When it comes to planning out your scholarship motivation letter, it’s hard to know where to begin without feeling massively overwhelmed. Far too many students make the mistake of procrastinating and putting it off until the last second, and even more, students start early and try to write a huge manifesto instead of focusing on the important details.
Scholarship motivation letters are essential in winning over award committees and grant providers, but knowing what to write in order to convey the perfect message can be a real challenge. If you find yourself stuck in a rut but in need of scholarships to make your education possible, know that there are plenty of other students out there just like you who have been able to write good motivation letters and move on to school.
With hard work, practice, and a few tips and tricks, you can be that student too. Here are some general guidelines and best practices for writing the perfect scholarship motivation letter.
1. Don’t Think Too Big Picture
Many students often try to pack most of their life into a short 500 or 700-word essay. Not only will you majorly stress yourself out trying to do so, but often you’ll end up with a pile of gibberish that has no clear point and rambles where it doesn’t need to. No awards committee member wants to read that.
What they’re looking for is a finely honed motivation letter that demonstrates your creativity and ability to think, analyze, and present your merits modestly yet effectively. Start by choosing a single-story, event, or moment in your life that really means something to you. Odds are you already have something in mind.
What was it? Did your sports team pull out a last-second win when the odds were stacked against you? Did you lose a loved one when you were younger? Did you come across something in your travels or in your reading that stands out to you even today? Now try to envision if any of these moments are representative of you in a larger sense; your intimate and valuable qualities.
The perfect motivation letter demonstrates personality, passion, and ambition without trying to do too much at once. Finding the perfect balance will require a lot of work, but it’s absolutely possible and necessary for a good motivation letter.
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2. Just Write – the Editing Comes Later
The number one reason most people procrastinate is that they’re secretly afraid of failure. Have you ever sat down in front of a computer and typed out a great first sentence, only to delete it almost instantly because you were afraid it wasn’t as good as you thought it was? Writing a strong motivation letter is a process that shouldn’t be interrupted.
Force yourself to sit down and write an entire draft of your letter without editing or going back over what you’ve read. No matter if there are typos or even if there are mistakes, never judge your writing until you have a few paragraphs written down first. You can always go back and fix your work, but it’s a lot easier to edit when you’ve already got content in place as opposed to when you’re trying to write it.
3. Find Your Stand Out Quality and Stick With It
The best motivation letters are memorable not for their well-written prose or their lengthy explanations, but for their stand-out material that stays with you well after you’ve read it. The best way to do this is to develop or identify your single stand out quality – an identity or brand that helps you stand out from other applicants. The best way to do this is to choose a creative topic or twist and write about it in specific and descriptive detail.
When an awards committee is reviewing applications, you want to be remembered as the standout in one category. It’s easier to be known as the student who interned for an international ethics organization as opposed to the student who was in the student government and went camping regularly and was on the football team.
Now, these attributes are all important and might have a place in your narrative, but the focus should be on your defining moment. If you can’t identify that moment after you finish your first draft, then you may need to revisit the piece.
Ultimately, scholarship motivation letters are about telling your story in a unique and compelling way. When you submit your final letter, you should feel confident that your reader will walk away from it with a sense of who you are as a person despite having never met you. That way, they’ll get to experience your true self and can decide right away that you are the most qualified and successful candidate for the application.
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