Online Writing Lab

Common Themes for Scholarship Essays

Leadership Skills: Essay prompts that address leadership are asking you to focus specifically on your unique skills as a leader. In addressing such prompts, it is important to include specific personality traits that are universally accepted as forms of “leadership.” For example, you might explore aspects of determination, ability to work-well with people, charisma, ability to organize, and/or follow through and motivation. Similarly it is important to reflect upon specific times or situations in which you have used leadership skills. You might also explore the details of that experience, reflecting upon specific obstacles and your ability to overcome them.

Community Service/Involvement: Essay prompts that address themes of community service or involvement are common across any number of scholarships. In addressing themes of community involvement, it is helpful to first brainstorm specific ways in which you have been involved in the community. Feel free to select a community that is important to you and with which you have an extensive history. It could be a local community, family, sports team, ethnic group, or a campus/school group. Once you have identified a community, explore the various ways in which you have contributed to that community. Have you volunteered or initiated a committee? Have you donated your time, energy, or resources? In a similar space, consider the reasons why you have remained a dedicated member of this community. It is crucial to provide detailed information and underlying reasons for your community involvement; doing so will provide a more complete sense of your character to a committee with limited knowledge of you.

Excellence in a Specified Field: Some scholarships inquire only your experience of success and dedication to a particular academic field. Typically, these scholarships are offered in the arenas of math and science and are sometimes connected to gender or minority status. The goal of these questions is to gage your level of dedication to and ability to succeed in a specified field. It is most simple to answer these prompts by providing specific successes such as GPA, high AP test scores, and/or awards received. You can also include any life events or moments that served as catalysts for your interest in this field, whether it was a summer science camp or an encouraging family member.