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Writing an essay can be one of the more intimidating aspects of a college application, but it's also your opportunity to sell yourself as an individual. 

Finding the time to write a scholarship essay may seem like a problem with your busy schedule, but a good essay can help to finance your college education. Based on my 20 years of experience in admissions and 10 years on a scholarship committee, I’d like to share some advice about essays.

The best time to get started with a scholarship essay is when you are a junior. Whenever you have free time to write in a class, take a few minutes to start composing your essay. Continue this habit and by your senior year, you will have a substantial essay that just needs to be updated with new achievements.

Include your most important high school accomplishments, your volunteer activities, work experience and explain how your best personal and academic qualities make you a promising college student. There are many places in life for humility, but a scholarship essay is not one of them. Provide the reasons why you are a deserving scholarship recipient.

When it comes to applying for scholarships, don’t count yourself out of the competition. Students with higher GPAs may not apply, others may not follow the instructions or meet the deadline, and it is possible your essay will resonate with the scholarship committee members in a way others don’t. Think about it. If you spend 20 hours working on a great essay and you eventually earn $20,000 in scholarships, what other time in your life will you be able to say that you earned $1,000 an hour?

Include specifics in your essay. If you want to go into emergency medicine because of your great-grandfather’s stories about being a medic in the military, include that. If you learned useful verbal communication skills while giving oral reasons in the state 4-H vegetable judging contest, write that. The details about your experiences and your passions in life will be what scholarship committee members remember. Explain your future career in your essay. For example, describe how you foresee yourself helping others, exploring the flora and fauna of remote islands, or how nutrition will be a building block for your personal gym business.

A note of caution: Don’t send the exact same scholarship essay to every committee just because it is easy. The time you save by doing this can cause you to miss the mark. Customize the first paragraph of each essay with the specific audience in mind. If you do that, you will help your readers focus on the topic most important to them.

Good luck with your scholarship essay and applying to college. Feel free to contact the Chadron State College Admissions Department if you have questions.

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