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Scholarships Essay Prompts

The essay: It’s the most important part of your scholarship application, and it can be the hardest.

But, the essay shouldn’t keep you from applying. Take a look at some commonly asked essay questions and use them to prepare for your scholarship applications. Brainstorm ideas, do some research or create your own “stock” of scholarship essays.

Your Field of Specialization and Academic Plans

Some scholarship applications will ask you to write about your major or field of study.

These questions are used to determine how well you know your area of specialization and why you’re interested in it.

Samples:

• How will your study of _______ contribute to your immediate or long range career plans?
• Why do you want to be a _______?
• Explain the importance of (your major) in today’s society.
• What do you think the industry of _______ will be like in the next 10 years?
• What are the most important issues your field is facing today?

Current Events and Social Issues

To test your skills at problem-solving and check how up to date you are on current issues, many scholarship applications include questions about problems and issues facing society.

Samples:

• What do you consider to be the single most important societal problem? Why?
• If you had the authority to change your school in a positive way, what specific changes would you make?
• Pick a controversial problem on college campuses and suggest a solution.
• What do you see as the greatest threat to the environment today?

Personal Achievements

Scholarships exist to reward and encourage achievement. So you shouldn’t be surprised to find essay topics that ask you to brag a little.

Samples:

• Describe how you have demonstrated leadership ability both in and out of school.
• Discuss a special attribute or accomplishment that sets you apart.
• Describe your most meaningful achievements and how they relate to your field of study and your future goals.
• Why are you a good candidate to receive this award?

Background and Influences

Who you are is closely tied to where you’ve been and who you’ve known. To learn more about you, some scholarship committees will ask you to write about your background and major influences.

Samples:

• Pick an experience from your own life and explain how it has influenced your development.
• Who in your life has been your biggest influence and why?
• How has your family background affected the way you see the world?
• How has your education contributed to who you are today?

Future Plans and Goals

Scholarship sponsors look for applicants with vision and motivation, so they might ask about your goals and aspirations.

Samples:

• Briefly describe your long- and short-term goals.
• Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
• Why do you want to get a college education?

Financial Need

Many scholarship providers have a charitable goal: They want to provide money for students who are going to have trouble paying for college. In addition to asking for information about your financial situation, these committees may want a more detailed and personal account of your financial need.

Samples:

• From a financial standpoint, what impact would this scholarship have on your education?
• State any special personal or family circumstances affecting your need for financial assistance.
• How have you been financing your college education?

Random Topics

Some essay questions don’t seem directly related to your education, but committees use them to test your creativity and get a more well-rounded sense of your personality.

Samples:

• Choose a person or persons you admire and explain why.
• Choose a book or books and that have affected you deeply and explain why.

While you can’t predict every essay question, knowing some of the most common ones can give you a leg up on applications. Start brainstorming now, and you may find yourself a winner!

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Scholarship essay requirements vary a great deal by scholarship type and they generally change from year to year. If you’re serious about applying for scholarships, it’s a great idea to start practicing writing scholarship essays in advance. However, there’s no way to adequately predict exactly what your scholarship essay topics will be. Thankfully, while these topics can vary, there are some very common writing prompts which can help you prepare yourself for any topic that comes your way.

  • Your personal traits and how they affect your ambitions.
  • One of the most common prompts, this topic essentially asks you to discuss your strengths and unique traits and then describe how they will help you in the future. Some prompts specify educational ambitions, while others focus on employment. Write about either or both for practice.

  • Discuss a historical figure that inspires you.
  • This prompt is designed so that you’ll express the values and traits you admire, in an interesting way. Choose some less common historical figures to write about for maximum impact.

  • How will this scholarship help you attain your goals?
  • Of course the obvious one is money—but what they’re really looking for is the fact that you have clear ambitions and plans (including the scholarship in question) to attain them, based upon your merits.

  • Describe a solution to a problem.
  • The prompt may specify a problem (one posed by a current event, a common interpersonal situation, etc.) or it may allow you to construct a problem and then solve it.

  • Describe your role when you are part of a team.
  • Are you a leader? Or do you focus on being a support member? There’s no right answer here; simply describe your skills when cooperating with others.

  • Discuss why education is important.
  • Keep in mind you can talk about this from several perspectives: why it’s important globally, within smaller communities, within families, why it’s important for your career, or for your personal growth as a human being.

  • Discuss an influential book or article which has changed your outlook.
  • This prompt is mostly about demonstrating that you’re capable of assessing new ideas and determining whether or not they’re right for you. After all, most of education is about encountering new ideas and fitting them into your world view.

  • Discuss something you’ve done that’s made a difference in your community.
  • This prompt helps the scholarship committee place you in context; there’s a lot they can learn about you as a person by what you consider making a difference, who you consider to be “your community,” and so on.

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