Scholarship Essay Examples

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Scholarship essays provide the scholarship committee with an opportunity to get to know the applicant better and learn about their academic and personal achievements, as well as their goals and aspirations. A well-written scholarship essay can make the difference between being awarded a scholarship or not. One way to give yourself an edge on scholarship applications is by closely studying winning scholarship essay examples.

Scholarship essay examples give you a better understanding of the qualities scholarship essay readers look for in outstanding applicants. Reading scholarship essay examples can help you understand the tone of voice of winning scholarship essays, the kinds of stories that resonate with scholarship committee members, and the quality of writing that wins scholarship awards.

You can easily browse hundreds of winning scholarship essay examples on Bold.org through our scholarship search engine. Simply filter the status of scholarships for "awarded." To view scholarship winners' essays for a particular award, scroll down to the bottom of the page. As a platform dedicated to helping students find and apply for scholarships, Bold.org has created a list of tips for writing winning essays with outstanding scholarship essay examples from past winners.

Don't forget to create a free Bold.org profile to view more eloquent scholarship essays and apply to scholarships that can help you page for college.

Take the time to analyze essay prompts before you begin writing scholarship essays.

Scholarship Essay Example 1: Promising Pathways Hearing Impairment Scholarship

  • Eligibility: "Any student who wears a hearing aid or cochlear implant to assist with hearing and is pursuing higher education (including technical programs, two-year college degrees, and four-year college degrees) may apply, although low-income students are preferred."
  • The Prompt: "Tell us what you're studying in school, the obstacles you've overcome while attending school with hearing impairment, and what your plans and goals are after you finish your degree."
  • The Winning Essay: Ashley Harvey, Worcester State University
  • Key Takeaways: Ashley wrote an outstanding scholarship essay detailing her experience of being hard of hearing and how her disabled identity has empowered her to advocate for herself.
  • Ashley effectively demonstrates her passion for English and creative writing and how these interests have influenced her career goals to work as an editor or in the publishing industry.
  • Ashley addresses all aspects of the essay prompt.
  • Ashley's own voice as a writer and storyteller is apparent in the scholarship essay. It doesn't feel like anyone could have written the essay - only Ashley could tell her story like this!
  • Ashley uses examples to show, not tell.
  • She talks about the ableism she encountered when she first became hard of hearing and how the COVID-19 pandemic specifically impacted her experience.
  • She also describes the aspects of English she loves and her involvement in the English department and creative writing as a playwright.
  • Ashley's essay is well-structured. Every paragraph has a main idea, and it is easy for the reader to follow along.

Excerpt: "Becoming hard of hearing during September of my sophomore year of high school was a difficult transition. It made it difficult to be a student; I could not hear the teacher during lessons or my classmates during group work. This also impacted me socially, as I could not hear my friends while at lunch to participate in the conversation. During this time, I grew more anxious, as I would miss a lot of information during spoken communication. The onset of the pandemic did not help, as it made it impossible to lipread, which I came to rely on heavily. Dealing with ableism has also provided its own challenge; the invasive questions from strangers, infantilization, and “corrections” regarding disability from non-disabled people got old quickly.

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While the transition was difficult, I am now stronger and proud of my hearing loss. I got some assistive technology and accommodations, being my hearing aid and FM system at school. I grew the courage to advocate for myself and tell my friends, teachers, and classmates how best to communicate with me. Admittedly, it is still difficult to be hard of hearing in a hearing world; I still can't hear the oven alarm from the next room over and mix up the first sounds of words. However, I would not change my hearing loss, as it is now a part of myself that I find pride in. With these valuable skills that my hearing loss has taught me, I feel that I can conquer any new challenge that I come across throughout the rest of my life."

Scholarship opportunities are available for high school students and current undergraduate students.

Scholarship Essay Example 2: Future Leaders in Technology Scholarship

  • Eligibility: Black, Latinx, Native, queer, and women high school seniors who are planning to pursue a college degree in computer science, electrical engineering, or data science
  • The Prompt: "What area of tech are you interested in studying and why? Tell us about a problem you hope to solve through your future education and career in tech."
  • The Winning Essay: Shanice Handley, Barlett High School
  • Key Takeaways: Shanice's essay beautifully ties together their experiences with a lack of representation for Black women on social media and their motivation to create their website Awujo Resources, a self-described "hub to act on the issues people care about."
  • Shanice's essay is centered around a main idea or thesis: the lack of representation of Black women on social media growing up and the anger and hopelessness they felt witnessing police brutality pushed them to use code and design to further social change.
  • Shanice's essay follows a chronological timeline, from their experiences growing up as a young Black girl to an emergent college student studying computer science and graphic design.
  • Shanice's essay is descriptive without extraneous information. There's no "fluff" that is irrelevant to the story they are trying to tell.
  • Shanice's essay thoroughly explains the importance of their achievement in creating the website Awujo Resources, both for themselves personally and for their community.

Excerpt: "Over the years, I’ve felt hopeless. I turned on the news and saw protests and turmoil on my screen. I would sign petitions advocating for another young Black person killed by the police and repost the powerful words of activists but nothing seemed to do any good other than educating my peers. I needed something to channel the anger and hopelessness I felt while experiencing this injustice occurring in our country. So I turned to code and design… My website, Awujo Resources, became a hub to act on the issues people care about. From reproductive health to voting rights, I highlighted the hard-hitting issues affecting people across America and the world. This website showed me how technology could inspire people to spark change. This website ultimately showed me how human-computer interaction can include underrepresented groups and the issues plaguing us."

Excellent scholarship essays demonstrate strong writing skills while telling a personal story.

Scholarship Essay Example 3: Keri Sohlman Memorial Scholarship

  • Eligibility: high school seniors in New Jersey who are passionate about mental health and/or education
  • The Prompt: "Tell us about your inspiration to enter the mental health or education profession and how your career will help others."
  • The Winning Essay: Caelyn Stahl, Montclair High School
  • Key Takeaways: Caelyn's essay beautifully connects their passion for working with children and education to their experiences as a neurodivergent student with mental health struggles. Overall, readers get a sense of the deep peace and fulfillment Caelyn feels when teaching children, which motivates them to pursue a career as an art teacher.
  • Caelyn uses descriptive language to explain the emotional and bodily feelings they experience while working with children as a Taekwon-do instructor.
  • Caelyn's voice peeks through when she describes herself as someone with a "funky brain." She uses this phrase again at the end of the essay to create a sense of finality: "art education is the intersection of all my passions: art, working with children, and advocacy for people with 'funky' brains like me."
  • Caelyn puts a positive spin on challenging experiences, like living with ADHD and mental health issues or working with children on bad days.

Excerpt: "However, I also understand how difficult teaching can be. Children aren’t happy all the time; sometimes, they need extra support and care. They don’t always behave and don’t always listen. Sometimes, there will be rough days. Even on those difficult days at the Taekwondo school, when students aren’t listening, when I am frustrated and tired, I still feel joyful. It is an honor to be the one to help kids learn and grow, especially on hard days. It is exciting to problem-solve and come up with new ways to teach that are more engaging. When students aren’t listening, it is often simply because they are under-stimulated and can't focus, so I create new ways to reach them. It’s exhilarating when I find a method that works, a method that turns those rough days into ones of learning and growth. I am interested in pursuing education because I love kids, on the good days and the bad. I am interested in art education because art turns the bad days into good. I know this from experience."

You can read a winning essay by scrolling to the bottom of a scholarship page that has already been awarded on Bold.org.

Scholarship Essay Example 4: Chronic Boss Scholarship

  • Eligibility: women with autoimmune disorders who have an entrepreneurial spirit
  • The Prompt: "Explain how living with an autoimmune disease has shaped who you are and how you have transformed your struggle into your strength."
  • The Winning Essay: Rachel Osias, Marlboro High School
  • Key Takeaways: Rachel shares how their diagnosis and experience living with Graves' disease motivated them to help others through fundraising.
  • Rachel sticks to the essay prompt; their essay fully addresses both aspects of the question: living with autoimmune disease and how they "transformed their struggle into their strength."
  • Rachel provides detailed examples of her fundraising campaigns and the entrepreneurial skills she put into action in each campaign.
  • Rachel describes how her autoimmune and entrepreneurial journey culminated in a TEDx event, demonstrating that they continue expanding their reach and impact.
  • Rachel incorporates humor!

Excerpt: "Pretty soon, I married my business and philanthropic interests. I treated each fundraiser as an entrepreneurial venture, strategizing to increase revenues and cut costs, marketing on social media, and developing pitches for local companies. So far, I’ve created over twenty-one fundraising events, raising over $18,000 for twelve nonprofits.  Each new project led to the next, and as I moved along, I was bringing people with me. My little team went door to door collecting art materials for the local hospital. By the time I started an initiative to work in a restaurant where all proceeds went to the local ASPCA, that group had grown to over twenty!  Influencing others inspired me to create my own TEDx event. I enlisted a team of teen leaders, spearheaded a marketing campaign, and collaborated with TEDx officials to spread the surge of community action. The experience demonstrated that philanthropy isn’t just about fundraising. It’s about creating an infectious wave in your community so that others join the push for change."

Scholarship awards can help you attend college while reducing your reliance on financial aid and student loans.

Tips for Writing Scholarship Essays

Every scholarship committee seeks something different from its applicants. As a result, there isn't a single recipe for writing the perfect personal statement. However, there are some best practices for writing scholarship essays that can help you craft a polished essay and best represent who you are and why you deserve the scholarship. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you maximize your chances of winning a scholarship award:

Start Early

Writing a winning scholarship essay requires ample time and dedication. You'll want to give yourself enough time to go through every step of the writing process: brainstorming ideas, outlining, and writing several drafts. Starting essays earlier will give you time to review and edit your essay before submission. Ideally, you should give yourself enough time to receive feedback from teachers and peers.

Understand the Prompt

One of the most important aspects of writing scholarship essays is ensuring you understand the prompt before you start writing. Identify the key points of the essay prompt and be sure to address them in your essay.

Highlight Your Accomplishments and Qualities

The scholarship essay readers want to know what sets you apart from other applicants. Take the time to reflect on your accomplishments and qualities that make you a strong candidate for a scholarship. Be specific and include concrete examples to illustrate your points and college plans. Talk about how you've overcome personal failures and significant obstacles and how these experiences have made you who you are today.

Proofread and Edit

Before you submit your essay, make sure to proofread and edit thoroughly. Check for spelling and grammar errors, and make sure your essay flows logically and coherently. Have someone else read your essay and provide feedback. A fresh pair of eyes can catch mistakes or areas that need improvement that you may have overlooked.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you start a scholarship essay?

Your introduction is the first impression you will make on the scholarship committee, so it's crucial to make it count. Grab their attention with a compelling opening sentence that sets the tone for the rest of your essay. Your introduction should also clearly state your goals and why you are applying for the scholarship.

What kinds of scholarships are available?

Scholarships are available for students with high academic performance, leadership skills, and/or community service. Scholarships also exist for students with unique identities and experiences, such as students of color, disabled students, or students from specific geographic locations. Other scholarships target students with specific career goals, such as aspirations to work in the tech industry, healthcare, or education.

You can begin applying for scholarships now that you've reviewed these sample scholarship essays! Check out more blog posts like this on our Bold.org blog to learn more about scholarships for high school seniors and college students.