Sample Scholarship Essays
If you’re applying for a scholarship, chances are you are going to need to write an essay. Very few scholarship programs are based solely on an application form or transcript. The essay is often the most important part of your application; it gives the scholarship committee a sense of who you are and your dedication to your goals. You’ll want to make sure that your scholarship essay is the best it can possibly be.
Unless specified otherwise, scholarship essays should always use the following formatting:
- Double spaced
- Times New Roman font
- 12 point font
- One-inch top, bottom, and side margins
Other useful tips to keep in mind include:
- Read the instructions thoroughly and make sure you completely understand them before you start writing.
- Think about what you are going to write and organize your thoughts into an outline.
- Write your essay by elaborating on each point you included in your outline.
- Use clear, concise, and simple language throughout your essay.
- When you are finished, read the question again and then read your essay to make sure that the essay addresses every point.
For more tips on writing a scholarship essay, check out our Eight Steps Towards a Better Scholarship Essay .
The Book that Made Me a Journalist
Prompt: Describe a book that made a lasting impression on you and your life and why.It is 6 am on a hot day in July and I’ve already showered and eaten breakfast. I know that my classmates are all sleeping in and enjoying their summer break, but I don’t envy them; I’m excited to start my day interning with a local newspaper doing investigative journalism. I work a typical 8-5 day during my summer vacation and despite the early mornings, nothing has made me happier. Although it wasn't clear to me then, looking back on my high school experiences and everything that led to me to this internship, I believe this path began with a particularly savvy teacher and a little book she gave me to read outside of class.
I was taking a composition class, and we were learning how to write persuasive essays. Up until that point, I had had average grades, but I was always a good writer and my teacher immediately recognized this. The first paper I wrote for the class was about my experience going to an Indian reservation located near my uncle's ranch in southwest Colorado. I wrote of the severe poverty experienced by the people on the reservation, and the lack of access to voting booths during the most recent election. After reading this short story, my teacher approached me and asked about my future plans. No one had ever asked me this, and I wasn't sure how to answer. I said I liked writing and I liked thinking about people who are different from myself. She gave me a book and told me that if I had time to read it, she thought it would be something I would enjoy. I was actually quite surprised that a high school teacher was giving me a book titled Lies My Teacher Told Me. It had never occurred to me that teachers would lie to students. The title intrigued me so much that on Friday night I found myself staying up almost all night reading, instead of going out with friends.
In short, the book discusses several instances in which typical American history classes do not tell the whole story. For example, the author addresses the way that American history classes do not usually address about the Vietnam War, even though it happened only a short time ago. This made me realize that we hadn't discussed the Vietnam War in my own history class! The book taught me that, like my story of the Indian reservation, there are always more stories beyond what we see on the surface and what we’re taught in school. I was inspired to continue to tell these stories and to make that my career.
For my next article for the class, I wrote about the practice of my own high school suspending students, sometimes indefinitely, for seemingly minor offenses such as tardiness and smoking. I found that the number of suspensions had increased by 200% at my school in just three years, and also discovered that students who are suspended after only one offense often drop out and some later end up in prison. The article caused quite a stir. The administration of my school dismissed it, but it caught the attention of my local newspaper. A local journalist worked with me to publish an updated and more thoroughly researched version of my article in the local newspaper. The article forced the school board to revisit their “zero tolerance” policy as well as reinstate some indefinitely suspended students.I won no favors with the administration and it was a difficult time for me, but it was also thrilling to see how one article can have such a direct effect on people’s lives. It reaffirmed my commitment to a career in journalism.
This is why I’m applying for this scholarship. Your organization has been providing young aspiring journalists with funds to further their skills and work to uncover the untold stories in our communities that need to be reported. I share your organization’s vision of working towards a more just and equitable world by uncovering stories of abuse of power. I have already demonstrated this commitment through my writing in high school and I look forward to pursuing a BA in this field at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. With your help, I will hone my natural instincts and inherent writing skills. I will become a better and more persuasive writer and I will learn the ethics of professional journalism.
I sincerely appreciate the committee’s time in evaluating my application and giving me the opportunity to tell my story. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Scholarship Essay Do's and Don'ts
|Do:||Follow the prompt and other instructions exactly. You might write a great essay but it may get your application rejected if you don’t follow the word count guidelines or other formatting requirements.|
|DON'T:||Open your essay with a quote. This is a well-worn strategy that is mostly used ineffectively. Instead of using someone else’s words, use your own.|
|DON'T:||Use perfunctory sentences such as, “In this essay, I will…”|
|DO:||Be clear and concise. Make sure each paragraph discusses only one central thought or argument.|
|DON'T:||Use words from a thesaurus that are new to you. You may end up using the word incorrectly and that will make your writing awkward. Keep it simple and straightforward. The point of the essay is to tell your story, not to demonstrate how many words you know.|
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Planners and Searchers
Prompt: In 600 words or less, please tell us about yourself and why you are applying for this scholarship. Please be clear about how this scholarship will help you achieve your personal and professional goals.
Being African, I recognize Africa’s need for home- grown talent in the form of “planners” (assistants with possible solutions) and “searchers” (those with desperate need) working towards international development. I represent both. Coming from Zimbabwe my greatest challenge is in helping to improve the livelihoods of developing nations through sustainable development and good governance principles. The need for policy-makers capable of employing cross-jurisdictional, and cross- disciplinary strategies to solve complex challenges cannot be under-emphasized; hence my application to this scholarship program.
After graduating from Africa University with an Honors degree in Sociology and Psychology, I am now seeking scholarship support to study in the United States at the Master’s level. My interest in democracy, elections, constitutionalism and development stems from my lasting interest in public policy issues. Accordingly, my current research interests in democracy and ethnic diversity require a deeper understanding of legal processes of constitutionalism and governance. As a Master’s student in the US, I intend to write articles on these subjects from the perspective of someone born, raised, and educated in Africa. I will bring a unique and much-needed perspective to my graduate program in the United States, and I will take the technical and theoretical knowledge from my graduate program back with me to Africa to further my career goals as a practitioner of good governance and community development.
To augment my theoretical understanding of governance and democratic practices, I worked with the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) as a Programs Assistant in the Monitoring and Observation department. This not only enhanced my project management skills, but also developed my skills in research and producing communication materials. ZESN is Zimbabwe’s biggest election observation organization, and I had the responsibility of monitoring the political environment and producing monthly publications on human rights issues and electoral processes. These publications were disseminated to various civil society organizations, donors and other stakeholders. Now I intend to develop my career in order to enhance Africa’s capacity to advocate, write and vote for representative constitutions.
I also participated in a fellowship program at Africa University, where I gained greater insight into social development by teaching courses on entrepreneurship, free market economics, and development in needy communities. I worked with women in rural areas of Zimbabwe to setup income-generating projects such as the jatropha soap-making project. Managing such a project gave me great insight into how many simple initiatives can transform lives.
Your organization has a history of awarding scholarships to promising young students from the developing world in order to bring knowledge, skills and leadership abilities to their home communities. I have already done some of this work but I want to continue, and with your assistance, I can. The multidisciplinary focus of the development programs I am applying to in the US will provide me with the necessary skills to creatively address the economic and social development challenges and develop sound public policies for Third World countries. I thank you for your time and consideration for this prestigious award.
Scholarship Essay Do's and Don'ts
|DO:||Research the organization and make sure you understand their mission and values and incorporate them into your essay.|
|DO:||Focus on your strengths and turn in any problems or weaknesses into a success story.|
|DO:||Use actual, detailed examples from your own life to backup your claims and arguments as to why you should receive the scholarship.|
|DO:||Proofread several times before finally submitting your essay.|
|DON'T:||Rehash what is already stated on your resume. Choose additional, unique stories to tell sell yourself to the scholarship committee.|
|DON'T:||Simply state that you need the money. Even if you have severe financial need, it won’t help to simply ask for the money and it may come off as tacky.|
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Saving the Manatees
Prompt: Please give the committee an idea of who you are and why you are the perfect candidate for the scholarship.
It is a cliché to say that I’ve always known what I want to do with my life, but in my case it happens to be true. When I first visited Sea World as a young child, I fell in love with marine animals in general. Specifically, I felt drawn to manatees. I was compelled by their placid and friendly nature. I knew then and there that I wanted to dedicate my life to protecting these beautiful creatures.
Since that day in Orlando, I have spent much of my spare time learning everything there is to know about manatees. As a junior high and high school student, I attempted to read scholarly articles on manatees from scientific journals. I annoyed my friends and family with scientific facts about manatees-- such as that they are close relatives of elephants--at the dinner table. I watched documentaries, and even mapped their migration pattern on a wall map my sister gave me for my birthday.
When I was chosen from hundreds of applicants to take part in a summer internship with Sea World, I fell even more in love with these gentle giants. I also learned a very important and valuable lesson: prior to this internship, I had imagined becoming a marine biologist, working directly with the animals in their care both in captivity and in the wild. However, during the internship, I discovered that this is not where my strengths lie. Unfortunately, I am not a strong student in science or math, which are required skills to become a marine biologist. Although this was a disheartening realization, I found that I possess other strengths can still be of great value to manatees and other endangered marine mammals: my skills as a public relations manager and communicator. During the internship, I helped write new lessons and presentations for elementary school groups visiting the park and developed a series of fun activities for children to help them learn more about manatees as well as conservation of endangered species in general. I also worked directly with the park’s conservation and communication director, and helped develop a new local outreach program designed to educate Floridians on how to avoid hitting a manatee when boating. My supervisor recommended me to the Save the Manatee Foundation so in addition to my full-time internship at Sea World, I interned with the Save the Manatee Foundation part-time. It was there that I witnessed the manatee rescue and conservation effort first hand, and worked directly with the marine biologists in developing fund-raising and awareness-raising campaigns. I found that the foundation’s social media presence was lacking, and, using skills I learned from Sea World, I helped them raise over $5,000 through a Twitter challenge, which we linked to the various social media outlets of the World Wildlife Federation.
While I know that your organization typically awards scholarships to students planning to major in disciplines directly related to conservation such as environmental studies or zoology, I feel that the public relations side of conservation is just as important as the actual work done on the ground. Whether it is reducing one’s carbon footprint, or saving the manatees, these are efforts that, in order to be successful, must involve the larger public. In fact, the relative success of the environmental movement today is largely due to a massive global public relations campaign that turned environmentalism from something scientific and obscure into something that is both fashionable and accessible to just about anyone. However, that success is being challenged more than ever before--especially here in the US, where an equally strong anti-environmental public relations campaign has taken hold. Therefore, conservationists need to start getting more creative.
I want to be a part of this renewed effort and use my natural abilities as a communicator to push back against the rather formidable forces behind the anti-environmentalist movement. I sincerely hope you will consider supporting this non-traditional avenue towards global sustainability and conservation. I have already been accepted to one of the most prestigious communications undergraduate programs in the country and I plan to minor in environmental studies. In addition, I maintain a relationship with my former supervisors at Save the Manatee and Sea World, who will be invaluable resources for finding employment upon graduation. I thank the committee for thinking outside the box in considering my application.
Scholarship Essay Do's and Don'ts
|DO:||Tell a story. Discuss your personal history and why those experiences have led you to apply for these scholarships.|
|DO:||Write an outline. If you’ve already started writing or have a first draft, make an outline based on what you’ve written so far. This will help you see whether your paragraphs flow and connect with one another.|
|DON'T:||Write a generic essay for every application. Adapt your personal statement for each individual scholarship application.|
|DO:||Run spellcheck and grammar check on your computer but also do your own personal check. Spellcheck isn’t perfect and you shouldn't rely on technology to make your essay perfect.|
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For 30 years, the CSEG has been awarding scholarships to worthy geophysical students. From 1968 to 1999, a total of $610,862 has been disbursed to undergraduate and graduate students in universities and technical colleges across the country. This year, the committee awarded 17 scholarships of $1,500, a total of $25,500. “The best part of the job is at the end of the year when, as senior trustee, you write the cheques,” says Ron Larson, committee chairman in 1999. “In financial terms, it’s about one semester’s tuition, which is immense for some people.”
There are a number of sources for the funds, primarily donations from the service industry, individuals and oil companies, but the CSEG also disburses funds from various memorial trusts and capital that has been set aside by the society.
Every year, the committee identifies over a dozen worthy recipients from up to 60 applicants. They are judged by their academic standing, financial need, interest in geophysics and extra-curricular activities. “Academic standing is very important, but we also look at activities outside of geophysics,” says Larson. “Are they putting in time to better their community? Excellence in another field, such as athletics, is also important.”
But what impact does the largesse have upon its recipients? Out of the 505 lucky winners, we contacted a small sampling, and asked them how the CSEG scholarship awards affected their lives.
Although the CSEG scholarships awards can’t take all the credit, they were instrumental in helping Jennifer Leslie get out of the breweries and into a life of seismic research.
A native of Toronto, Leslie attended the University of Waterloo and graduated in 1993 with an Honours Physics degree. At the time, there were few professional opportunities in her field, and she worked for two years in the Molson Brewery lab, before deciding to return to school to do graduate work at the University of Calgary. Thanks in part to the three $1,500 CSEG scholarships that she received, she graduated with a PhD in physics earlier this year.
Fortunately, the industry had returned to hiring mode, and Leslie could forsake the call of the keg. “I’m in industry now with Kelman Technologies,” she explains. “I did a lot of thesis work with them — they let me use their systems.”
Leslie will be able to put her thesis topic, P-Waves and seismic imaging through dipping, transversely isotropic media, to good work. “A lot of big companies are contracting out research and Kelman is developing an R&D service.”
Although qualified to teach at university, Leslie intends to remain in the industry portion of the profession. “It’s a lot of fun. I was always better at applied physics.”
Tony Lambert was a young teenager living in Edmonton when he discovered a love for numbers and science, a sure-fire combination for geophysics. “I was good at math and my dad was a geologist,” he recalls. “I had both the aptitude and the interest.”
Lambert entered the University of Alberta in 1971, and soon stood out for his academic achievements, achieving an 8.8 average. He was awarded a CSEG scholarship in 1973, at the end of his second year. “The scholarship was greater than tuition, so it was very useful to have at the time, but I was also pleased with the recognition. “It said “You’re part of the community.””
When Lambert graduated from the U of A with an Honours BSc in 1978, the industry was crying out for qualified geophysicists. “There were only two or three students in honours geophysics at the U of A. I had eight or nine job offers.” Chevron was an industry leader in the field at the time, and Lambert signed on with the Calgary company.
It wasn’t long before Lambert’s career path was pointed in a new direction, however. “We had to drill a well, and my supervisor was gone, and I had to pick a site,” he recalls. “There was nothing there, and I showed them on the seismic, but they said, “We need to drill a well anyway, we’re legally obligated to drill.”” Lambert was impressed by the power of the contract over science and, when the well came up dry, decided to go into the legal profession.
In 1980, Lambert quit his job as a geophysicist, moved to Ontario, and entered the law program at the University of Toronto. After graduating in 1983, he spent the next six years qualifying for a patent law designation. In 1989, he settled in Edmonton and founded Thompson & Lambert, a patent law firm.
To this day, Lambert’s background serves him in good stead. “Electrical stuff, things like signal analysis, is a tremendous asset when dealing with telecom companies. Also, the geological end comes in handy - I know what a dognut on a well is.”
As a young man in Ottawa, Ken Mitchell was considering either a career in engineering or natural sciences, when he saw scholarship information for the SEG. “At the time, geophysics was a relatively obscure profession, but it sounded fascinating, with earthquakes and volcanoes and O&G,” says Mitchell. He sent away an application, and was awarded a $500 scholarship toward taking courses in geophysics.
That was enough for Mitchell to make up his mind. Attending the University of Western Ontario, he spent a summer working for the Geological Survey of Canada in the Mackenzie Delta, running shallow seismic over pingoes in an effort to understand their morphology and creation, and helping conduct shallow offshore reflection surveys. “We were cutting geogel (dynamite) and throwing it over the side,” he recalls. “You can’t do that anymore.”
In all, Mitchell received the scholarship four times before he graduated with an Honours BSc in 1980.
After graduation, Mitchell worked at Chevron for five years before transferring to Union Oil. After stints in Oklahoma and Indonesia, Mitchell returned to Calgary and once again explored in the Far North, eventually ending up with Canadian Forest’s NWT group, where he is currently a senior geophysical specialist. “Not only does geophysics give you a good scientific grounding - it’s fun, fascinating and adventurous. I’ve been to strange and wonderful places all around the world.”
Montreal native Dave O’Neill was attending the University of New Brunswick in 1985 when, as the only undergraduate pursuing a geological and geophysical degree, he was awarded his first CSEG scholarship of $1,250. “I recall how fantastic it was to receive the scholarship. It wasn’t just the money - here was a society in Calgary promoting the science of geophysics and going to the effort to ensure that people across the country received some support.”
After graduating in 1986, he moved to Calgary to pursue his masters degree at the U of C, where he was awarded a second scholarship of $1,500, in 1987.
When O’Neill graduated in 1988, however, employment prospects in the oilpatch were few and far between. “It was difficult to even get an interview.”
After much effort, O’Neill managed to line up an interview with Canterra. Fortunately, one of the hiring committee was geophysicist Emmanuel Malterre, who was also a sitting member of the scholarship committee. “It was nice he knew something about me - it sure didn’t hurt.”
O’Neill was hired by Canterra, and worked there briefly before the company was taken over by Husky. He eventually ended up at Enron (now EOG Resources) where he was tapped to help as a volunteer on the scholarship committee, from 1996- 98. “Being on the committee, you get to see that there are students out there with fantastic qualifications,” says O’Neill. “Any worries that the flow of talent into the discipline has died are unfounded.”
Graziella Kirtland Grech
Graziella Kirtland Grech is a native of Malta, a tiny, independent island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. After obtaining her BSc in physics and computer science and MSc in exploration geophysics at the University of Malta, she worked as a geophysicist for the Government of Malta for three years. In 1997 she was accepted for a doctoral program at four universities: Queens, University of Alberta, Imperial College in London, and the University of Calgary.
“I’d never been to Calgary before, but I had a brother living in Edmonton, and he was positive about Canada” she notes. “I also liked the fact that the University of Calgary had industry contacts. I wanted to do something practical in applied geophysics.”
But what finally made her choose the U of C was the research undertaken by the Fold-Fault Research Project (FRP). Her proposed thesis topic is Integration of VSP and surface seismic data for enhanced depth imaging in complex structural areas.
In both 1998 and 1999, Grech was awarded $1,500 CSEG scholarships and $1,000 SEG scholarships. “They pay off most of the tuition fees, which is good, because you can concentrate on your work without worrying on how you’re going to make ends meet” says Grech.
Grech was recently offered a full-time position with Veritas as a research geophysicist. “Veritas is a sponsor of the FRP, and they were familiar with my work.”
Although Calgary’s winters are far more frigid than her homeland, Grech has no plans to return to Malta. “The future is here and I plan to stay.”
After graduating from the University of Toronto in 1990 with an Honours BSc, Physics Specialist, Mike Perz decided to head to Vancouver and pursue a Masters program in geophysics at the University of British Columbia, where he soon discovered he had a knack for computer programming. “They shot some seismic lines up the Fraser Canyon along a crooked road, and it needed a lot of nonstandard processing, so I wrote some custom code for crooked line, 2D processing.”
In fact, Perz pursued his education with such initiative and distinction that he received two CSEG awards of $1,500, in 1991 and 1992.
The early 1990s were a downcycle for the industry, however, and when Perz tried to convert his schooling into a viable career, he was met with closed doors. “I sent out 40 letters, and got 40 reject letters back.”
Fortunately, his experience as a programmer got him a permanent position. “My thesis adviser talked to a Pulsonic executive, and learned that they needed a programmer,” he recalls.
After graduating in 1993, he took a position with Pulsonic Geophysical, in Calgary. He worked there from 1993 to 1997, then jumped ship to Geo-X to become an applications programmer, where he is currently employed.
Perz didn’t forget the impact that the scholarships had during his dark days as a student, however. “With the scholarships, I knew that at least somebody cared,” he notes. He is now on the scholarship committee, working to help others. “I felt it was time to return something.”
Long Term Benefits
For many of the contacted recipients, the value of their CSEG scholarships persists in many different ways, long after the money has been spent.
“Having that scholarship was more important than I realized at the time,” says Tony Lambert. “My son is in (first-year) mathphysics, and he had straight 9’s last year, but there are few scholarships in his discipline — there is no industry interested in supporting math physics. When I was a student, the scholarship showed me that employers were interested in that career path.”
“It was encouraging to have support from the industry,” says Jennifer Leslie. “It gave me the opportunity to focus on my work. It was also a nice validation of my work.”
“A lot of recipients are pretty thankful for it, including myself,” says Ken Mitchell. “As treasurer of the CSEG, I made it a priority to capitalize the scholarship committee further with reserve cash.”
“It’s a signal to students that there is a world beyond school, and people are paying attention,” says Ron Larson. “It encourages students to stay in the profession.”
“It certainly made the student quality of life more palatable,” says Mike Perz. “When I was in grad school, I was away from the safety umbrella of my family. When you’re earning $1000 per month in grad school, times are lean. It allows you to buy the little things, like a beer at the grad club, that help maintain your sanity.”
“The teaching assistant allowance is not quite enough,” says Graziella Kirtland Grech. “It’s nice to know you can receive funding from other sources.”
As for the future of the scholarship program, the CSEG is considering increasing payouts. “The awards in 2000 may be raised to $2,000,” says Larson.
And that’s good news to all geophysical students; past, present and future. “I really appreciated the support over the last few years,” says Grech. “I hope the scholarships continue, so that other students can benefit.”
The 2000-2001 committee consists of Chairman Karen Cameron, Senior Trustee Joe Stuhec and Junior Trustee Mike Perz.