A Simple Start to Writing an Autobiographical
or Personal Essay for Scholarships
DOs & DON'Ts
The intent of the autobiographical or personal essay is to allow the scholarship committee to know you better. It is not easy to stare at a blank page and know, where to begin? What to include? What not to include? If you are feeling stuck, consider these three suggestions:
DO NOT start your essay with information that can be found elsewhere on your application or transcript. Try not to repeat information that the scholarship committee has already reviewed.
DO consider starting with a quotation that is meaningful to you, or a familiar saying that guides you. This will help focus your writing on what is important to you.
DO talk about your goals, past achievements, past failures and what you learned from them. You can also highlight volunteer or work experiences, campus involvement, and/or relationships that have guided your development as a student.
START WITH AN OUTLINE
Begin drafting your personal essay with a simple outline. You can write paragraphs about each main point by adding examples and supporting statements. Here is a sample outline:
I. Who are you?
- Strengths & weaknesses
- Obstacles overcome or currently confronting
Educational and Career Goals
- Why have you selected your major?
- What is your ultimate educational goal - A.A., B.A., M.A., or Ph.D.?
- What are your career aspirations?
- How will your education assist you in achieving your career goals?
- What are you involved with, and why are these activities important to you?
- How are you involved?
- Where do you show your leadership – on campus, at work, in an organization?
- Include examples that highlight your leadership skills
Why should you be awarded this scholarship?
- What do you have to offer the donor: Are they making an investment in a successful, contributing member of society? Will you be a good example or role model to others in your community?
- How will you use the scholarship? Rather than saying, "I need the money," tell the selection committee how it will help further your education. For example, you might write "This scholarship will be used to purchase the extra supplies needed especially for my major," or; "In addition to assisting with tuition and fees, I hope that being awarded this scholarship recognition could also enhance my application for an internship in my field of study."
Write an opening paragraph, and a closing paragraph
- Now that you have a draft of your essay, make sure you have an opening paragraph introducing your theme or thoughts, and a closing paragraph concluding that theme or thoughts. This will help your essay read like a well-framed message, and not a string of different items with no framework holding it together.
Proofread. Wait 24-hours -- then proofread again!
- It is amazing how quickly you can catch a misspelling or typo the next day. Give yourself time to check your essay one last time.
Submit your essay and application -- Good Luck!