You professor hands you that assignment saying “write me something about airplanes!” You trudge back home only to sit down at your desk and stare at the screen only to end up with exactly as many words as you started with: zero. Even worse, you want to apply for that scholarship, but it requires 250 words maximum (gasp!). This week, I’m going to let you in on my strategy for scholarship essays – I’m not saying that I know everything, but after applying for many scholarships, I have a few tips that might make the process a little bit easier.
1. Find Your Story
The great thing is that if you’re studying aviation, most applications ask you to write about aviation. This is awesome because you love aviation. YOU LOVE AVIATION!!! This should be a piece of cake because you eat, sleep, and breathe it!! “But Lydia” you say, “I still end up with a blank screen!” I know that it still doesn’t solve the problem, but having a topic is half your battle.
In all seriousness, most applications will ask about how you got involved in aviation, why you’re interested in it, and where you see yourself after graduation. With those types of questions, it’s really important to figure out what your story is. How did you get involved in aviation? Was it through your grandpa sharing his passion for flying with you? Did your dad fly for an airline and take you to work where you caught the “bug”? Find a way to craft your unique story of how you came to love, study, and work in aviation.
2. Write Your Story
Once you have your story, refine this story in a written form. Start out by telling your story in a maximum of 1,000 words. I know this seems intimidating, but that’s about two pages, give or take, typed single-spaced. Sometimes the applications will ask for 1,000, 500, or even 250 words – don’t panic, it just means you have to be succinct and tight in your writing (see #3).
A good story should have a) how you were introduced to aviation, b) how you pursued your passion for aviation, and c) where you hope to be in aviation. Of course, don’t forget to read the guidelines for the scholarships because the committees do pay attention closely to your essay in comparison to what they are looking for.
If you aren’t feeling especially inspired, I would suggest setting a timer for 10, 15, or even 20 minutes and free-writing. To free-write, don’t edit anything out – don’t write an introduction, don’t writing an ending; just write. Once you have your story on paper, that’s when you go back with a red marker to shape and mold your story into something that makes sense.
3. Edit Your Story
Now that you have some words on paper, it’s time to print off a copy and edit it. I know you’re flashing back to those college essays and reports that came back covered in red ink that made you feel slightly light-headed and mostly overwhelmed – don’t be!
Edits and feedback are an extremely important part of writing. Since I’m done with those Composition and English classes, I actually miss paying people for their feedback on my writing – okay, maybe I’m just weird like that. In any event, you need to proof read for both content and grammar.
Items such as the proper use of words (your and you’re) are the difference between a well-written essay and someone’s sloppy text message. Don’t be that person! In addition, a natural flow of an essay is key. Edit your essay to have an introduction, paragraphs to support your topics, and a conclusion. I really like the “5 Paragraph Essay” because it allows enough paragraphs for an introduction, three points, and a conclusion. Not all essays are that cut and dried, but it’s a start.
Lastly, when editing you need to be clear and succinct. Get rid of unnecessary, superfluous, complicated, and mostly hard-to-spell words. In short: keep it simple. You may impress the Ph.D.s because you know what superfluous means, but often it is unneeded to get your point across. Let’s face it: you’re just adding to your word count anyways.
You Just Wrote An Essay!
Time to take it easy, eat some pizza, and watch a movie, because you just wrote an essay for that scholarship! My last piece of advice is to take that one essay and adapt it for different applications. In most cases, there are a similar theme running through each application requirement, so it’s easy to tweak it for multiple applications. However, don’t use the same one every year and especially for the same scholarship. Change it up and keep it fresh. Also, your focus in aviation might change from year to year, so it’s important to keep things up to date.
Overall, I promise writing does get easier, but some days even the more experienced writers do find themselves with a blank screen after 20 minutes. Don’t get discouraged because that 3-4 hours of writing may earn you $500, $1,000, or more – you would be earning about $250/hour! Now are you excited to write?
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