College Scholarship Essays: 20 Plus Ways to Brainstorm

College scholarship essays can appear formidable when you sit down to write, especially if you don’t have any ideas. With the help in this article, you can find more about your life and experience to talk about. You’ll have more vivid examples of how you have overcome, learned, and grown. Let’s get started.

Why Do Scholarships Require Essays?

The foundations, committees, universities, some grant giving agencies and so on require you write college scholarship essays for three reasons. Once you see them, I think your stress will drop a notch:

1. Your Ability. Pure and simple, they need to see that you can write. If you are honest, and you should be, you will write the essays yourself. Whether or not you have some editing help, you should still come up with the basic idea for all of your essays. Turning in an essay shows that you have some capability of completing the course of study you have chosen.

2. Their Ideals. When you apply, your essay should show some alignment with the group giving you money for college. They want to promote their principles, and to do that they award some students scholarship money.

3. The essay represents you. By writing a personal essay, you present yourself for the scholarship, and the judges can see if they want to associate their scholarship award with you. They are hoping that you will be a person of good character, who will reflect well on them when you go on to greater things. Like Bill Clinton and the Rhodes Scholarship. Take that however you want, everyone now knows a US president was awarded their scholarship.

Basically, you want to write up a little piece of who you are or what you have experienced in your college scholarship essays. This gives the foundation or other group offering money some comfort that you will represent them well and use the money to further their purposes.

For example, you likely won’t see a green organization giving awards for sports, or McDonald’s giving scholarships for essays that explain alternate fuels. The missions, the purposes of the organizations wouldn’t match with applicants like this.

College Scholarship Essays and Applications: Prompt or No Prompt

If you haven’t seen a scholarship application, you should look at some. Some scholarships give you no guidance. Others, like the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, request essays that focus on and explore political issues facing the world today. And still more provide a prompt that you must answer or use as your topic.

But the details of the essay will be up to you. And in most cases, you will be involved in the topic. In any case, you can spruce up your essays if you have more details, stories, and experiences to provide depth and color to your writing.

The Scholarship Organization

To begin developing more ideas, first look at who will award the scholarship. I have 5 ways to find out who will read your essay and how they see the world:

1. Does the organization have a purpose or well known agenda?

2. Can you go to a website and read the group’s mission statement?

3. What does the organization stand for?

4. Have you looked up the history or the founder for more information?

5. Call and ask for information if you haven’t found any.

You don’t need to know the names of the committee members. A mission statement and a history of the scholarship from the foundation website will work fine. Don’t spend all day and night, but do understand who will read the college scholarship essays you will be writing.

After your research, you should have a feel for the organization. Write down the governing principles or goals of the organization. Keep them brief, just a few words each, and make a short list of the group’s purposes. If you have found a list in your research, you can use that.

The Beat-Tuition Idea List to Make Your Essays Sparkle

Once you have an idea of what the group wants, look at what you have to offer. What do you bring that they might want? Do you agree with their views? If so, move on to generating ideas about your life and who you are.

Answer the following questions by making a list for each item. Try to make it long, even hundreds of lines. You won’t use all of your ideas, but that’s not the point. You want a large well of ideas you can draw from to create a bright picture in your college scholarship essays as you apply to various groups.

In one essay, you will use a summer experience. In another, you might use a class project or your participation at school to show that you are an ideal candidate. With dozens or even hundreds of ideas, you won’t have to stop and spend a day analyzing yourself for each essay.

Remember, answer each question with as many experiences or activities as you can think of. Just write a few words to represent the experience, such as “Space Camp last summer” or “church service project at homeless shelter”. You don’t have to write out the whole thing right now, just capture the idea and move on.

1. What great experiences have you had? Your favorite ones, regardless of when or why they happened.

2. Where have you been? Cities, parks, mountains, states, countries, amusement parks, museums, and so on.

3. What have you participated in? Festivals, demonstrations, rallies, plays, clubs, organizations, service projects, etc.

4. Name all the classes you have taken in high school and college up to now.

5. Write down all the major assignments for each class. If you can’t remember, move on. Major would mean projects, papers, presentations and reports. Chapter homework probably doesn’t help your college scholarship essays.

6. Write down a list of your goals and desires – what do you want to do with your life? Visit every country? Have a family? Cure breast cancer? Visit the moons of Jupiter?

7. Make a list of people you are close to, including family members, close friends, mentors, church leaders, teachers and such.

8. Make a list of people you look up to, and briefly why.

9. Where have you worked? Babysitting, mowing the lawn, window washing and cleaning house can all count.

10. Have you ever participated in a crisis, a genuine emergency? Like a fire, a large automobile accident, a natural disaster, or political upheaval? What do you remember and why?

11. How would your friends describe you? Why?

12. What strengths do you have? How did you acquire them?

13. What talents do you have? Were they hard to master?

14. What have you failed at? Why?

15. Where have you achieved success? How?

16. Why do you want to apply for this scholarship, other than money for college?

17. What activities have kept your interest, in class or out? What makes you come back to these? How do these activities affect you? Make you better?

18. Put together a brief list of your favorites in art. Some possibles: plays, movies, paintings, books, music – classical and modern works, artists, singers, actors, directors, authors, playwrights, sculpture and sculptors, architecture, architects, and so on. How have these affected you? When were you introduced to them?

19. Do you have any great ideas you want to share?

20. Have you ever had a flash of inspiration, where you understood something big for the first time? What was it? When? How did it make you different?

21. Do you remember doing something big, or that seemed big, and realizing you had grown? That you could compete, you could contribute? Like winning a track meet, finishing a calculus problem that seemed hopeless, playing a musical piece, or just passing all your classes?

22. Have you ever taught someone something? What was it? How did it change them? How did it change you?

23. This one is a little tougher. Think of some dates, crucial dates, especially if it relates to one of your scholarships. Like Dec 26, 2004, the Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami. November 4, 2008, the presidential election. February 1, 2003, when the shuttle Columbia exploded over Texas. August 29, 2005, when Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Where were you on those dates? What did you think? How did it affect you?

I can go on, but this is already quite a list. You want your brain turned on, finding connections, creating brilliant, full color pictures in you head that you can write down in your college scholarship essays. You want to be memorable for good reasons, and aligned with the scholarship purposes.

Put Your Scholarship Essays to Good Use

Take a look at my page on how to get scholarships for pointers to get you started.

I have read that you should take 1-2 weeks to brainstorm for your college scholarship essays. That sounds ridiculous to me. You can run through the above in an afternoon, and add to it as needed. You should be able to write a decent essay with proofreading and revisions in a week or so.

Keep your answers from the idea list you made. You can use it for college scholarship essays and for college applications, too. And make sure you keep every essay you write in case you can use it again.

Apply for as many awards as you can qualify for, and get more money for college.

Share This Page

Help others with their college scholarship essays. Feel free to give the link to this page to friends that need ideas for their essays.

From College Scholarship Essays up to home