How to Write a Scholarship Essay

Starting an essay for a scholarship application can be difficult. We’ve created a strategy to help make it easier and move along faster! Let’s get started:

Write Your Profile: Write a short description about you. Explain why you’re great. Include your strengths, accomplishments, goals and unique characteristics. This may seem obvious but it can be one of the toughest parts to put into writing. It’s incredibly important for you to talk about yourself using a clear story. This will shine through in your essay and help you find relevant scholarships unique to your strengths.

Develop an Outline: This is the foundation of your essay. Preparing your outline before you get into the meat of your story will help you visualize your story from start to finish before putting too much time into writing the specifics. This will help the writing move forward with purpose!

Fill In Your Outline: This is the hard part. If you have a good outline, it will move along much faster. Use the outline below and fill in the gaps. Elaborate on your story, provide examples of your achievements and experience that are fluid and concise. A great writing resource is the Purdue OWL Writing Guide

Beginning | Hello!

Begin your essay by addressing the scholarship committee directly. Don’t go generic here! Be as specific to the scholarship name or agency as you can. A direct address with a specific scholarship or agency name will personalize your essay and level up your application!

Dear [Scholarship name or agency] committee,

Thank you for taking the time to read my application. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to introduce myself and present my accomplishments.

Remember, your essay is your chance to introduce yourself and make a first impression so make sure that your essay is clear, concise and quickly gets into your story. Read your essay out loud. If you’re not past your greeting and introduction within a few seconds, circle back to edit.

Middle | The body of your essay: Your story

Take a 1-2-3 approach to crafting your story:

  1. Past: What experiences, challenges, influences, passions, goals brought you to this point in your academic and life journey?
  2. Present: You are here! But why? Why PSU/Your Major/This School/Community etc.
  3. Future: Put it all together: Where are you headed? With your past experiences informing your current goals, where are you headed? What’s the next big step?

End | That’s a wrap!

Close your essay by explaining how this scholarship will help you achieve your goals. Don’t go generic here, list specific goals that will help you get to where you’re trying to go.

You only need to craft one solid, core essay. Once you build your core essay, you can use it for multiple scholarship applications with simple updates.

Get Search, Application or Essay Help

Sign Up for a PSU Scholarship Workshop

  • Thursday, October 20, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Location SMSU 238
  • Friday, October 28, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Location SMSU 238
  • Monday, November 07, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Location SMSU 238
  • Tuesday, November 15, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Location SMSU 238
  • Wednesday, November 30, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Location SMSU 238

PSU Advising & Career Services Workshops

PSU’s Advising and Career Services offers a selection of workshops aimed toward helping you choose a major and career, answering your questions about internships, preparing you for interviewing, perfecting your resume and cover letter, and more. No need to sign up in advance, just arrive in their office prior to the time the workshop is scheduled to begin.

Visit the PSU Writing Center

The Writing Center aims to help writers at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to the final draft. When preparing for a session, reflect on what you want to focus on the most. It is helpful to bring two drafts, one for you and one for the consultant. Also, if you are working on an assignment for class, bringing a copy of that assignment is preferable. For more information, review our tips for a successful session. Schedule an appointment.

Schedule an Appointment with a PSU Financial Aid Counselor

6 PSU Outdoor Study Spots – Ranked

When the sun is shining, it can be hard to study indoors. Here are 6 places, ranked, to study when you want some fresh air.

10 PSU Indoor Study Spots – Ranked

Portland State University has a ton of great study spaces. Some are designated for quiet work, some are for group work. We’ve ranked the top ten.

Pokémon State University

Everywhere I look, I see people playing Pokémon. It’s so… surreal.

Sometimes it feels like I’m in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the one with Donald Sutherland), but with Pokémon Go. Invasion of the Poké Catchers?

I will admit, though, that I do play. As a lifelong Pokémon fan, I couldn’t pass this up. And it’s pretty fun. I love walking around campus and experiencing what I always wanted to do as a kid. It’s probably the closest I’m ever going to get to catching Pokémon, and I’ll take it.

The best part of the game is how many people around you are also playing. I was walking around campus at night, and there was a huge group of people in front of the SHAC fountain (that’s a hotspot for PokéStops).

As I’m walking, everyone starts freaking out and shouting, yelling about a Dragonite. Of course, I pulled my phone out and tried to catch it, because I’m not going to pass up a chance to catch a Dragonite. I couldn’t do it though. It ran away, and it took my broken heart with it. A friend who was with me managed to catch it, and he would not stop bragging about it. After things settled down, we talked to some of the people who were there. I and others lamented the fact that it escaped, and my friend bragged to everyone about his new Dragonite. This game just adds to why I love PSU. The community is welcoming (although I don’t know about Team Mystic), and the fact that I can find something to do by just walking around campus at night.

There’s never a dull moment in the city and Pokémon Go has made that even more true!

I realize this game isn’t for everyone, but even if you don’t play, this game is a great spectator sport. It’s especially entertaining to watch someone suddenly stop as the try to catch some Pokémon, and it’s even better when the person behind them bumps into them. It spices up people watching, which you can’t get enough of in Portland.

Pokémon Go is huge, and I could see it getting even bigger. I know I’ll keep playing; it’s great for exercise, and just something to do during downtime.

However, let me take this time for a friendly PSA: don’t Pokémon Go and drive. It doesn’t count towards egg hatching anyway.

A Day in the Life of a Biology Major

Valeria just finished her first year at Portland State University. She is in the pre-medical track, majoring in biology.

“I chose to major in biology because I truly love science. I am also interested in pursuing a career in medicine and biology, specifically, how the human body functions and biology focuses exactly on that.”  – Valeria

Watch her video below, where she takes you into her typical day at PSU.

A Day in the On-Campus Life

Shayna has been at PSU for over two years, studying social science with a focus on women’s studies. She is currently living on campus.

“The perks of living on campus are that you are so close to everything; your friends, your classes, your professors, amazing restaurants, concerts, etc. Being in the city opens so many doors and that’s why I love living on campus.” – Shayna

Watch her video below where she takes you into her typical day at Portland State University.

A Day in the Life of a PSU Latina

Naela has been at PSU for 2 years, working on a business administration major with a minor in communications.

“I chose my major because growing up with uncertainty led me to choose a major that could allow me many options and opportunities. Being a PSU Latina, in my opinion, brings another amazing culture in to the diversity at PSU. I’m working to create community within my Latina peers and to encourage them to succeed in professional fields, along with many other cultures as diverse and invested in enforcing social justice and social changes in our unique communities.”  – Naela

Watch her video below, where she takes you into her typical day at Portland State University.

A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineering Major

Alvin is a first year student at Portland State University and is majoring in Civil Engineering.

“My favorite thing about PSU is the food carts. I like Thai Pasta #2 near the Engineering Building, Mississippi Delta and the Asian Grill cart in the park blocks; they are outstanding!” – Alvin

In this video he’ll take you through his typical day at PSU!


Pacific Islanders Club Lu’au Promotes Traditions of Each Island

Every year in May, the Pacific Islanders Clubs holds their main annual event, the Lu’au for all Portland State students and community members to enjoy. It is a festive night that honors the eight Pacific Islands and includes music, food, merchandise, a photo booth, and even a ceremonial Kava Circle. We spoke with Xylia Lydgate, PSU student and coordinator of the Lu’au, to get caught up on the happenings of the event.

This year was my first year as a coordinator for the position and I think it went really well. We got lots of great feedback from the community and over 900 people were in attendance. Lu’au means gathering or celebration and is the biggest event the Pacific Islanders club hosts throughout the year. It is our big chance to have fun and share our culture with the community.

This event is important because most people do not know the different cultures of the eight islands and just associate the stereotypes of grass skirts and hula dances with the pacific islands without knowing much more. With this event, we are trying to break those stereotypes and promote the different aspects of each individual island through dances, food, or traditions. My favorite part of event is the different traditional dances. We start rehearsing in January and work really hard to tell the audience the story and meaning behind the different performances so that can engage in learning in a fun way.

On a more personal level, it helps to have events and cultural groups on campus such as the Pacific Islander club that help people from all over the world who come to Portland State feel more at home. Transitioning to a new place and being so far away from home and family can be difficult.  Sharing a piece of my cultural traditions with others makes me feel welcome and visible on campus.

I chose to come to PSU blind-date-style. I was so intrigued by the city and wanted a college experience in an urban setting so I just went for it, applied, was accepted, and came here on a whim. It turned out to be a perfect match. My advice to anyone going through the process of choosing the right school is to visit with the Admissions Office to see what PSU has to offer, and find out if PSU aligns with what you want in a college, both academically and socially. Being involved in student activities helps smooth the transition process and helped me with first impressions that has led to me having the time of my life.

Advice from a PSU Grad

My time here at PSU has become an incredibly inspiring journey. I have taken the school’s motto, “Let Knowledge Serve the City” and made it my own. Walking on campus one day, I distinctly remember seeing the motto emblazoned on the sky bridge and thinking how incredibly lucky I am. How lucky I am to find myself at such an inclusive and supportive community and to attend a college that has connected me with employers and prepared me for my career.

When I started this journey three years ago, I was a non-traditional international student and English was not my first language. To save the money necessary to come to the U.S. and study for nine months, I had worked multiple jobs for five years. A feeling of pure panic welled up after about six months of being here and I wondered how in the world I was going to come up with enough money to stay at PSU and graduate with a degree.

Luckily, through this difficult time, a community of faculty, mentors and friends supported me and helped me find my way. Over time, I got to know PSU by serving as the coordinator of the International Women’s Group and mentoring freshman students as part of the University Studies program. This community has been incredibly supportive and I’ve found friends for life. I’ve also really enjoyed taking advantage of the incredible opportunities that have been offered to me. Through mentorship programs to networking events, PSU has prepared me to be an incredible professional. I graduated on Sunday with a job offer and an offer to start in PSU’s prestigious Master of Science of Financial Analysis program in the Fall.

My advice for students is to take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way. College is a great time to network and conduct informational interviews with employees from companies you are interested in working for. Personally, I’ve had great opportunities at PSU to grow and learn outside the classroom. One of my most memorable experiences is speaking at the 2015 Simon Benson Awards Dinner and to thank all of the kind people who support scholarships and students like me. It was my first time speaking in front of such a large crowd, more than 1200 people were there! I was honored to be able to thank scholarship donors in person.

No other university works so hard to connect students with each other, staff, faculty, and employers as PSU does. I have found a family and a future here. I think this applies to many other graduates as well. When you graduate you will be able to look around at all the incredible people you’re surrounded by right now, think of how many friendships you’ll create, the love you will find and or the career you will start, all here at PSU.