500 words. It doesn’t sound like much. But when you’re asked to write a 500 word essay, you’re not alone if you find yourself staring aimlessly at a blank screen — especially when it comes to essays for college and scholarship applications.
Why? Because, often, you’re trying to write it using the standard essay format you learned in school. You know the format. It typically goes like this: introduction with a thesis statement, body paragraphs supporting the thesis, and conclusion paragraphs that restate your thesis.
BUT college admissions officers and scholarship selection committees usually aren’t looking for those types of 500 word essays.
So, how do you write the type of 500 word essay that can help you get into college andwin college scholarships? Keep reading! Because, in this blog post, we’re going to discuss:
- How the goal of a college or scholarship essay is different from the goal of an academic paper
- How to format a 500 word essay for college and scholarship applications
- 2 examples of essays you can look to for inspiration
- 5 tips to help improve your writing process when writing these essays
Let’s dive into that first point right now!
Your goal when writing college and scholarship application essays is simple: stand out as one of the most qualified and interesting applicants. And that’s much different from the goal you have when writing an academic paper for a high school or college class.
In those classes, you’re usually writing essays to explain, argue for, or defend an idea. For example, your high school teacher might ask you to write a 500 word essay on a topic like,“Is testing products on animals ethical?”
But you’re unlikely to find this type of question on college and scholarship applications. Why? Because few college admissions officers and scholarship selection committees want to read thousands upon thousands of essays from students who all write about the same thing using the same structure.
They’d much rather learn more about what makes you and your way of thinking unique! And that’s why you’re more likely to find essay prompts like:
- “Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?”(Coalition Application)
- “Tell us about what you value in a community and how your perspective, lived experiences, or beliefs might contribute to your College community.”(Sarah Lawrence College)
- “How has creativity helped you in problem solving?”(Dixie Belle Paint Company Scholarship)
Do you see what we’re talking about? Your goal with these types of essays isn’t to make an evidence-based argument to support a thesis statement. Nope. Your goal with this essay type is to give the person reading it a better idea of who you are as a person!
But how do you format and write such an essay? Let us show you how!
To write an amazing essay for college and scholarship applications you’ve got to use your creative writing skills. And, oftentimes, that means breaking the standard “introduction, body paragraphs, conclusion” essay format you’d use for high school or college papers.
Here’s a format you can follow instead.
The first one or two lines of your essay are the most important. And, therefore, they need to be engaging. Because, if they’re not, do you know what your reader is likely to do? Skim. Scan. And get bored real quick.
That’s why for these types of 500 word essays, you’ve got to start with a hook introduction. What’s that? It’s an opening to your essay that’s so intriguing that your reader can’t help but keep reading because they’re hooked and want to know more.
There are a few ways to go about writing a hook introduction. Check out some of the awesome examples in this video from the College Essay Guy.
Context for the hook
Now that you’ve got your reader hooked, you need to give them context. Why are you telling this story? What’s the importance of this moment in your life? What does it say about you?
Bring your reader into your essay using descriptive details that show rather than tell why you’re a deserving applicant. If you’re not sure what it means to show rather than tell, don’t worry. We explain that writing technique in the 5 essay writing tips we share later in this blog post.
Examples that showcase your strengths
Once you’ve given context, your job is to tell the story in a way that showcases your strengths that are related to the essay prompt. For instance, if the prompt asks you about creativity in problem solving, walk your reader through a moment you creatively solved a complex problem.
BUT please resist the urge to be too obvious. You don’t need to say something like “this story is a great example of how I creatively solve problems.” Why? Because that’s boring, and you know it!
That boring sentence is also a great example of doing more telling than showing, which is the opposite of what you want to do. Again, you want to describe your strengths in a way that makes them clear and memorable in your readers’ minds.
A conclusion that makes it clear you’ve responded to the essay prompt
You’re almost done! Now, you just need to wrap up your story nicely with a strong conclusion. But, again, this isn’t a research paper for your World History class. So, ditch boring phrases like “in conclusion” or “in summary”. Instead, use natural language to tell the end of the story.
But also remember: this is an essay to get you into college or win scholarship money. So, make sure you’ve fully responded to the prompt. For example, in scholarship applications, you may want to wrap up your essay by specifically stating how the scholarship will benefit your education.
Want to see some examples before you start writing your 500 word essay? Good idea! Here are two examples of winning essays that ditched the standard essay format and told an engaging, memorable story related to the essay prompt.
Example 500 Word Essay #1
The first essay comes from a student admitted to Johns Hopkins University. The essay was originally posted on JHU’s “Essays that Worked”section of its undergraduate admissions website.
Essay prompt: Founded on a spirit of exploration and discovery, Johns Hopkins University encourages students to share their perspectives, develop their interests and pursue new experiences. Use this space to share something you’d like the admissions committee to know about you (your interests, your background, your identity or your community) and how it has shaped what you want to get out of your college experience at Hopkins.
Essay length:400 words
I cannot dance.
This is not something I often admit willingly; in fact, it is quite baffling to me how horribly incapable I am at performing even the most basic movements on command. My grandmother often describes it as “a tragedy” as she is forced to watch her grandchild absolutely butcher our country’s cultural dances, beautiful expressions of our unique West African roots turned into poor facsimiles by my robotic movements.
And yet, year after year, I find myself taking the dance floor at my family’s events, seemingly unaware of my objective lack of skill. Eventually, my display proves to be so amazingly unbearable that I am removed from the floor and shown the correct movements over and over again until I am able to replicate them well enough to come back. Bizarrely, despite my previous declaration that I cannot dance, for the past three years, I have found myself performing an entire choreographed routine at my school’s yearly pep rallies.
It is through looking back at these events that I realize that I have created a mischaracterization of my dancing abilities through my decisive first sentence. I can dance and am, in fact, very capable of doing so, but not when I act insularly. My ability to dance correlates directly with how willing I am to collaborate, the input and support of others turning the uncoordinated and unwieldy into the near-graceful.
My attempts at dancing have led me to value community and collaboration greatly, and I find myself seeking and being drawn towards environments that will allow me to continue to develop both of these values as I learn and grow. Through my internship with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, I was exposed to and became fascinated by the collaborative spirit that lies at the heart of Johns Hopkins. The idea that one cannot discover or innovate when working alone was affirmed during my research, and I have come to see that mutual collaboration and community are integral aspects of Johns Hopkins’ unique culture. From the research initiatives that breach the boundaries between class levels, to the many organizations such as the Tutorial Project, relying on the shared initiatives of different students to directly make an impact on Baltimore and its many communities, and the distinctive access to especially interdisciplinary topics such as neuromorphic systems, I view that Johns Hopkins exemplifies the peak of collaborative achievement in education.
Example 500 Word Essay #2
This second example essay was written by a student who won the Women’s World Banking’s Founder’s Scholarship.
Essay prompt:Unfortunately, there’s no information listed about the essay prompt on the foundation’s website. But, based on the content of the essay, we assume that this was an essay asking the student to explain why she deserved this scholarship.
Essay length:464 words
“Twice a week I head down to volunteer at the Los Sures Social Services office, situated next to the local senior citizen home, to help at the food pantry. We distribute food to people in my neighborhood. Many are familiar faces. Many are middle-aged Hispanic women with children dangling from their hips like grass skirts. These women are there as a result of their culture and lack of financial knowledge. In our Spanish culture, patriarchy prevents women from preparing for themselves as much as they should. This leads to Hispanic women having little or no money management skills. Financial illiteracy is a major issue in my neighborhood, and that is why I hope to give Hispanic women a chance for a better future through financial education.
While I was volunteering I met a woman who happened to live in the same building as my aunt. Unemployed with two young children, and a husband earning minimum wage at a fast food restaurant, she struggled to get by every day. I thought to myself – many in my community are just like her. Then I realized I could do something to help. How? I can start a financial literacy program, which teaches Hispanic women to earn and manage money. Once a woman becomes financially literate, she is capable of making good personal and professional decisions, empowering her to improve her family’s financial well-being. Moreover, such a program will help Hispanic women become competitive employees, even in a slow recovering economy such as the one we are experiencing now.
Participating in the 2013 Women’s World Banking Global Meeting in Amman, Jordan gives me access to invaluable resources that will help me achieve this goal. I hope to find mentors from a roomful of inspiring, experienced leaders who will offer me their guidance. Also, meeting accomplished women from other countries means access to new ideas and unique perspectives. And if I am lucky, I may even come across individuals who can provide financial support to jumpstart my financial literacy program for Hispanic women. Lastly, I will tell my idea to everyone I meet in Jordan, a baby step to help Hispanic women rise from poverty.
The world continues to change rapidly, especially with globalization. It is about time that Hispanic women strive for gender equality. Thus, it is essential that Hispanic women increase their roles and knowledge in finance. The women in my neighborhood shall no longer be left out. I will task myself to help these women become better, stronger and most importantly, take control of their lives. I want to be involved so that they can save themselves from any unforeseen financial crisis. This is a tremendous goal, but for me, it is an opportunity to make a difference – in my neighborhood and for my Spanish community.”
There are tons of essay writing tips we could share with you on how to write amazing essays and improve your writing process. But, in this section, we’ll share just 5 of the tips we think are most important. For even more tips, you can check out our ultimate essay writing guide onhow to write scholarship essays!
#1 Tell a story about yourself related to the prompt
Remember, admissions officers and scholarship selection committees are going to read hundreds, if not thousands, of essays all responding to the same writing prompt. The only way to truly make sure your essay stands out is to write about something no one else can write about. And the only way to do that is to structure your essay around a unique story from your life!
#2 Start your essay with a strong hook statement
We know we already said it. But we have to emphasize the importance of a hook introduction again! Because it’s a common mistake for college and high school students to start their introduction paragraph with something like, “I’m deserving of this scholarship because…”
But that type of opening sentence is boring. It’s predictable. And it just screams that you didn’t even try to be creative. We know you don’t want that. So, start your essay strong using one of the writing techniques mentioned in the video we shared earlier in this article.
#3 Use descriptive language
Another way to keep your readers engaged is to use descriptive language that forces them to use their imagination. This is what it means toshow rather than tell.
For example, instead of saying something like, “I felt scared to give a speech in front of my class” you can describe exactly how it felt. How? By saying something like, “as soon as I got to the front of the class, I could feel the hairs stand up on the back of my neck and my palms begin to sweat. But I took a long sip of water and told myself I just needed to focus on one word at a time.”
When you show what you mean using descriptive writing rather than simply tell, you let readers see things from your perspective. And, as a result, you get them to root for you along your journey!
#4 Stick to the word count
As you may have noticed in the example essays, you don’t always need to write exactly 500 words. You should do your best to get close to that word count. But it’s no problem if you write less as long as it’s within the recommended word count.
However, what you definitely cannot do is write more than 500 words. Why not? Well, for one, writing too many words might make your reader think that you don’t know how to follow instructions.
It might also be impossible to input more than 500 words for your essay if you’re applying online. So, if the prompt asks for 500 words, aim to write somewhere between 400-500 words!
#5 Don’t submit your first draft
Your first draft for any essay will never be your best draft. And that’s okay. It isn’t supposed to be. That’s why it’s important to give yourself enough time to proofread and edit your work before you submit your applications.
We recommend using writing and editing tools likeGrammarly, reading your essay aloud, and letting someone else proofread. By doing so, you’re more likely to catch grammar and spelling mistakes, confusing sentences, or anything that can leave readers with a bad impression.
Writing a 500 word essay for college and scholarship applications is not the same as writing an academic paper for high school and college classes.
The essays you write for these applications should be engaging and tell an interesting story. To do that well, you’re better off avoiding the standard essay format that calls for an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph.
Instead, follow the advice we’ve shared in this blog post and make sure your essay includes:
- A hook introduction
- Context for the hook
- Examples that showcase your strengths
- A conclusion that makes it clear you’ve responded to the essay prompt
If you follow that formula, you’ll be on your way to writing better college and scholarship essays!
Need help finding scholarships to try out the techniques you’ve learned? Download theScholly App! It’s the #1 scholarship app in the world that instantly matches you with hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships based on your interests, accomplishments, and traits!
The format of a 500-word scholarship essay is similar to a shorter essay. Each paragraph is about 75-125 words, and it consists of 3-5 well-written sentences. If you are writing a story or personal anecdote, the formatting can be more like a novel than a news article. It is ok to use 10% less or more words.What is a good first sentence for a scholarship essay? ›
What is a good introduction sentence for a scholarship essay? The best choice is to write an attention-grabbing sentence. It should be something persuading or intriguing that will make a person continue reading your essay with great interest. Avoid long explanations or introductions.How do you write a scholarship essay and win big? ›
- Plan ahead. Don't procrastinate! ...
- Talk about your accomplishments. Be clear and to the point. ...
- State your need. What is your financial situation? ...
- Keep it simple. Don't use unnecessary words (i.e., don't use three words when one will do) ...
- Make it easy on your reader.
- Times New Roman font.
- 12-point font size.
- Double spaced.
- 1” margins (top, bottom, and side)
- An indent before each paragraph.
- Your last name and page numbers (only for long essays) on the top, left side of the page.
- Use PDF format by default unless the website requires something else.
When introducing yourself in a scholarship essay, start by introducing yourself and your educational status. Then, discuss how the scholarship will help your educational pursuits and how your education can help your career.What should a scholarship essay say? ›
A typical scholarship essay topic will likely ask students about their career goals and their plan to achieve those goals, Matthews says. Other essay prompts might ask students what they've done to make their community a better place or to describe a personal achievement and how they overcame challenges to reach it.What is a good first sentence for an essay? ›
The “hook” is the first sentence of your essay introduction. It should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of why it's interesting. To write a good hook, avoid overly broad statements or long, dense sentences. Try to start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader's curiosity.What is a good sentence for scholarship? ›
She got a scholarship to Yale University. The organization is offering five $5,000 scholarships. The essay is a work of serious scholarship. The book is about his life and scholarship.
Talk about your Passion and Persistence
Letting your passion show through in your answer allows the committee to see your dedication. You deserve this scholarship based on your love of learning, your enjoyment of your field, or your passion for growth.
Put It in Writing
Ask the school if it can offer more scholarship money to make your attendance more feasible. Applicants should use family circumstances as compelling reasons for the school to reconsider. A substantial income change, medical issues, or childcare expenses could help sway the decision in your favor.
Your response to this question should lay out a plan for your future. Explain what or who inspired you to pursue a particular field and why. Include how this scholarship will help you on your career path and what you would like to do once you have completed college or the program.How do you write a hook for a scholarship essay? ›
A hook is one to two sentences at the start of your essay that capture the reader's attention and encourage them to keep reading. A great way to write a hook is to use a personal story or a powerful statement! Tell them your story and give a snapshot of your character.How do you start and end a scholarship essay? ›
- Recall your introduction. ...
- Build on past points, don't repeat them. ...
- Discuss your plans for the future. ...
- Thank your reader for their time. ...
- Remember to proofread!
Your motivation letter will describe your relevant experience, highlight your strengths, and propose future work to show the reader why you deserve the award. This will be your chance to define your goals, explain what you plan to achieve, and show your potential. They usually range from 400 to 700 words.How do you end a scholarship essay? ›
Wrap it up with just a couple of sentences. You can show how your education has made a difference so far, thank the committee for considering your application. Avoid anything too lofty or idealistic like "with this scholarship, I can change the world."
Don't use words like “finally”, “in sum” or “in conclusion”. Don't repeat or sum up in any way. Don't start too many sentences with the word “I”. Don't tell the reader explicitly, “I am a unique and interesting person.” Instead, let the reader glean this from your unique and interesting essay.Do you say thank you in a scholarship essay? ›
The Importance of Thanking Your Donor
Receiving a well written thank you letter from the student who received their scholarship is always special and lets the donor know how much you appreciate their support.
In this lesson you have learned to use several kinds of sentence openers: dependent clause, prepositional phrases, infinitive phrases, -ing word groups, and transitional words.What is a strong opening sentence? ›
A good hook might also be a question or a claim—anything that will elicit an emotional response from a reader. Think about it this way: a good opening sentence is the thing you don't think you can say, but you still want to say. Like, “This book will change your life.”What is a good sentence starter? ›
So, when you want to introduce a new idea, you might use a sentence starter like: "What if," "What happened is…" or "Here's the thing:". Subsequently, to elaborate on what you've already said, good starters to use include "Anyway," "So," or "In addition,".
- Link your passions to the scholarship. ...
- Show your grit. ...
- Share what you plan to do with the scholarship award. ...
- Treat it like a résumé, in paragraph form. ...
- Treat it like a personal statement. ...
- Treat it like a career and/or academic goals essay.
“Human beings have a respect for scholarship and learning greatly out of proportion to the use they commonly serve” by Henry David Thoreau.Why would a scholarship help me essay? ›
I am planning to work during my undergraduate degree, but I do wish to focus a lot of my time on my studies. This scholarship will help by lowering the costs of college and the amount of hours I'll need to work throughout my studies. This way, I'll be able to continue with my academic achievements.What does this scholarship mean to you essay examples? ›
This scholarship means more to me than just obtaining money; it also means that I am viewed as having potential for the future of our society. I will continuously have individuals to thank for my accomplishments, and I greatly appreciate the generous financial support I have been given to pursue my education.What is courage to grow scholarship? ›
The “Courage to Grow Scholarship” was created to help students realize their college dreams. We don't want the college dreams and plans of so many young men and women to get lost in the financial shuffle. It takes a lot of determination and courage to forge ahead when sometimes it would be easier to give up.What not to do when applying for scholarships? ›
- Starting Research Too Late. ...
- Missing Deadlines. ...
- Filling Out a Scam Application. ...
- Ignoring Scholarship Requirements. ...
- Bypassing Smaller Scholarships. ...
- Leaving an Application Incomplete. ...
- Making Errors on an Application.
- First Impression is KEY.
- Follow Directions.
- Essay Scholarships Must Address the Essay Topic.
- Showcase your uniqueness.
- Judges really like these qualities in applicants.
Down in the nitty gritty, judges will compare GPAs, test scores, experiences, essays, in order to see which candidate is most suited for their scholarship award. After this step, they'll pick their winner—or winners, depending—and send out notifications to the lucky and deserving student.Why do you think you deserve this award? ›
One of the reasons that I think I deserve the award is because of the hard work that I put in. I am a passionate person at heart and whatever I do I do to the best of my capability. I do not leave any stone unturned when I want to achieve something.
Dear Scholarship Donor, I feel honored and grateful to have been selected as a recipient of the [Name of Scholarship]. I want to thank you for your generosity in funding this scholarship. It is a great help to me financially, especially in these uncertain times.
“Receiving the scholarship means I have succeeded. A lot of people say there isn't help out there, but this shows that there is help out there. I will always have people to thank for my accomplishments and receiving financial help.What are common scholarship mistakes? ›
Misspellings, omitting information, askew facts or not following the scholarship essay directions can cost you the award. You need to be diligent in the details and triple-check your work. Don't lose out on a scholarship for a mistake that's easily preventable.How much does the average student win in scholarships? ›
The average institutional scholarship award is $6,335. About four in 10 scholarship recipients received funds from their state, with an average award of over $2,362.How much scholarship money do most students get? ›
2020-2021, accounting for a 10% increase (College Board, 2021). For each full-time enrollee, the average amount of scholarship money per student is $10,050, while a qualified full-time graduate student receives $8,860 (Ma & Pender, 2021).How do you stand out in a scholarship interview? ›
- Being on time (or, even better, early)
- Dressing up.
- Having a good handshake.
- Being courteous and friendly.
- Taking your time.
- Not interrupting the interviewer before they finish asking the question.
- Bring the necessary supplies (pen, paper, folder, required materials, etc.)
In general, scholarship essays are meant to be about 500 words or one page in length. Many scholarship essays will provide some kind of minimum requirement for the word or page count of your essay. But if you can't find one then you are generally fine to stick to 500 words or one page.How would you describe yourself to scholarship donors? ›
Mention hobbies, experiences and goals that match what the review committee is looking for. Something unique that sets you apart from other applicants. This may be volunteer experience, career specialties, situational differences (growing up in an area that didn't encourage education), etc.How do you write a 500 word scholarship essay? ›
The format of a 500-word scholarship essay is similar to a shorter essay. Each paragraph is about 75-125 words, and it consists of 3-5 well-written sentences. If you are writing a story or personal anecdote, the formatting can be more like a novel than a news article. It is ok to use 10% less or more words.What is the best way to introduce yourself in a scholarship essay? ›
Introduce yourself and why you're applying
Include information such as your current or prospective college major, your professional goals and what potentially receiving the funding means to you. You can use this first paragraph to highlight your understanding of the organization, its expectations and the award.
Scholarship essays usually follow a typical essay structure, meaning there is an introduction, a middle with body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
Most paragraphs will range between 75 to 200 words. As a result, the average 500-word essay will have around 4-6 paragraphs. Importantly, paragraph length and the number of paragraphs in a given essay depends on what type of essay you're writing.How long does it take to write a 500 word essay? ›
Writing 500 words will take about 12.5 minutes for the average writer typing on a keyboard and 25 minutes for handwriting. However, if the content needs to include in-depth research, links, citations, or graphics such as for a blog article or high school essay, the length can grow to 1.7 hours.What does 500 words typed look like? ›
The answer is one page single spaced or two pages double spaced.How do you write a 500 word essay fast? ›
- Leave the Edit at The End. ...
- Start with the Research. ...
- Stay Away from Distractions. ...
- Come Up with an Outline. ...
- Improve Your Writing Speed. ...
Taking part is simple: all you have to do is write an original story using no more than 500 words.Why do I deserve a scholarship essay sample? ›
I have faced several challenges over the years, from dyslexia to homelessness; yet I continued to earn exemplary grades and graduate at the top of my class. I deserve this scholarship because I have the strength and determination to achieve my goals, no matter what hurdles I have to overcome.How should I start my essay? ›
- An opening hook to catch the reader's attention.
- Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
- A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.
Talk about your Passion and Persistence
Letting your passion show through in your answer allows the committee to see your dedication. You deserve this scholarship based on your love of learning, your enjoyment of your field, or your passion for growth.
- Brainstorm themes or stories you want to focus on. ...
- It should be personal. ...
- Answer the prompt. ...
- Show don't tell. ...
- Just start writing.
A 500-word essay is a common format followed by students. It is a very popular and widespread essay writing task assigned to high school and college students. Writing a 500-word essay is quite difficult as compared to writing a long essay, as you have to cover all the important information in a few words.
|Word Count||Pages (single spaced)||Pages (double spaced)|
|250 Words||½ Page||1 Page|
|300 Words||⅔ Page||1⅓ Pages|
|400 Words||⅘ Page||1⅗ Pages|
|500 Words||1 Page||2 Pages|
Arguably the most common essay format is the standard five-paragraph essay. This essay devotes a paragraph each to the introduction, conclusion, and three different supporting details. Let's break down what each of those sections includes.How long does it take to type 1 500 words? ›
Writing 1,500 words will take about 37.5 minutes for the average writer typing on a keyboard and 1.3 hours for handwriting.How long should a conclusion be for a 500 word essay? ›
Generally, a conclusion for a 500 words essay is about 50-100 words.How many paragraphs should a college essay be? ›
There is no set number of paragraphs in a college admissions essay. College admissions essays can diverge from the traditional five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in English class. Just make sure to stay under the specified word count.Is it possible to write 500 words in a day? ›
It's short enough that you can usually find time to do it daily and long enough that if you stick to a schedule, you'll have something substantial in no time. It takes me anywhere from 30–60 minutes to write 500 words.