Scholarships - Office of Student Financial Aid

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Scholarship and Essay Tips


  • Many scholarships require you to write a personal statement about yourself. This is your opportunity to sell yourself.

  • Tell your personal story. Write in the first person. Typically, personal statements should convey your character, personality, values and experiences and should include your academic achievements, community involvement, leadership skills, and academic and career goals. Use the following to assist you with writing your personal statement/essay:

    • Think about your achievements (e.g. academic, personal, etc.) and list them;
    • List your community and/or school involvement;
    • Write down any obstacles or hardships you have overcome (e.g., family, economic or physical, etc.);
    • List your specific skills (e.g. leadership, communicative, etc.) and/or talent (e.g. athlete, musician, writer, etc.);
    • Think about people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals;
    • What are you passionate about?

  • Tightly structure your essay by sticking to the point and supporting your experience with concrete and compelling examples.

  • Write with a personal voice and avoid sounding wooden and dry.

  • Many organizations favor student leaders or students involved in their community or school. Other groups look for students who have exceptional talents - writers, scientists, athletes or musicians. If the application mentions these qualities, emphasize the talents/skills you have as well as your academic achievements. Provide examples of the leadership roles you have taken with individuals and/or groups.

  • Scholarship committees are extremely responsive to stories that overcome obstacles or hardships.

  • Follow directions. For example, if the application limits you to a 3-page essay, do not go over 3 pages, but neither should you write only a paragraph.

  • If there are specific questions on the scholarship application, make sure you answer the questions that are asked of you.

  • Have several strong writers read and edit your essay for structure, grammar, redundancy and logic. Scholarship committees will mark you down if your essay is not to the point, is incomplete, does not give specific examples of your experiences, does not tell a story about you, does not help the committee to better understand you or is just plain difficult to understand. Also, typewritten essays are preferred over hand-written ones.

  • If the scholarship is renewable, then this is practically guaranteed money. Typically, all you need to do is maintain the scholarship requirements and renew your application, as necessary.

  • If the scholarship requires a nomination, ask the department or organization how you can be nominated.

  • As you apply for scholarships, you may recycle the essays/personal statements and save enormous amounts of time and energy by customizing the essay/personal statement for each specific scholarship application.

Scholarship Writing Resource

The Campus Academic Resource Program (CARP) will assist students in developing a strong scholarship essay/personal statement. For more information on their tutoring hours go to http://www.sfsu.edu/~carp1/.

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