Everybody has something that’s caused them pain, suffering, sadness, or even temporary defeat.
I don’t know what struggles you or your family may be facing, but I’m here to tell you to channel that pain for good.
I’ve worked with students who’ve lost someone close to them from cancer or other illnesses, and I’ve seen families torn apart due to drugs, violence, divorces, heartbreak, or death.
Some of my students were picked on, hurt, and made to feel like less valuable human beings.
Others messed up, stopped caring, doubted, and simply failed.
Whatever you’re going through that is painful, sad, or emotional are the kinds of things I want you to use in your essays as inspiration.
Getting Through Tough Times
For me, my senior year of high school was extremely hard.
My life changed forever after I suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon tear.
Shortly after, my grandfather passed away. The man that I had spent so much of my childhood playing with and learning from… My personal softball, basketball, and track coach… My mentor… My friend…was gone.
I wasn’t emotionally ready.
It’s just not something you can ever fully prepare for or be ready to face, but it’s something that stays with us forever – whether we’d like to admit it or not.
After my injury and my grandfather’s death, I channeled that pain into my scholarship writing. I used it as my strength to help me make it through the grieving process.
While the scholarships were nice, the peace, happiness, personal growth, and understanding held much more value.
I was able to reconnect with myself and find what made me happy again.
I ended up spending my time painting, working out, reading, praying, spending time with family and friends, and reconnecting with myself.
Now I’m not one to get “super deep” all the time, but if you’ve read anything on Scholarship Informer, then you know I believe in having real and honest conversations.
Students will often submit essays that they feel the committee wants to hear instead of essays that the committee needs to hear.
How did that car accident change your family?
How did that death impact your relationships with people around you?
How did bullying affect you?
How to Tell Your Story in Your Scholarship Essays
Here’s what I suggest when trying to write a scholarship essay from a place that may be painful for you and your family.
Step #1: Go Back
Close your eyes and go back to that moment. Relive the emotions you felt.
I don’t want you going “over the edge”, but I do want you to revisit those feelings and thoughts. How does it make you feel emotionally? Physically?
When doing this exercise, don’t stay there too long. A few minutes or less is all the time you need to do this.
Write how you’re feeling and label it: Moment.
Share your feelings, thoughts, and emotions about this moment in time.
Step #2: Go Forward
You’ve seen in the movies where the scene fast-forwards to reality. It kind of gives you that time-warp feel. Do that here.
From that moment you just relived in Step 1, bring yourself back to where you are today.
Stop and take in the good moments, triumphs, happiness, and smiles.
I understand, if the incident is fresh, it may be more difficult, but what have been some of the happier moments between then and now? At least one positive thing has to have happened.
Write down the meaningful milestones between then and now as well as how you felt at each point. Spend 3-5 minutes on each milestone. Label them: Meaningful Milestones.
Your Next Scholarship Essay Steps
After you’ve completed this exercise, believe it or not, you’ve just started at least one scholarship essay.
That’s right! It just takes a matter of minutes. And depending on how detailed you’ve been, you could probably pull 3-5 essays (or more) out of the work you’ve just done.
Here’s an example of how it works.
Scholarship Essay Example
Take a look at how this process works and my scholarship essay example. Apply it to your own moments and meaningful milestones.
Step #1: Go Back
Moment: Being Overweight as a Child
Feelings/Thoughts/Emotions: I always wanted to wear cute clothes like the other girls in my classes, but instead my mom would dress me in bright, colorful spandex shorts. Not only was I an overweight kid, I was a tall, overweight kid. There was absolutely no way for me to fit into any crowd.
Step #2: Go Forward
Meaningful Milestone #1: Over the summer when I would stay with my dad in Ohio, we would always go out to eat. I would order anything I wanted on the menu…and man did I order. Because of this, I came back home to Texas weighing more than when I had left. Oftentimes, I couldn’t fit into the school clothes my mom had purchased over the summer because of my additional weight. I would cry because I was disappointed, and probably more so because I felt ashamed and guilty.
Meaningful Milestone #2: My 6th grade PE teacher knew how important it was for me to keep my weight down over the summer if I wanted to play basketball in middle school. She knew how good of a basketball player I could be, so she talked to me privately and held nothing back. She told me that I would have to control my eating over the summer.
I came back home that summer and could actually fit into the school clothes my mother had bought for the upcoming school year!!!!!! I remember being sooo happy. I’m pretty sure I was crying except, they were happy tears of joy this time. It felt good to not have to go shopping for clothes that would fit.
Meaningful Milestone #3: By the time I got to the varsity basketball team in high school, I had a summer workout schedule and regimen that kept me in tip-top shape. I was hardly, if ever, subbed out of basketball games because my stamina endured.
Scholarship Essay Example:
Scholarship Prompt: Talk about how you overcame a challenging period of your life.
“I was the overweight kid in elementary school. Better yet, I was the tall, overweight kid that could not hide — no matter how hard I sometimes tried.
While the physical weight was something that held me down, the mental weight that came along with it was something that held me back. At times, it was too much to be me and to be seen.
Weight was a serious concern to my mom and was evidenced in the lunch I took to school. Fat-free this, no-flavor that. I was eating, but the child in me was not living.
It wasn’t until my 6th grade PE teacher made me look beyond my scale. She pulled me to the side, looked me in the face, and said, “You can be good. You can be a really good basketball player when you move on to middle school, but you’ve got to keep your weight down over the summer. You can do it. I believe in you, Gabrielle.”
That summer, I believed in me.
I kept my weight down.
I realized that I was simply a kid that loved food; I still do. However, the real reason I lost the weight was because I changed my mentality.
Even though that transformative period happened years ago, the lesson has stuck with me as a college student.”
Create Your Scholarship Essays
As you complete this exercise by yourself or with family, remember to be authentic.
Write and reflect on multiple meaningful moments. From happy to sad and everything in between, spend some time working on this. Just try it out.
It doesn’t have to be perfect or even close to perfect.
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You never know if the essay you write will save someone from suicide, encourage someone to step out of their comfort zone, make someone laugh for the first time in months, or just make someone feel good about what they do and why they do it.
Committee members are people too. We like to read something and feel the visceral effects.
Help us to remember your story.
Help us to connect with YOU.
Feature Image Artwork Credit: iStockPhoto/adamkaz