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What should I write about for my scholarship essay?

QUESTION: I’m in my sophomore year of college and am applying for two scholarships for liberal arts majors. They each require an essay, but they didn’t provide the topic. I’m supposed to choose a topic to write about. It’s hard to write an essay without knowing what to write about. I’m stuck. Can you give me some suggestions?
–No Direction

Dear No Direction: The scholarship committees may not have provided you with a topic, but they most certainly have preferences about what they want to see in your essay. There are two purposes of every scholarship essay. Your first purpose is to use the essay to demonstrate why you should win the scholarship. This does not mean that you should overtly campaign for your victory, composing the top ten list of why you should be the winner. Subtlety is necessary. Because the scholarships you are entering are meant to reward students who show academic promise, write about a project, class, or experience that illustrates your academic might. Your second goal in your scholarship essays is to share something about yourself that is not conveyed in your application. Scholarship committees view essays as a way to learn more about you, to gain insight into who you really are. Don’t just list off accomplishments that are also found in your application. Good topics may be how you chose your major, what you hope to accomplish after graduating, or what challenges you see in your field in the future. Use your essays to give the scholarship committee something new and to help them get to know you better. That’s what they are asking for.

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Gen & Kelly Tanabe

Gen and Kelly Tanabe are the founders of SuperCollege and the award-winning authors of 11 books on college admission, financial aid and scholarships. Together they were accepted to all of the Ivy League colleges and won more than $100,000 in merit-based scholarships to graduate from Harvard debt-free.