Scholarship committees read hundreds of essays per year. Start yours with a great introduction to make the reader want to keep on reading. A great quote by a famous person or an opening sentence related to your personal story always helps.
Stay within theme topic provided
Some scholarship applications give a required topic; if a topic is given it is important to address that topic.
Answer all of the provided questions
Some scholarship programs will provide you with a list of questions to answer within your essay. Answer them within the essay and not in list.
Do your research
Most scholarships are named in honor or memory of someone or sponsored by a company or organization. Research the person or check with the Community Foundation for background. Check the application materials, the website or do a Google search. If the scholarship is sponsored by a company or organization, read about the mission of that group and work it into your essay.
Make it personal, if appropriate
Try your best to relate the topic of your essay to a personal experience. If you are required to write about a current event, let the reader know how that event affects your life.
If there is no interview included in the application process, the essay is the only chance for the committee to get to know you. If the committee asks about an instance of adversity that you have overcome, use as many details as possible so that the entire situation is understood. Scholarship committees are committed to confidentiality so your story will not be shared without your permission.
This is the perfect time to brag. Highlight your accomplishments. Use positive words to describe yourself: "I am active, dedicated, well-rounded, vibrant; a multi-tasker." If your grades have suffered for some reason or you are a person who does not test well, focus on some of your other accomplishments. Show that you are more than a test score.
This can't be said enough. Your English teacher might even be willing to review your essay for you. Have two other people read your essay as well.
Seal the deal with a great conclusion
Your closing paragraph should relate back to your opening. Did you open with a problem? Make sure you propose a solution. Did you open with a question? Answer it.
Make the deadline!
An award winning essay is a waste of time -- if you miss the deadline most likely it will never be read.
-- Courtesy of Sylvia T. Spivey, Development & Scholarship Officer, The Philadelphia Foundation