want to practice singing in front of other people first. Why?Because you’re actually practicing your audition itself. 

In this same way, you want to practice having someone else read your essay and hear their feedback. It’s a lot better to have someone ELSE tell you where your essay needs work than the person who is no longer offering you a scholarship!

Who should you ask to review your essay? 

Ask a professional. What I mean is, ask someone who has experience with writing. If this person also seems to value the same things the people awarding the scholarship do, EVEN BETTER.

What kinds of people have experience with essay writing and/or scholarship applications?

  • Your English teacher
  • Your school counselor
  • An English tutor

Conclusion

There are over 2+ billion dollars in private based scholarship available. So believe me when I say there are tens of thousands of dollars to be had for everyone who puts in the work.

In conclusion, the following steps can easily make you $500 per hour to help offset the cost for college. Once more, to write a winning scholarship essay:

  1. Get started early (3 weeks in advance — I mean it!)
  2. Read all of the instructions (TWICE, and highlight!)
  3. Know your audience
  4. Talk to someone who is part of a scholarship committee
  5. Brainstorm your ideas
  6. Pick a topic you care about
  7. Use an outline
  8. Tell a story
  9. Double-check your essay for mistakes
  10. Have a professional review your essay

What scholarships have you or your student received and why do you think they were chosen? Let us know in the comments below!

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Hello! My name is Todd. I help students eliminate academic stress, boost confidence, and reach their wildest dreams through college tips and digital age knowledge they are not teaching in school. I am a former tutor for seven years, $85,000 scholarship recipient, Huffington Post contributor, lead SAT & ACT course developer, and have worked with thousands of students and parents to ensure a brighter future for the next generation. Currently, I am traveling across America delivering presentations, rock climbing, adventuring, and helping inspire the leaders of tomorrow. Let's become friends! Follow my journey via my YouTube Vlog for inspirational value added tips!

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