Tips for Writing a Scholarship Application Letter



Not unlike a cover letter for a resume, the scholarship application letter can help set candidates apart by demonstrating both worthiness and need for the financial assistance. While talking about ourselves and our accomplishments can feel awkward, those reviewing application letters rely on these footnotes to help them vet applicants and refine their selection process. So, try to lay insecurities aside and use these tips to make the best introduction for yourself.   

Make a list. Check it twice. Get the awkward part out of the way first, and make a list of accomplishments, activities and personal milestones. Creating a bulleted list of these items that is easily referenced or expanded over time can simplify the application process. If that list seems a little short, do not be discouraged. Emphasize the quality of your experience in the body of the letter. (Have you been looking for ways to gain meaningful industry experience and build your network? Consider becoming an MICPA Student Champion).  

Always do your research. While searching for opportunities, be sure to pay special attention to the purpose of the scholarship, the organization offering it and how it aligns with their mission. Look for ways to connect that mission with your own goals and ambitions. Carefully read the requirements and submission instructions including the application deadline. Aside from demographic-specific criteria, candidates who find programs for which they meet most of the criteria should apply even if they do not meet all the qualifications. According to Forbes, $100 million of scholarship funds remained unclaimed every year, largely due to a lack of applicants.  

Start with the basics. Create a template for your essay that includes a heading where reviewers can easily find contact information as well as any details specifically requested by the awarding organization. According to Indeed, this information could include your high school alma mater or the institution in which you are currently enrolled. Once the heading is complete, outline the letter itself using the MLA style or similar format as a guide so that it includes the following components:  

  • Introduction 

  • Body 

  • Include Headings for each key point and subheadings for supportive information, with brief notes about each supporting fact. 

  • Conclusion 

Avoid reporting. Though the application letter is technically an essay, it is not a report and there is a fine line applicants must walk between sounding too impersonal and too wordy. While it is important to maintain professionalism throughout the letter, it is equally important to include elements of one’s personality and story. Try to draw the reader in by opening the introductory paragraph with a hook to pique their interest. Whatever the ‘hook’, make certain it can transition cleanly into the next point.  

Constant vigilance. Application deadlines are always closer than they appear. Post University advises students to always start early on their scholarship hunt. Because every deadline will be different, it is crucial to start requesting letters of recommendation and outlining the essay early. Reduce time at the keyboard by finding ways to reuse and repurpose one or two different essays rather write an original letter for every program. Usually, with a bit of revising, a single essay or letter can be tweaked and used for multiple applications.  

Do you have scholarship letter and essay writing tips to share? Tell @MICPA on Facebook, LinkedIn and X how you make your applications stand out! 

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