Does your essay address the non-cognitive variables?

Research shows there are non-cognitive variables which indicate the likelihood of a student succeeding in college. Some scholarships look to see how many of these variables you address in your essay. How many of these topics do you touch on in your scholarship essays?

Positive Self-Concept

Do you believe in yourself? You must be the first person to believe you can achieve your goals!

Realistic Self-Appraisal

At the same time, your goals need to be realistic. Do you excel in the subjects that are most closely related to your major? Your skills, passions, and goals should align!

Navigating Systems

When you are confronted by an unfair process or system, how do you react? Scholarships (and colleges) want students who know how to make a difference and create change through the appropriate courses of action.

Long-range Goals

You should have goals that drive you forward. Do you have goals for five years from now? Ten?


Demonstrate the leadership skills you've learned from your experiences. Remember that leadership comes in all forms, not just the president of a school organization.

Strong Support

We all get discouraged from time to time. Who picks you up in these moments? College will be fun, but also hard, so scholarship review committees will want to know who will encourage you to persevere.

Frequently Asked Questions about Scholarship Applications

After working with 200+ students to submit over 2,500 scholarship applications, these are the most common questions students have about the scholarship application process
  1. Why do you deserve this scholarship?
  2. What are your college and/or career aspirations? How will college help you achieve those goals?
  3. Choose one of your extracurriculars and tell us why it is the most significant to you.
  4. Share your community service and volunteer history. Summarize your community service activity, including how you became involved, your role, and the impact of the activity.
  5. What is the biggest obstacle you have faced? How did you overcome it?

To be best prepared for the different scholarship prompts and lengths, we suggest writing two answers for each prompt. One should be 250 words and the other should be 500 words.

Personally, I always feel that starting an essay is the hardest part. Here are some questions to help you brainstorm and remember past experiences in your life:​
  1. Who are you?
  2. What has made you who you are?
  3. What are you doing (clubs/organizations, jobs, community service)? What have you done (some specific stories)?
  4. What are your goals? Why are you dedicated to them? What in your life reflects that commitment?
  5. Why do you need a scholarship? How will it make a difference?
  6. What would the judges find memorable and/or unique about you?

Tips to keep in mind:
  • Be positive!
  • Writing an outline can often help you stay on track in your essays​
  • Specificity is key!

    Include concrete examples to illustrate larger themes. Don’t just state that you are a dedicated student; show them through an example instead.

    “I am a very hard-working individual.”
    “At my current job, there is a lot of down-time. Instead of just sitting around, I stay busy by dusting, cleaning, taking out the garbage, and doing other chores. I try to look for things that need to be done instead of waiting to be told what to do.”

    “I work with disadvantaged kids”
    “Saturday mornings are my favorite. On a day when all my friends are excited to sleep in, I wake up at seven in the morning and hurry out the door to meet my team. As I run onto the field, I hear a chorus of six year olds calling after me, “Coach!” “Coach!” Their camaraderie and happy nature would fool the average spectator. No one would guess that these children struggle to connect socially with their peers. However, on the field, they leave all of that behind. Every day, I strive to create a safe place for each and every one of my players.”

    Notice that the second of each of these examples always tells a story? Scholarship committees (and college admissions officers) read hundreds of essays. The way to stand out is by telling a memorable story that paints a picture of who you are and what you do.

    Make sure you proofread and that you have others proofread your essays. Essays that have typos or other easily visible mistakes show a lack of care. When money is on the line, don’t let something as simple as a typo keep you from winning thousands of dollars!

    Tip: Copy and paste your essay in Google Translate and have the computer read the essay to you. Sometimes it’s easier to hear errors than reading your same essay for the 1624th time.