Scholarships are an organization’s financial investment in students. Ideally, they want someone who excels academically, behaves positively and gives back to the community. It can seem as though with so many qualified applicants, it would be very difficult to pick a winner. Frequently, it all comes down to the essay. A lot of scholarships share essay questions. Following is a detailed list of common essay questions and suggestions for where to begin.

“Why I need this scholarship?”

This is a really simple way of asking you why you’re worth their investment; use it as an opportunity to market yourself. Don’t just give them a laundry list of your extracurricular activities, go into details about your personal achievements and tie them back to the question. Here are some suggestions:

  • If you will be the first in your family to go to university you could talk about what it means for you, and for your family, to be the first to go to college. Give details about how you’ve shown the determination to go and how it would benefit you as well as what you could offer a university in return. Finally, tie it back to the costs of tuition.
  • If you are an immigrant in the United States, a good topic would be how you moved to the United States for a chance at higher education, how you’ve shown this desire desire, and then bring it back to the costs of tuition.
  • If you have risen above some sort of hardship in your life (this could include abuse, a handicap, or financial difficulties), you could talk about the obstacles you have surmounted, connect the skills you’ve learned from these trials back to your determination to go to college, and how that all ties back to the costs of tuition.
  • If you’re a member of a large family, you could talk about what it means for you to define yourself as an individual by winning a scholarship, what it would mean for your future, and how a scholarship would help you and your family financially.

Try to come up with ideas that tell your story most efficiently. You can answer this question in one of two ways: by using an experience from your past or by looking ahead to your future. Use an approach that you feel tells the most vivid story, but always remember to be very personal.

“Who am I?”

This prompt is deliberately phrased pretty vaguely and can be answered in many different ways. Once again, they are not looking for a laundry list of your activities and achievements. Pick a few, find a common motif, and write in detail about them. We’ve come up with a few you could write about:

  • Heritage/Culture
  • Activities and achievements
  • Family
  • Goals and ambitions
  • Obstacles and adversity

Always remember to connect your theme back to the needs and values of the scholarship organization. Read their prompt carefully and use their own buzzwords to strengthen your arguments.

“How will this scholarship help you meet your educational and career goals?”

Unlike a lot of the other questions, this prompt is asking you to talk about your future, not your past. Scholarship judges generally want to see students with a plan for their future, even if you end up doing a complete turnaround later on. It’s about looking ahead and being self-aware about why you do the things you do/want to do. There are several parts to this question:

  • Talk about your plans for college
  • Underline how the scholarship would help you to work towards those goals
  • Elaborate on how your plans for college will help you beyond college
  • Talk about your personal goals and milestones outside of college and work and how you would try and meet them
  • Find a common theme to connect all these different goals and how the scholarship would be a stepping stone to meeting these milestones.

The questions we’ve listed here are just a few of the commonly used scholarship essay prompts, but they can be modified to fit any question you might see. As you start to visualize and write your essay, keep a specific theme in mind and use personal examples to strengthen your story. Knitting your past accomplishments with your future aspirations together in a way that reflect the values of the scholarship organization is the most essential piece of advice to remember. Find a theme that you like and that you can repurpose for a number of different prompts, and you’ll have a reliable collection of scholarship essays.