How do you spell “essay”? “P-O-E-M”

If you take a look at private foundation scholarship applications, you will quickly notice something pretty common about their application process — many of them require an essay.

As an example take a look at Valencia College’s Scholarship Bulletin Board. A quick glance at some of the scholarships listed shows a series of essays required to apply:

  1. “Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you plan to make a positive impact on the world through your career after college.”
  2. “How you have used your creative talents to achieve at your college or university so far?”
  3. “What person, event, or activity in your life thus far has most prepared you for your future? How has this person, event or activity impacted your life?”

So maybe you aren’t an essay writer, or you aren’t even sure where to begin. That’s where moneyman (that’s me) comes in to help!

Time to get writing!!

What you may notice about the essay questions above (and, in fact, almost every essay question asked for scholarships) is that they ask you to say something about your passions; scholarship providers want to get to know you, and your 500 – 1000 word essay is their chance to do that.

So how do you decide what to write about? My advice is to begin by discovering your POEM. The word “POEM” is an acronym to help you focus your essay writing, and it is a great practice to discover your essay topic. Here’s what it means:

  • P stands for Passion. What are you passionate about? Maybe it’s theater, or biology, or football, or video games. Whatever your passion is, this is the perfect place to begin. Scholarship providers want to get to know you, and exploring the things that get you excited is a great way to share your story (and make the essay writing process fun). But your passion is only the beginning. Let’s move on to…
  • O stands for Opportunity. When have you had the chance to explore your passion? What specific chance have you taken to look deeply into the subject you are passionate about? Has this been a class on biology, a theater camp, a video game con? What was a time when you really got “into” your passion?
  • E stands for Experience. Now that you have identified the Opportunity, what one Experience stands out for you? Was it a project in your class, or a game that your team played where you were the underdog? Was it a role that you had a chance to perform in a play, or a time at your job where you had the opportunity to try something new that you have always dreamed about? Finding that experience helps bring you nearer to the final part of this winnowing process, and that is our final letter…
  • M stands for Moment. Find the one moment which was part of your experience that best tells your story. Maybe it was the time your forgot your line on stage in the middle of act two and had to rely on your cast mates to get you through it. Perhaps it was the seconds right before your final project presentation in class when you and your co-presenters had that nervous excitement about how your faculty and classmates would react to your creative style. Maybe it was the time when you didn’t succeed in making the goal (or completing the pass, or hitting a run), and you knew that even in losing in that moment, your passion for your sport would carry you through. Whatever your moment is, THIS is what carries your essay. Through your moment, you can connect back to your passion and an essay reviewer will see you!

So when you write your essay, write about your moment. Find a way to connect your moment to the theme, and you will have an essay that stands out.

Having this already written also helps when you start looking at scholarships. All you need to do then is add an opening and closing paragraph that connect to the particular theme and you have a finished essay you can use in applying to scholarships.

Have you tried writing scholarship essays? Have they been a challenge for you? Moneyman is here to help!!! Feel free to leave your questions or comments below!

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