Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Scholarship Essay

A scholarship essay is your one chance to show the committee that you’re worth receiving the scholarship grant for your essay. If you nail the essay, you can increase your chances of getting the scholarship. But if you go the other way around and end up ruining the essay with amateur mistakes and silly errors, then you’ll just end up spoiling your chances of getting that ticket.

common mistakes writing scholarship essay

But we’re humans and mistakes happen. In this post, we’ll be looking at some of the common mistakes that people can make when writing a scholarship essay so that you can steer clear of them the next time you have to write one.

Let’s start.

Mistake # 1: Getting the Information Wrong

Okay, so the first mistake that you can make when writing the essay is getting the information regarding the institution and/or the receiving person/party wrong. For example, you could write Mr. Edward instead of Mr. Edmund when writing the name of the admissions officer.

Or, you could get the name of the institution wrong and write “Spannersdale College” instead of “Hammarsdale College”. (Hammarsdale is, by the way, an actual place in KZN, South Africa but we’re not going there right now.)

Mind you, you usually don’t have to mention the committee or the institute itself by name in the essay itself, but there can be certain places in the peripheral (i.e., the starting or the ending) where this may be necessary.

Why is this sort of mistake bad? It shows that you didn’t do your research properly and you aren’t that interested in getting the scholarship. If you can’t get the basic information correct, it pretty much gives the signal that you’re just fulfilling a formality without really putting your heart into it.

How to avoid this error?

Just be careful about checking the names of the admissions officer, or the head of the scholarship committee, and the institute itself. Also, be sure to check and research any other details that are specific to the place and situation where you’re applying.

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And once you’re done writing the whole thing, be sure to check it a couple of times before finalization.

Mistake # 2: Grammar and Spelling Errors

Moving on, the next big mistake that you can make in your scholarship essay is letting typos pass by.

You might have noticed that we didn’t say that “…the next big mistake that you can make in your scholarship essay is typos…

Making typos isn’t the problem. Rather, letting them go by is the problem.

When there are a lot of typos in your essay, it shows the scholarship committee your amateurism and your lack of attention to detail. If you don’t read your essay over a couple of times after writing it, there are bound to be many errors in it. This can, in turn, show your nonseriousness to the folk at the receiving end.

To show you just how bad this can look in an actual setting, here is a short example. We’ll take a passage from an imaginary essay that is riddled with grammar and spelling errors:

“…upon the perusal of your institution’s requirements, I finds that I am a good fit for it. There is many I can do, including speech, talks and hears. I can even spot armadillos from a pile of pinecones on a hot sunny day….”

Terrible, right?

How to avoid it?

Grammar and spelling errors can damage your chances of securing the scholarship, but they’re not that hard to avoid. All you have to do is be careful when you’re writing the essay the first time around. Then, once you’re done writing it, you can just use a grammar checker to find any errors or typos that you may have missed during the manual check.

Dilating a little on that last part a little, you have to be careful about using the right grammar checker if you want to properly find and fix the errors in your content. The reason for this somewhat…atypical emphasis is the fact that there are a lot of grammar checkers that you can find on the internet, but not all of them are worth using. You have to be particular about choosing a well-known one that has reliable and accurate functionality.

Mistake # 3: Street Speak and Slang

Sure, calling a somewhat friendly elderly person “guv’nor” sounds fine (if you’re British) when you’re on the street, but it’s something you want to avoid in your essay. Using a slang term in your essay and then NOT fixing it is probably one of the biggest mistakes that you can make. The person at the receiving end could be somewhat casual about it, but it’s not something you can bank on to be the usual case.

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If you’re using slang in your scholarship essay, you’re literally using it in the only place you shouldn’t be, i.e., formal content. It’s like doing a fiery barbecue at an oil refinery or banging some iron pots together in a library…it’s just not the right place for the job.

How should you avoid it?

Have someone check your essay once you’re done writing it. It’s of little use to read your essay yourself if you’re prone to use slang in your writing. It’s possible that there could be some slang stuff that you could think to be perfectly fine and formal.

Considering that, it’s important to have someone else look at the content so that they can spot and enlighten you about any slang words that you may have used in there.

Mistake # 4: Not Keeping Things Readable

It’s understandable that you want to come off as a little sophisticated and complicated in your scholarship essay, but you have to understand the boundaries.

Examples are great when it comes to explaining stuff, so let’s just use one of those right now.

It would look somewhat fine if you were to use this sort of sentence in your essay:

Given my experience in the field of botany, I consider myself a suitable candidate for the course.

But if you were to take it too high, it would come out something like this:

Considering my botanic proficiency, I find myself an able candidate germane to the course offered by your institute.”

While the first sentence comes off as fluent with just the right sophistication in it, the second sentence comes off as needlessly showy.

How to avoid this error?

So what should you do to keep your writing readable? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Use easy words. If you have the urge to use some difficult words, use them sparsely at around a 2% density.
  2. Make your sentences short. If you make your sentences too long, the readers will be put in a quandary trying to understand its meandering and confusing logic as they follow it along with their retinal instruments. Yes, exactly like this. And yes, I did call eyes “retinal instruments,” which just helps me make my point about keeping the word selection simple.
  3. Explain the things that you feel are a little confusing. In other words, if you use a word or a term or if you mention anything that you think the reader will have trouble understanding, you should explain it. Looking for an example? Just look at the first two sentences of this point.
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While these are all good tips that you can keep in mind when writing the essay, there is also something that you can do once you’re done writing it. And that is to use an online paraphrasing tool to rephrase the hard parts in order to make them easier to read.

Let’s look at an example before moving on. And for the example, I don’t think we need to look further than the paragraph above. It’s a mess of a sentence, so let’s see what a tool does to it:

grammar tool

To be fair, we didn’t really expect many coherent changes to be made to the paragraph, considering how big of an atrocity it was. But, despite that, I think the tool worked fairly well.

Mistake # 5: Not Following the Formatting Guidelines

The institute to which you’re planning on submitting the essay will probably have some specific guidelines for the formatting of the essay as well as the method of submission etc. A big mistake that you can make in your scholarship essay, and that too during the culmination, is going wrong with the formatting requirements.

scholarship essay format

There could be different requirements specified by the receiving institute about the length of the essay as well as how the ending and concluding parts have to be written. For example, the institute could have stipulated that the minimum length of the essay is 1,000 words, and it (the essay) has to be preceded by a brief intro as well as a similar outro. The list goes on.

How to Avoid This Error?

To ensure that you don’t go wrong with the provided guidelines, you just have to be careful about reading them all carefully before starting and ending the essay. If you have the capacity and the opportunity, you can also have someone else look at the requirements and then see if your essay is missing something or not.


So, there you have it.

If we wanted to go on about the stuff that you can usually go wrong within your essay, there’s a lot more that we could have mentioned here. However, brevity is key (which is, by the way, a useful pointer to keep in mind while writing the essay), and that is why we’ll be putting the wrap here.

We hope you learned a thing or two from this article. If you want to learn more about scholarship tips and tricks, be sure to head check out more posts on our website by clicking here.

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