Challenge You Overcame Essay Scholarships

This is one of three essays I'm writing for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. I was asked to "Describe a recent academic challenge you have faced. Explain how you overcame it." It needs to be 400-600 words and is about 15 words over. What could I shorten or take out? Is it too personal and informal for a scholarship application? Any type of input is appreciated. Thank you!

For two years, I had been a student at Campbell High School. I was one of the illustrious IB breed. We were a strange bunch, making jokes about parabolas and speaking foreign languages to each other in the hallways. I had fallen in love with the program-the passionate teachers, the supportive network of students-but during my sophomore year, I realized the toll the program was taking on my parents. The school was forty-five minutes away, making extracurriculars difficult to impossible. The students were so spread out that getting together for a project was as hard as the project itself. The greatest problem though, was that I needed to help my parents pay for my college education. I transferred to my home school, Sprayberry, and found a job at a daycare.

A few weeks before school started, I went in for a meeting with my new counselor. As I walked through the door she said, "Congratulations, you're a senior!" Perplexed, I managed to utter a confused "What?" I was going into my junior year. Freshman, sophomore, junior, senior. That was the order, right? The counselor began to speak and I listened intently. She told me she had looked at my transcript and that I needed only four more credits to graduate. At first, my thoughts were those of celebration but soon I became apprehensive. Was I ready for this? After weighing the pros and cons I eventually decided to follow through. I would graduate in the spring of 2013. The decision led me to take a load of challenging AP courses and study intensely for the SAT.

I had taken AP classes before but they seemed all-new at Sprayberry. My US History class in particular gave me trouble. After each quiz, the teacher would post a list announcing who had earned the top three grades. When I checked it after the first quiz and didn't see my name, I was crushed. Anxious to claim my spot at the top, I started creating outlines and defining important terms for each chapter. I put in my best work and it showed on the next quiz; I made it to second place. I'd met my original goal but now I had caught a fever. I made flashcards to study on my phone and in any spare moment I could find-on the bus, in the car-I would pull them up and go over them. We took the next quiz and a few days later the list was posted-first place. Since then, I've come in first every time.

With college deadlines bumped up a full year, I hurried to study for the SAT. I spent at least an hour a day on practice tests and as the test date got nearer and nearer, I began to dedicate three, even four or five hours a day to studying. I kept myself motivated by organizing study groups with friends. We took practice tests together, compared our scores, and rewarded ourselves with frozen yogurt for especially good results. The support, competition, and set scheduling of our weekly study sessions helped me tremendously. When I got my test scores back, they had risen 300 points from my first diagnostic test.

A new school presented a new set of difficulties. My sudden transition from junior to senior status came with serious challenges, demanding coursework and a looming standardized test, but I refused to accept anything less than first place. After an initial struggle, I pushed myself to overcome the obstacles I faced, putting my best foot forward and facing my problems head on.

Thank you so much for being truthful with me. I was having the same feelings towards it but people kept telling me it was a good essay.

The truth is I've never had a truly challenging academic experience. This essay is tough for me because so far I haven't had any major problems to overcome. Classes have always been relatively easy and the transition was mostly stressful because I had to balance so many things: schoolwork, college applications, and a job. I don't think I could write an essay about not having enough time though, and I'm not sure it qualifies as an academic challenge either way. Should I scrap the History class and SAT stories? If so, could I present the time management struggle caused by the transition?

I just lack passion about the topic. The blog claimed the "world" prompt as one of his favorite but none of the 3 essays I am writing for this scholarship interest me. I know what they want to hear but I can't figure out how to approach it in a more creative way. I feel like I'm just patting my own back, talking about how hard I worked. The tips on how to write for this scholarship indicate that they look most at length and punctuation. I think they want a resume in prose form but I'm not sure.

Thanks again for your help.

I had exactly the same problem. Classwork was easy for me too, even during the most stressful time I can have more than 10 hours of sleep. But the problem is that if I present the classwork as too easy I may come across as a snob. So I decided to write the essays in another way, about my shortcomings. I wrote about how, because I only wanted to win first place, I loose sight of the most important thing, passion. This is my essay, check it out (its not perfect so if you can please give me some feedback too) -43615/

So, I believe, that if time management is really the problem you should definitely write about it, even if you were the cause of the bad management of time. If I were you I would present it in the following ways. (Just an idea).

1. Start by recounting the most stressful time of your life. Emphasizing the amount of things you have to do.
2. Then show the admission officers how you manage to overcome this stress or even manage the time better.
3. Then have a really powerful conclusion that tells a lesson

Good Luck hope you make a brilliant essay. BTW if you want I can look at the newly made essay just sent it to my e-mail address (

Below are some common scholarship essay questions.  You can use these as a great starting point for a pesonal statement.  Some of these essay questions are used in the Maricopa Scholarship Database.

  • What life experiences have shaped who you are today and what challenges have you overcome in achieving your education (i.e. financial, personal, medical, etc.)?
  • Explain why you need financial assistance.
  • Describe your academic and career goals and your plans to achieve them and discuss any of your extracurricular/volunteer activities (both on and off campus) that you may perform.
  • Describe an event in which you took a leadership role and what you learned about yourself.

This is a sample essay to help guide you when you are writing essays for scholarships. Keep in mind that all scholarship applications are different, so you may have to design your essay to meet those specific requirements. 

Paragraph I
(State an overview of what you are going to talk about in the essay. If the essay is about you, give a brief description of your experiences, goals, aspirations, family background, etc. Touch on why you want the scholarship.)

For as long as I could remember, I have wanted to be a veterinarian. I have been responsible for the care and feeding of pets ever since I was in the second grade. In high school, I participated in the 4-H club as well as the Junior Humane society. To reach my goals, I realize that I must pursue an eight year college education which will begin with the Fall 2010 semester. I am very excited about my future and feel that with the opportunity your scholarship will provide, I can help many animals.

Paragraph II & III
(Go into more detail on one of the topics listed in paragraph I. For example, elaborate on your previous experiences, family and financial situation, volunteer work, employment, academic career, future goals, college plans, etc.)

My love for animals has been encouraged by my family and friends. I have had the opportunity to volunteer with the local animal shelter and provide basic care to the stray animals. With the help of my biology teacher, I was able to start a 4-H club on campus. Many of the other students on campus developed an interest in the animals and now our club has 100 members. My family also has many animals for which I provide care, including basic needs as well as first aid. I find that I enjoy that aspect of pet ownership best. Unfortunately, my family cannot afford to pay for my entire education, so I hope to use my skills and love of animals to help me pay for college.

Paragraph IV
(Conclude your essay with a wrap-up of why you should be considered for the scholarship; how do your goals match those of the organization, etc.)

Your organization stands for what I believe in. Like your organization, I hope to help animals for the rest of my life. To reach my goals, I need as much help as possible. I already have the moral support of my family and friends, but that is not quite enough to make my dream come true. I hope that your organization can help me reach this dream by awarding me your scholarship.

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