A lot of time and effort goes into crafting an application, as well as studying to improve GPA and ACT / SAT scores to go with it. It also takes time to write a really good college application essay. So wouldn’t it be ideal to reuse one essay on multiple college applications to save time?
Yes it would save time, and can save time, but only under certain circumstances. See, many colleges will ask for similar questions or essay prompts to include with your application. Who is your biggest hero? Why do you want to attend this college? If you’ve already written an essay that happens to fit with another college’s similar prompt, then it should take you no time at all to spruce it up and submit it. Reusing the same essay is just fine.
But it won’t work in every case. Some colleges will ask for different prompts, in which case you’ll just have to write another essay to submit. You want to make sure each essay you submit—even if you’re reusing it—is tailor-made for the college you’re applying to. That might mean just a few edits here and there, or it may mean overhauling your essay, or simply writing a new one.
Be wary of submitting something too generic to multiple colleges. You still want to make each one feel personalized. Long story short: Make sure you’re still answering the prompt, and tailor the message/wording of each essay to the college you’re submitting to. It’s ok to reuse an essay if you’re smart about it.
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You can’t just Xerox your essay, but you don’t have to do much more than that.
In the first post of the How to Write a Winning Scholarship Essay series, I claimed that you could write one scholarship essay and reuse it to apply for dozens of other scholarships.
It’s now time for me to back up that claim.
The most common essay prompt in the scholarship world is the 500-word Personal Statement/Career Goals essay.
We’ve already discussed how to write a wicked version of this essay. It would suck to put that much effort into writing a killer essay and never use it again, wouldn’t it?
The key to winning a ton of scholarship dollars is to apply for as many scholarships as possible, while decreasing the actual amount of work required for every additional scholarship. Reusing your essay reduces the majority of the actual work required to apply for a scholarship.
“TWEAKING” YOUR SCHOLARSHIP ESSAY
I like to compartmentalize the essay into sections (opening, story, goal, and wrap-up). Editing your essay to meet the requirements of a new scholarship becomes much easier when you write an essay in this format. Why? Because, really, the only sections that will change from scholarship to scholarship will be the goal and wrap-up.
Let’s say you’ve written a Personal Statement essay that followed this structure. Now, you come across a scholarship that has the following prompt:
“In 500 words or less, please describe your career goals, leadership experience, and community service experience as it relates to your intended career in engineering.”
At first glance, you might think: “Ugh, now I have to write a whole new essay.” FALSE! This is a common re-wording of the same prompt.
HOW TO GO ABOUT ADJUSTMENTS
First, if you are truly trying to become an engineer, then your original essay should make a connection between your story to why you want to be an engineer anyway.
Second, scholarship providers are not scoring your essay based on how many of the points you hit. This isn’t the SAT. A compelling story that focuses on why you will be an amazing engineer still answers this prompt better than 99.9% of the other applicants.
Also, if you’d like to pat yourself on the back a bit (and talk about your leadership/community service experience), add a couple of lines in your “goals” paragraph.
THE MOST IMPORTANT CHANGE
Please please please please please (please)please double-check the essay to make sure that you reference the correct scholarship name. No matter how brilliant of an essay you write, if you mention the wrong scholarship provider, you will not win the scholarship.
In general, enough scholarships out there have a career goals prompt. That means you should really never have to write more than one essay—and you’ll still be able to apply for dozens of scholarships.
Have a question about writing your scholarship essay? Share it in the comments.