Almost every scholarship requires that you write an essay in order to receive it. But what if you aren't good at writing essays? The field is already slanted against you before you've even begun.
As you've probably figured from the fact that I've written every article of this website myself, this is an obstacle I've never had to face. However, I have a friend with this problem and I've watched as time after time we apply for the same scholarships. Although she has a higher GPA, more financial need, and is generally better qualified for the scholarships than I am, each time I somehow always come out on top. Why? Because I write better essays. And it's not fair. Which is why I'm giving you (and her) advice on how to even the odds.
The key, of course, lies in the fact that those who award scholarships genuinely want to give it to the best qualified, whether or not they can write essays. Unfortunately, the only way for them to know the qualifications of a person and to get a feel for what they're like is through an essay. There are two ways around this: you can either play their game and acknowledge that you're at a disadvantage, or you can change the game altogether. My friend and I haven't had a chance to test these yet, so if you choose to do so, realize that you're breaking new ground. But what do you have to lose?
Route #1: Play Their Game Like I said, the people awarding scholarships are coming from a good place. This isn't an essay contest - it's all about the story and the need. They want to know what background you're coming from, how well qualified you are, and how much you need their help. So your first option is to write the best essay you can. Take it to English teachers, friends, parents, advisers and get their feedback on it. Get stumped writing? Try recording yourself explaining your response to the prompt, and then take that spoken response and use it to sculpt your essay. Somewhere within the essay, acknowledge without bitterness or pity that you aren't gifted in writing. Then tell the reader that you hope they'll see past the essay and to the person behind it. Move on to describe your accomplishments in other areas. At the very least, you've succeeded in getting the reader to look twice at what you wrote and perhaps reconsider their own preconceptions about scholarship essays.
Route #2: Change the Game So you can't write essays. So what? Show the committee what you can do. Make a video, write a poem or a play, make a collage, whatever works. Stay on the assigned topic, though. To increase your odds of success, send the scholarship's founders a quick email before you do this, explaining that you're a poor essay writer, but you're still qualified for their scholarship and you would like to use another medium to convey what other students were showing in the essay. It won't always work. But send out enough emails and someone is bound to give you a chance. There are even some scholarships out there that require a different medium than essays - videos, art, posters, they're all out there. All you have to do is look. And above all, don't let anything keep you from applying. There's no better way to guarantee you won't get a scholarship than not applying in the first place.
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