How to Write a Narrative to a Scholarship Committee

A scholarship-worthy narrative reflects the best of the person writing it.
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The narrative may be the most difficult type of scholarship paper to write, but if done right, it can also be the most impressive. While narratives provide opportunities for creativity, self-exploration and personal expression more traditional essay forms do not, they also make it harder to get your point across in a direct way. By focusing in on what exactly you want the message of your narrative to be before beginning to write, your distinctive qualifications for the scholarship will arise out of your story in a seemingly effortless, organic way that is sure to impress the committee.

1 Prewrite

2 Choose the right story

Choose the right story. The personal story you choose as the subject of your narrative essay should not just be one that fits the prompt; it should serve to convey how you personally experienced a moment that changed your perception of things for the better. For example, if your prompt is "A Time I Made a Difficult Decision," stop and consider not necessarily which life decision was the hardest, but the one that taught you the most.

3 Brainstorm about the incident you chose

Brainstorm about the incident you chose. Since narrative writing is storytelling, try to remember every possible sensory and emotional detail possible to make the story come alive. If you decide to write about the time you made the tough decision to spend the weekend visiting your sick grandmother in the hospital instead of going to your friend's cabin on the lake, try to remember what time of year it was, the kinds of fun things you would do at your friend's cabin, what the hospital smelled like, what you felt seeing Grandma in the hospital bed, the conversation you had with her, how you told your friend you weren't coming and anything that comes to mind.

4 Consider the circumstances surrounding the story

Consider the circumstances surrounding the story. Scholarship committees are looking to evaluate your thinking processes as much as your writing abilities. Try to remember what factors went into your being in the situation you are writing about. In the cabin-or-Grandma example, maybe going into the decision you thought about all the fun you had last time you were at the cabin, but then going to the lake while Grandma was sick just felt wrong. Maybe you remembered how your grandmother had always been there for you over the years and now you wanted to be there for her.

5 Consider the aftermath

Consider the aftermath of the story and be honest. If you were thinking of kayaking on the lake the entire time you were with your grandmother, include these thoughts in your narrative. The committee will appreciate your honesty and your dedication to doing what is right even if your heart wasn't in it. Consider if people treated you differently, perhaps with more respect, as a result of this incident and the effect this new treatment has had on you.

6 Find the point of the story

Find the point of the story. In one sentence, summarize what universal guiding principle -- a principle the scholarship committee values -- you learned from the incident. This will become the thesis of your narrative. Maybe the point of the grandmother story is that you learned "fun is fleeting; taking responsibility matters more."

7 Write

8 Decide you

Decide how you will tell the story. Personal narratives are usually written in the first person, but if you feel more comfortable writing in the third, you should write it that way.

9 Organize the narrative

Organize the narrative. As a narrative essay, your story not only must have a beginning, middle, climax, end, conflict, setting and characters but these elements must fit in the prescribed page or word limit. Plan carefully to tell a compelling, enlightening story in the most efficient way possible. Be sure to include the mistakes you made and the people who helped you. If you try to pass yourself off as perfect, the committee will know you are lying. If your mother said you should visit Grandma and you argued with her about it, write about that and how you came to see you should consider the opinions of others.

10 Keep your central thesis in mind

Keep your central thesis in mind while writing your narrative. More than impressing the scholarship committee, the point of your narrative is to tell the story of how you became a better, more enlightened, more mature, more scholarship-worthy person in a particular area. Strive to make your conflict real for the reader by using precise details, vivid descriptions and real and honest dialogue. Recreate the incident; don't just tell about it.

11 Edit your narrative carefully

Edit your narrative carefully. Make sure your writing is clear and that everything leads back to your thesis, the life-lesson learned. Few things are more infuriating than losing a scholarship due to bad grammar, so double-check your usage, capitalization and punctuation against a style guide. Also check for generalities and clichés such as "at the end of the day" and "cut like a knife." Thinking of your own original metaphor or simile can impress the committee with your creativity. However long your first draft is, cut at least 20 percent of it.

Derek M. Kwait has a Bachelor of Arts in English writing from the University of Pittsburgh and has been writing for most of his life in various capacities. He has worked as a staff writer and videographer for the "Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh" and also has training writing fiction, nonfiction, stage-plays and screenplays.