So you’ve filled out all the basic information on your scholarship application. You’ve ordered your transcripts. You’ve even asked your professor for a letter of recommendation. You can’t put it off any longer – it’s time to write the essay.

For many students, writing an essay is the hardest part of applying for a scholarship. However, it’s also one of the most important. At Doyon Foundation, the competitive scholarship essay is worth 40 points out of a total of 120 possible points.

To help you tackle the challenge, we asked some of our top-scoring scholarship recipients to share their secrets to writing a successful essay.

How do you come up with ideas for your essay?

I think of what I have accomplished in the past year that has been meaningful to me. Everyone has different interests and passions and even little successes deserve to be acknowledged and written about in an essay.”

– Nicole Fennimore, MD student, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Rasmuson Health Doctorate Scholarship Recipient

I don’t think of the essays as essays, I think of them as a glimpse into my life story and life goals.”

– Jessica Ullrich, Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work, Tanana Chiefs Conference Health Scholarship Recipient

“In order to write a competitive scholarship essay, know what you are being asked to write. It is essential to know who you are writing for, be aware of the mission of the organization whose scholarship you are applying for, and align their mission to yours.”

– Christina Edwin, Bachelor’s of Arts in Rural Development, Natural Resources Undergraduate Scholarship Recipient

The most important part of writing a scholarship essay is to be yourself. It is tough to truly represent yourself through essays, they feel so formal and strict. Remember the judges are looking for someone genuine and hardworking. Since you’re applying for a scholarship, you probably already got that part down. All you need to do is tell your story. That alone will make you stand out, because everyone’s story is unique and special in a different way. Even if you feel like your story is the same as everyone else’s, your perspective is unique. Be honest and tell the judges your motivation, inspiration, and why you chose the path that you did. Don’t be afraid to be optimistic, tell the judges how well you do in school, and how hard you work. All in all, relax and tell your story. You are already unique, you don’t need embellishments to set yourself apart.”

– Kaylen Demientieff, Associate’s of Applied Science in Radiologic Technology, Committee’s Choice Scholarship Recipient

What is your process for writing your essay?

“I give myself time to edit and make corrections. So procrastinating until the day it’s due doesn’t work well for me.”

– Jessica Ullrich, Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work, Tanana Chiefs Conference Health Scholarship Recipient

“Allow yourself enough time to brainstorm, create an outline, and revise until you’re satisfied. I like to write in blocks, write a few different times throughout a week-long period. Also, it is highly advisable to seek at least one, even better is two people who can read your essay, at least a week before the due date, to allow enough time for revision.”

– Christina Edwin, Bachelor’s of Arts in Rural Development, Natural Resources Undergraduate Scholarship Recipient

“I divide my thoughts into categories: What am I proud of in terms of my schooling? What impact have I made on my community? Have I taken on any extra-curricular activities, such as volunteering or working? How will I carry my Native culture into my next endeavor? I write the categories as separate paragraphs and then go back and revise the paragraphs a little bit to make them flow together.”

– Nicole Fennimore, MD student, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Rasmuson Health Doctorate Scholarship Recipient

If you hit a roadblock when you are writing, how do you get around it?

When you hit a roadblock writing, because everyone does, take a break. When you come back to the essay you will have a fresh mind and perspective. Never be afraid to ask for help. Your fellow students and teachers have probably written scholarship essays before and will be glad to help you with yours.”

– Kaylen Demientieff, Associate’s of Applied Science in Radiologic Technology, Committee’s Choice Scholarship Recipient

“First, I put the essay away for the rest of the day or maybe even a few days. Coming back to the essay with a fresh mind is often enough to get around the block. If that doesn’t work, I try to remind myself of what experiences have been important to me and try to write from my heart.”

– Nicole Fennimore, MD student, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Rasmuson Health Doctorate Scholarship Recipient

What one piece of advice would you give to students currently working on their essay?

“Most importantly, be yourself, you are an expert of your experiences, share them.”

– Christina Edwin, Bachelor’s of Arts in Rural Development, Natural Resources Undergraduate Scholarship Recipient

“I let my passion come through in my writing. I truly believe in the work that I do and I want to convey my commitment to helping community, families and children. We all have roles and gifts to share in doing that work. I explain what my path has been and talk about where I’m going.”

– Jessica Ullrich, Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work, Tanana Chiefs Conference Health Scholarship Recipient

“No matter how good the content of your essay you must spell check it and double check your grammar. It is always good to have a friend of family member read through your essay, they may catch something you overlook.”

– Kaylen Demientieff, Associate’s of Applied Science in Radiologic Technology, Committee’s Choice Scholarship Recipient

“Be you. Even if you think that something you have done isn’t worth writing about or if you think that someone else wouldn’t enjoy reading it, it is probably more interesting and amazing than you realize. So, go for it.”

– Nicole Fennimore, MD student, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Rasmuson Health Doctorate Scholarship Recipient

Thank you, Nicole, Jessica, Kaylen and Christina, for your essay-writing advice!

Remember, the application deadline for Doyon Foundation fall 2016 basic and competitive scholarships is coming up Monday, May 16.

If you have any questions or need any assistance, please contact Maurine McGinty, our scholarship program manager, at mcgintym@doyon.com or 907.459.2049. Best of luck to all of our students!

Would you like an extra set of eyes on your competitive scholarship essay? If so, the Doyon Foundation Alumni Association members would be happy to help!

A group of alumni association members have offered to review Doyon Foundation students’ competitive scholarship essays before the May 15 deadline. The essay is an important part of your application, worth up to 40 possible points (out of a total of 120 possible points), so all applicants are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity.

If you would like to have your essay proofread, please contact Doris Miller at millerd@doyon.com. To allow adequate time for review, please send your essay no later than Monday, May 11 at 5 p.m.

For more information on the competitive scholarship application process, please visit our website.