Applying for a Scholarship: How to Write a Cover Letter

A cover letter is not always required by scholarship evaluation boards. However, when applicable, a scholarship cover letter is a great chance to stand out from other applicants. They may have the same fascinating test scores, boast A marks on the academic records, or show an amazing list of extracurricular activities. But somehow the committee will choose you because your cover letter gave them reasons to invest in you and make them feel you are special. Here are some tips to make your statement sound engaging and promising.

Demonstrate Your Value

Why you? This is the main question of the scholarship committee members that you need to answer. Basically, the whole letter will be motivating for you. However, start with reasoning why you think you are a good match. Describe your strengths, but start with an academic and professional perspective. Use supporting examples, as they always can help to make a better picture. In the end, behind as well as in front of your cover letter is a human, so try to establish a rapport by telling a story.

Since scholarship programs deal with money, think of the committee as an investor. Consider your pitch as a kind of copy, where you are ‘for sale’. Give them a reason to fund you, help them clearly see the benefit they would get. Take some time to think from their perspective, not yours. During the application procedure, you might have learned the core factors that impact the board choice. Does the scholarship you are applying for consider only academic success or economic factors too?

Use Formal Tone but Stay Individual

Always stick to the formal and respective tone, but try to incorporate your sparkling personality. But how to do that? You can tell about your experience that can be applied to your new role. Maybe you can think of some insights that would sound great if you share them. 

Think of the good points of the college you are entering and how you can relate. Or explain what you intend to reach within the next semester or academic year, provided that you get the dreamed scholarship. Sometimes, the negative examples work even better, but don’t exaggerate and always be sincere.

Remember that a formal tone does not have to be full of clichés, complicated constructions, or long abstract words. On the opposite, you need to make your text simple, understandable, appealing, and short. Don’t write a long composition as chances are that the scholarship officer will not read it in full. Think of how tired they probably are of reading motivating letters.

Structure Your Letter Clearly and Check Grammar and Spelling

The flow of your scholarship cover letter should be clear, well-structured, and concise. Every statement or fact needs to be supported, and every next sentence should logically follow the previous one. Make sure to mention only relevant information and avoid being redundant or saying similar things with different words. Eliminate any unclear detail and make sure to check spelling and grammar.

The best way to get rid of all mentioned drawbacks is to give your draft to someone. Several people would even be better. Ask them to tell you the overall impression, what they liked, what appealed most, which lines seemed boring or poorly engaging. Let your friends and family play the devil’s advocate, while you have to be prepared to stay open to criticism. In your situation, every opinion matters (hoping you won’t ask haters, though :).

Mind the Context or Read the Guidelines

Aligning your cover letter with the nature of the scholarship is essential. The structure of your main text will vary depending on the purpose of the funds you aim to get. Here we shall outline the possible structures of two types of letters. The first example will cover the application for the scholarship you plan to enter (a program or college). The second will request tuition (or other) funds for the program you already entered.

  • When you are entering the program, the paragraphs of your scholarship cover letter can be as following:
  1. Address and a formal greeting.
  2. Description of your academic experience, skills, strengths, and achievements.
  3. Explanation of reasons you need the scholarship for.
  4. Reasoning how the course you are trying to enter can help you reach your objectives. Describe what contributions you will be able to make while studying.
  5. Closing the letter in a polite and official way.
  • When you are requesting funding for the course you were accepted to.
  1. Address and a formal greeting (no changes are necessary).
  2. Stressing your academic experience and skills.
  3. Telling about your financial position and explaining why those funds are crucial for you.
  4. Showing your interest in that particular program or institution (or both) and emphasizing the benefits.

Some scholarship programs have special guidelines stating the information that should be provided about each applicant. For example, level of income or professional background. Think about how to better incorporate that information into your cover letter not making it look like a list of answers. 

Cover Letter Greeting: Be Careful with Names and Titles

Starting your letter on a positive note is crucial for your success. If you know exactly who will be reading your letter, that’s great. Then just write the person’s salutation and name: ‘Dear Mr. Jackson.’ However, don’t panic if you have no idea about the names of the committee members. This option will also work perfectly: ‘Dear ABC Foundation Scholarship Committee. Or, if you can research the name of its chairman, combining the two would sound great: ‘Dear Mr. Sumo and ABC Foundation Scholarship Committee.’

Never use generic greetings like ‘To whom it may concern.’ This phrase can mean that you are inattentive (to notice the names on the documents) or disrespectful (can’t spend two minutes researching the names). Neither is appropriate for you.  

Closing Your Cover Letter on a Positive Note

So you told your personal story, mentioned your background and academic experience. It’s time to say goodbye with a closing paragraph. Standard ‘Sincerely’ or ‘Thank you for considering me’ will sound nice, but expressing enthusiasm, gratitude, and inviting to contact will be impressive. Such a call to action may signal that you are responsive, willing to cooperate, and thus, probably, worth investing in. You need to leave the reader on an upbeat note and initiate communication. 

Common Mistakes

Now let’s take a look at what needs to be avoided in your cover letter.

  1. Spelling and grammar mistakes

This sounds trivial, but students keep making mistakes. Whether this is because they are often in a rush switching from classes to various activities and back, but the fact is a fact. One little mistake (which can even be a typo) can seriously affect your candidacy for the scholarship. So, double-check your text and ask others to help you.

  1. Too emotional appeal

Personal stories are a good way to reach the scholarship committee member’s hearts. However, try to find the proper balance and don’t switch either to complaining or asking. Better show how optimistic you are in spite of the odds you sometimes face. 

  1. Improper formatting

Inconsistent structure or messy formatting will make your letter less understandable and may have a negative impact on the overall decision. Don’t use rare, odd, or hardly readable fonts. Stick to the standards instead.

Qualities that Will Make You Stand Out

Think of the impression you make on the scholarship committee. What kind of person are you? What qualities do you possess? Let’s mention the basic features that you need to demonstrate in your cover letter. 

professional and motivated

Mention all your academic or career success, including internship and volunteering. Let them see you are a hard worker with ambitious plans for the future.

honest and grateful

We believe you are not trying to mislead your benefactors and feel grateful for such an opportunity. Now be credible and sincere in your writing address too.


Though we mention this characteristic far from the beginning, it actually is essential for the scholarship board, isn’t it? Just imagine an enthusiastic person who has always dreamed of going this way. Is this you? Do you adore what you’re studying? 


Hundreds of students are attempting for scholarships, and their academic achievements are pretty much similar to yours. In this case, being yourself is fresh and beneficial, but can be a hard task to accomplish. 

To Sum It Up

A well-structured and informative cover letter for your scholarship can be more convincing than your academic success stated in the resume. However, you don’t need to be too formal in this letter, but on the contrary, be ready to be a simple human. A person with a story, good command of English, and excellent persuasive and communication skills. A sincere and optimistic student who is grateful for the opportunity and passionate about the subject. Make sure your text is understandable, easy-to-read, and free of grammar and spelling mistakes (including names and titles). And remember that being yourself is sometimes your most prominent competitive advantage when it comes to getting a scholarship. Good luck!

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