Applying for scholarships is a worthwhile endeavor that can help defray the high cost of college. You must meet each scholarship’s unique eligibility guidelines to be considered. Carefully follow application instructions and deadlines. Focus on scholarships that appear to be a good fit for you and research the organization awarding the scholarship. Emphasize what sets you apart from other applicants, such as your extensive community service, extraordinary leadership accomplishments or similar personal attributes specifically mentioned in the scholarship criteria.

Radiate Enthusiasm

Begin your essay by expressing gratitude for the opportunity to be considered for a prestigious scholarship. Describe in detail how you meet and exceed the eligibility criteria. Express your excitement about college, and explain how the scholarship will help make your dreams come true. Share your goals for the future, and stress how you want to make the world a better place. The tone of your essay should be confident but not arrogant or boastful. Similarly, refrain from coming across as entitled to the award.

Describe Academic Achievements

Mention your accomplishments in your essay, such as if you consistently made the honor roll, took the most difficult courses your school offered, completed four years of math, tutored disadvantaged youth and enrolled in Advanced Placement classes. Share what you learned from research projects you conducted or scholarly activities, such as attending the Young Engineering and Science Scholars summer program at California Institute of Technology. Identify awards and honors from participation in school activities like the science fair, history fair, math league, academic decathlon, debate and other academic involvements outside class.

Tell a Story

Some scholarship applications ask questions about your reasons for going to college or adversity you faced in life. Kimberly Ann Stezela, author of “Scholarships 101: The Real-World Guide to Getting Cash for College,” recommends telling a persuasive, emotional and compelling story that’s true and inspirational. For example, you might share how you've been saving for college since the eighth grade when you decided to become a nurse after reading about nursing pioneer, Florence Nightingale. When describing any personal challenges, focus on how the experience made you stronger. Leave out unnecessary personal information, such as why your parents divorced.

Demonstrate Leadership Potential

Leadership experience is important to include in your essay because scholarships are generally intended to help civic-minded high achievers contribute to society. For instance, students seeking a $10,000 renewable National Student Leadership Scholarship must have evidence of good grades, community service experience and a letter of recommendation attesting to the applicant’s leadership potential. When listing leadership positions in your essay, also stress what you accomplished, such as organizing a food drive that collected 1,500 pounds of canned food.