Brainstorming: Why should you get the scholarship rather than someone else?Generally, there are two important questions you need to answer: why you, and why this scholarship? It is a good idea to have a brainstorm before you start writing. Spider diagrams are great for this, as you can put the main topic in the middle and jot down supporting details and arguments as you go along. After this is done to the best of your ability, it helps to take those ideas and formulate them into an outline for your essay. Don’t forget to check the scholarship website (in particular their mission) while you are doing this to make sure you know what they expect from you. It is always a good idea to use family and friends as sounding boards. You should also think about mentioning your extracurricular activities and strong personality traits when deciding on what to mention in your letter.
Writing: Be concise. Stay on topic.When writing the letter, make sure that you stay on topic! Do not get caught up in the points you are trying to make, so you do not give the reader a definitive answer at the end. Also be aware that most questions are not as straightforward as they seem and may have an underlying meaning. When you are answering a question on why you want to study in a particular field, keep in mind that the reader really wants to know why you would be the best candidate and what you would do if you got the scholarship.
You also need to make sure that your body paragraphs relate to your introduction, because the introduction is what gives people an idea of what it is they should be expecting to read. Remember to be specific! You know what it is you are trying to say, but the reader doesn’t know you or the way you think. While you should include any details that are relevant, you should avoid making your letter too long. Make sure your points are comprehensive, concise and clear.
Tonality is the key! Personal yet professionalYou must also be aware of the tone you are writing in. Yes, the letter is about you, but it is for a professional audience. It may help to think of who will be reading your letter and to write it as if you are addressing someone you have recently met, someone you respect, and someone you want to share your story with. Remember that the person reading your letter does not know you! This may help you to identify an audience.
What helps: Be genuine and positiveIt really helps to be original when writing. Remember that you are up against a lot of other applicants for the same scholarship and originality will help you stand out. Be genuine about what you are writing and make the reader feel your personality. It may help to share a bit of your life that is relevant, as this makes the letter a bit more personal. You can give examples of where you have demonstrated relevant skills or personality traits. When bringing in personal examples, you will want to avoid the sob stories. Scholarship committees are not interested in how hard your life has been, but rather how you have overcome the challenges that you have been faced with, and what you have accomplished despite them. Make sure the reader gets a sense of your positive attitude towards life. Enthusiasm is what makes organisations excited about giving you money to pursue your passion and possibly changing the world while doing so.
Checking your work: Proofreading is not just a spell-check!The more people that you can ask to proofread your letter the better. They make pick up on little mistakes as well as giving you fresh ideas. Be aware that spell check is good, but it doesn’t catch every mistake. Ask the people reading your letter if they believe every sentence is crucial to the letter, as this should be the case. It may also be in your best interest to ask them if the topic of your letter was clear, if there are any visible clichés, what the worst part of the letter was and if they think anyone else could have written a letter just like yours. If they answer the last question with a yes, then you are missing your personality and that is a major part of a successful scholarship letter.
Revision: Give yourself a couple of days and then check againRevision should be done carefully. You are only allowed a certain amount of words, so you want to use them wisely. Make sure you delete anything that does not relate to your main argument. Consider reordering your supporting details, and make the broader implications of your experiences clear. Important arguments need to be at the foreground of the letter. It might help to put your letter aside for some days and then check it again.
Need more info on what you need for your scholarship application? Check out our article what do I need for a scholarship application