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Selling yourself without sounds pretentious

  1. Feb 2, 2009 #1
    If there is one thing I absolutely hate, its writing scholarship essays. They all basically ask you to tell them why you are so great and wonderful and why you should get their money. I find this kind of topic the most challenging to write about because there is a fine line between telling someone your a quality student and telling someone your a conceited jerk. In fear of sounding like the latter, I usually end up telling some lame story about the last couple years of my life and I think not focusing enough on how "awesome" I am.

    I've seen just about all the scholarship writing websites there is and they all just state the obvious. Does anyone have an advice or examples they could post of some of their scholarship essays? Perhaps and adjectives or euphemisms they like to use for these things that are strong, but not too strong?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 2, 2009 #2


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    I don't think anyone can tell you what to write in such an essay: you just need to highlight areas in which you stand out from the crowd, and make sure you express this to the reader in an appropriate manner. To begin, I would make a list of your best qualities and alongside each give some evidence that backs this up. Then try and expand this into an essay. Also, remember to proof-read your work to ensure your grammar is correct.

    I'm not entirely sure why you'd want to use euphemisms in such an essay...
  4. Feb 2, 2009 #3
    One way of getting around the matter is to perhaps find a way to tell a story from your life that highlights the qualities of interest to the particular scholarship at hand... maybe perhaps when you yourself discovered you had these qualities. Ex. When I was in high school, I often told a story about being an Easter bunny at the local mall (for a marching band fundraiser). Later on, I tended to focus on stories about particular occurrences in the lab or experiences in teaching/tutoring (but they have to be interesting experiences on the audience!). Doing it in this way also makes it more personal, and makes the person reviewing your application remember you.... but again... it would depend on the scholarship application itself, and how conducive it is to that kind of approach.
  5. Feb 2, 2009 #4


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    Something else to remember is that these essays are a forum for the student to talk about personal accomplishments. People come across as conceited when they do this outside of these forums - for example, when standing around at dinner parties. But in a scholarship or entrance essay a certain amount of self-promotion is expected.
  6. Feb 2, 2009 #5
    I think it can help sometimes if you highlight how the things you have done were all part of a very deliberate plan to get you in the position you are in now. This doesn't make you sound pretentious, but comes across as purposeful, focused and enthusiastic about what you are doing, which is a good thing.
  7. Feb 3, 2009 #6


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    You could emphasize if you have these attributes how you are a leader and how you make or have made positive contributions to other people or have demonstrated your capacity to lead in various circumstances.

    The reason I say this is because usually leaders have very definitive traits which lend themselves well to many such offers including scholarships but also certain jobs and prepare you for more senior roles.

    So perhaps you can outline not only that you're good at something, but more so than this that you can stick things out, want to do something positive at the end of your studies, have shown that you can make a contribution to society. That sort of thing can really help set you apart from people that are just "good at what they do".

    Now i know it may make you sound like you're on a high horse but you can affirm yourself without having a pole up your rectum if you're genuine and say no more than you really have to say. Honestly its a hard one to do!

    Anyway good luck with it all.
  8. Feb 4, 2009 #7
    Thanks for all the advice. In short, I took the approach of telling a short story of how I got to where I am today and the accomplishments I have made. Then made an argument that by receiving such a scholarship will allow me to meet goals in my life I have not yet achieved. Probably the same outline that everyone else uses but I just couldn't think of anything else. I prefer writing technical reports much more.
  9. Feb 5, 2009 #8
    I am currently having this problem as well, writing essays for transfer admissions. I find it hard to say things in 250 or 500 words or less.

    Luckily I have a father who is a writing professor and an advanced writing tutor girlfriend to bounce ideas off of.
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