Writing a Cover Letter or Personal Essay for a Scholarship

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Writing a Cover Letter/Personal Essay for a Scholarship* **

1. Use your resume as the database for the cover letter or essay. If you cannot include your resume with the cover letter or essay, as in most scholarship applications, you will need to include all information from your resume in the letter.

2. Divide the material into specific areas, just as you would in a resume. These almost always include education, scholarships and awards, work experience and goals. Other categories you may or may not qualify for such as volunteer work, research projects, conference papers or presentations, independent study projects, affiliations, language and skills.

3. You will need a strong organizing thesis statement or umbrella statement at the beginning in order to indicate the key categories that make you a good candidate.

4. Introduce each section with a clear topic sentence, indicating which area you plan to discuss. They should contain key words to help direct the reader. ▪ I have always chosen challenging courses, and have an excellent/ very good/ good academic record. ▪ My academic achievement is demonstrated by the numerous scholarships I have received both at the high school and university level. ▪ I have developed strong leadership skills, and know how to interact with a wide variety of other people while working several different jobs… ▪ I have done a fair amount of community service including… ▪ My independent research projects have strengthened my skills in laboratory work and developed in me an eye for details. ▪ Tutoring has taught me to work diplomatically and successfully with a wide variety of students. ▪ Travel has played a large role in shaping my view of others and of cultural differences.

5. Your discussions should be result oriented. As a result of working at a bank, you value accuracy, efficiency and understand job responsibility.

6. You should stress the qualities and areas of expertise that make you good candidate for the scholarship. To do this, refer to the qualifications listed with the scholarship. So, for example, if the committee considers financial need when deciding upon the candidates, make a point of your financial need but not in a tacky way. Committees often look for such things in a candidate as well: ▪ Knowledge of chosen field, carefulness of work ▪ Motivation, enthusiasm, seriousness of purpose

▪ Creativity, originality, ingenuity of problem solving ▪ Ability to plan and carry out research, organization ▪ Ability to express thought in speech and writing ▪ Maturity, emotional stability, ability to withstand stress and face challenges ▪ Leadership skills ▪ Self-reliance, initiative, independence, adaptability ▪ Responsibility ▪ Ability to work well with others

▪ Growth potential, desire to achieve, dedication to goals

7. You will need a concluding sentence that wraps the letter up and summarizes key strengths.

8. Choice of words is important. Achieve a balance between bragging and modesty. Avoid exaggerations and clichés but do not down play your worth. A list of active word is included, as well.

9. Proofread your letter/essay. Consider grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Avoid wordiness. Be clear and concise.

10. Format the letter as a letter. That means addresses and the date at the top, a greeting (Dear Mrs. Wolf,) a closer (Sincerely,) and a signature above your name in print.

11. Format the essay as an essay. If they’ve asked for an essay, do not submit a letter.

* More often than not, scholarships only require either a cover letter or personal essay. If only one is required, the body of text and guidelines remain the same but the format is done accordingly. If both are required, think of the cover letter as a small, tight introduction to the personal essay....
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