When faced with the internal question of “why do I deserve this scholarship”, it can feel as if you’re being hit with the ultimate make-it-or-break-it question. That initial response is the first thing to tackle. Rather than looking at your answer as a challenge, it is best to begin with a “glass half full” attitude.

Being asked “Why do you deserve this scholarship?” means you’re closer to the prize; it is an opportunity to define yourself and the qualities that set you apart from the crowd. An enthusiastic point of view is something you can, and should, build into the voice of your answer. A tone of self-confidence and enthusiasm will translate into your response.

To be outstanding, you must stand out. The institution you are requesting a scholarship from gets numerous applications for the money they have set aside to help students with their education finances. Sometimes, the institution plans to divide their money between more than one candidate, but the funds are limited. In the end, they’ll have to determine who is the best fit to receive their support.

Why Do I Deserve This Scholarship?

If you don’t know how to answer this question, consider these tips:

Make an All-About-You Personal Statement

Start with a list of things about you that you consider unique. Think all the way back to your elementary schools and middle school. Do you collect rare coins or figurines? Do you dance? Are you particularly sarcastic, supportive, introverted, empathic, or curious? List experiences you have had in your life up to this point. What world events have you lived through? Who are the people in your life and those outside your life that have meaning, or produce work that has meaning, to you? What are the extracurricular activities you love, things you fear, your list of values, things you want to experience, career aspirations and career goals?

Match a Theme With Your List

Once you have put down your abbreviated personal statement on paper, you can narrow down the characteristics and experiences you feel are most interesting and those that zero-in on who you are. Then, you can look at the different themes you can use to best answer the question. Now that you have yourself down on paper in front of you, you can put your answer together. As you read different suggested themes, which items from your list jump off the page? The combination that is the most dynamic will provide you with the topic for your answer. You might have a few to choose from.

Consider the Institution

Once you have a list of answer themes and the subjects you are excited to write about, take a look again at the institutions from which you are requesting scholarship applications. Knowing the type of institution they are will help you to decide how to answer the question of why do you deserve this scholarship, specifically from them. Perhaps one of your interests or experiences matches theirs. From the best of your ideas, choose the one you think will resonate with that institution. There is always a way to relate something about yourself to their mission or type of business.  Let them know you have a bright future in their area of expertise.

Use Thought Starters to Get You Going

There are a number of themes published to guide you in answering an institution’s question of why do you deserve this scholarship. Just like you looked through the list you wrote about yourself, use this list of suggested topics to kick-start your college essay. These lists of suggested scholarship essay topics are published by professionals. Generally, the institutions you are writing for have suggested them for a reason, so don’t discount them. Suggested themes are available to help you simply because they work.

Remember, you are writing an essay to win a scholarship or to look great on your college applications. You might have great ideas for what you think will make an interesting essay about yourself, but be sure to keep your goal in mind. This essay and supplemental essays are not being written for your parents; it isn’t a piece of art for art’s sake or meant to get you published in a magazine. You are writing your essay answer for the purpose of being awarded money for your education. Stay focused and keep your eye on the prize, and there’s an excellent chance you’ll get it.

Suggested Topics

Here is a compilation of themes and topics that are commonly suggested for answering the question of why do you deserve this scholarship. It is up to you to apply your them to the institution, concluding in a way that addresses the question directly. For instance, if you are writing to earn a scholarship from a children’s museum, and your essay is about a trip you took to Egypt and how it inspired you to study ancient pyramids, you will want to be sure to round out your essay by telling the institute how your education will teach you how to present this part of world history to kids.

Personal Experience

Accomplishments, challenge-based extracurriculars, and even failures you have lived through may have left an impression that has shaped a fundamental value or characteristic of yours. Describe the experience and its direct impact on you. Be sure to add specifics that made the experience (of crisis, success, etc.) unique to you as opposed to giving a generalized description that might apply to anyone. The sounds, smells, and other sensory memories of your experience will set your story apart, bring it to life, and make it interesting. Be sure to include how the experience made a difference in who you are, and what you care about, today.

People Who Inspire You

Think beyond your family members, unless someone in your family has done or said something beyond the wise words that come with being a good example as expected from that relationship. If your parent did something extraordinary beyond their role as “mom” or “dad,” that works. Otherwise, think outside the box, beyond an encouraging teacher or friend.

Did an experiment of Einstein’s make you think about some scientific theory you have been working on since you were young, and now it has gotten you accepted into a specialized school to continue that course of study? What will you do with that discovery? Did you see someone care for another person in a way that inspired you to want to work with those less fortunate than you, or who are suffering in some way? Why do you deserve this scholarship? Writing about such impressive experiences you’ve had learning from someone extraordinary will definitely work to answer that question.

World Events Past and Present

Events that occurred during your lifetime, which have impacted the lives of a great deal or all of the population, are topics that are easily relatable to leaders who are trying to find the right match for their support. Perhaps a natural disaster affected you and your family and instilled an interest in an area of study or a purpose in you. A past or historical event might have touched you in some unexpected or deep way that has turned your interest in a certain direction. Do not choose events that are controversial, like religion and government, as both are hot buttons for most. You do not want to risk personal beliefs impeding your goal. Remember that “keep your eye on the prize” statement? Stick with non-controversial events. Earthquakes shake everybody up in the same way. Politicians and religious milestones do not.

Extracurricular Activities

Besides your school classes and activities, what have you done that has shaped your personality, interests, and goals? If you have had a lifetime of participation in a specialized course of study, philanthropic activity, or area of art that has made a deep impression on you, that could tell the institution, where you are applying for financial support the answer to the question of why do you deserve this scholarship. Remember to keep your story from getting too generic. Your specific reactions, thoughts, and feelings need to be the story–not the class or experience specifics, as you will lose your audience, and possibly the scholarship.  Extracurricular essay topics can be a great way to set you apart from the crowd.

Be the Change

This theme gives you the opportunity to take a deep dive into what has inspired you and how you are motivated to make a difference in your future career, your town, or your world. Scholarships are overwhelmingly given to those with a passion to do something beyond the norm that will benefit others in some way. The imprint you want to make will leave a positive imprint that will increase your chances to win the scholarship.

Lesson Learned

Failures, especially big and personal ones, usually propel us to turn a corner and take another route. Don’t be afraid to talk about your mistakes, as they are very things that encourage greatness and future careers. No one is immune to failure. It is a highly relatable topic that those in a position to support you will respond to with appreciation for your honesty and the wisdom gained from your experience. Do not include problems concerning the law or that could give the impression you are vulnerable to negative or dangerous behavior. Common sense and displaying critical thinking is key here.

Be Smart and From the Heart

It is critical that you are conscientious in your writing. After you put your thoughts down on paper and have a first draft, review what you’ve written and make sure your essay answer flows in a logical order to tell your story and make your case. Refine your opening and closing, as these personal statements need to catch and keep the reader’s interest and persuade them to act on your behalf. Write clean grammar and proofread your work. Ask someone else to review your essay for errors. Proofread it again. We can’t stress enough the importance of paying attention to structure and correct grammar. It won’t matter how extraordinary your thoughts are if you express them in an extraordinarily bad piece of writing.


Whether you end up writing an extracurricular activity essay, a challenge-based essay, a social justice based essay, supplemental essays or a mission trip essay just make sure it isn’t a boring essay.

Make a personal statement and write your truth. Although your structure must be strict, your feelings must also translate in a way that pulls the reader in and makes them believe they are learning something special about you. Take the time and do it right. Once you have a well-written essay drafted, you can shape it to fit most of your college applications and scholarship applications. Crafting a great essay is time well-spent; it will leave no question unanswered when answering the internal question of “why do I deserve this scholarship”.  Following this essay guide to win a scholarship or to get into your dream school is a quick step to a bright future.

Related Links:

14 Helpful Tips For How To Write A Scholarship Essay (And Win!)

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