Two ways you can go with this: 

  • Approach #1: Use the resources above to write a great essay that spells out your big dreams, then end with 1-3 sentences describing specifically how you’ll use the scholarship money. (We’ll call this the “I have big dreams and you can help” approach.)

  • Approach #2: Explain your financial situation in detail, then end with 1-3 sentences saying how you’ll use the scholarship money. (We’ll call this the “Financial Details” approach.) 

The difference: Approach #1 describes you + your dreams for 75-95% of the essay, then describes where the money will go for 2-25% of the essay, whereas Approach #2 describes financial details for 75-95%, then describes where the money will go for the last 5-25% of the essay.

Let’s look at examples for each.

Approach #1: “I have big dreams and you can help”

This one’s pretty simple. Take any of the great essays above and add 1-3 sentences explaining where the money will go. 

Example A: The “Easter” Essay

The ending of that essay reads: 

I’m involved in my school’s Leadership Council as leader of our events committee. We plan and execute  school dances and create effective donation letters. I see this as a stepping-stone for my future, as I plan to double major in Women’s Studies and International Relations with a focus on Middle Eastern studies. After the political turmoil of the Arab Spring many Middle Eastern countries refuse to grant women equal positions in society because that would contradict Islamic texts. By oppressing women they’re silencing half of their population. I believe these Islamic texts have been misinterpreted throughout time, and my journey towards my own independence has inspired me to help other women find liberation as well.

My Easter will drastically differ from past years. Rather than being locked at home, my mother and I will celebrate outdoors our rebirth and renewal.

But it could have been easily revised to fit this prompt if the author chose to simply include a couple details describing how she’d use the scholarship funds. Like this, for example: 

I’m involved in my school’s Leadership Council as leader of our events committee. We plan and execute  school dances and create effective donation letters. I see this as a stepping-stone for my future, as I plan to double major in Women’s Studies and International Relations with a focus on Middle Eastern studies. While I have received a full scholarship to attend Georgetown, my financial aid package does not include money for my airfare, school supplies, or books. The funds from this scholarship would help cover those costs.

My Easter will drastically differ from past years. Rather than being locked at home, my mother and I will celebrate outdoors our rebirth and renewal.

Example B: The “Little Porch and a Dog” Essay

The ending of that essay (which is also above) reads: 

Though neither of my parents attended college, they understand that college is a key factor to a bright future and therefore have been very supportive. And though we don’t yet have the house with the small porch and the dog, we’re still holding out hope.

I believe college can help.

But she could add just three words to make the connection to the prompt super clear (and I’ve bolded them below so you don’t miss them). That might look like this:

Though neither of my parents attended college, they understand that college is a key factor to a bright future and therefore have been very supportive. And though we don’t yet have the house with the small porch and the dog, we’re still holding out hope.

I believe college and this scholarship can help.

Simple, right?

And while tweaking an essay you’ve already written can be efficient (while showing a lot about who you are), it’s not the only way to demonstrate how you’d use scholarship funds.

Approach #2: The Financial Details Approach

The letter below takes a different angle from the approach above by explaining in more detail her family’s current financial situation and why she needs the money. Take a look:

I am so excited to have been admitted to University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) this year, as it was my number one choice.

There is a problem, however, and it is a financial one. 

I’d love to attend UCLA–it’s near home, which would allow me to be closer to my family, and the Bio department is phenomenal. But, as a low-income Hispanic student, I simply don’t feel I can afford it. 

Here are some more details of my financial situation. Currently, my father works as an assistant supervisor for American Apparel Co. and he is the only source of income for my family of five, while my mother is a housewife. The income my father receives weekly barely meets paying the bills.

My family’s overall income:

Father’s average weekly gross pay: $493.30

Father’s adjusted gross income: $27,022

Our household expenses:

Rent: $850

Legal Services: $200

Car payment: $230.32

My parents cannot afford to have medical insurance, so they do not have a medical bill. My father’s average monthly income is an estimate of $1,973.20 (see attached pay stub). When household expenses such as rent, car payment, legal services, gas bill, and electricity bill are added together the cost is of $1,402.70. Other payments such as the phone bill, internet bill, and groceries also add to the list. But in order to make ends meet my father usually works overtime and tailors clothes for people in our neighborhood.

My family is on an extremely tight budget and unfortunately cannot afford to pay for my schooling. I have worked my way up and was recently awarded Valedictorian for the class of 2014. My goals and my aspiration of becoming a nutritionist have helped me push forward. I appreciate your time in reconsidering my financial aid award. 

I’m looking forward to becoming a Bruin, but without additional financial support, that may not be possible. This scholarship could change my life.

This approach still answers the prompt. And if you’re not sure which approach the scholarship provider is looking for or would prefer, don’t be afraid to reach out to them and ask. (Your readers are nice people and they want to help you submit a great application!) 

Side note: this approach also works well for a financial aid appeal letter–like, if you don’t get the money you need from a college. You’ll find more on how (and why) to write a financial aid appeal letter at this link.

Final Words

Get this: Going Merry let me know in a recent conversation that more than 15% of the scholarships on their site went unclaimed last year. 

That’s basically free money that just sat there… because no one tried to win it.

What’s the lesson?

You miss out on 100% of the scholarships you don’t apply for. 

So get on it.