How to write a winning scholarship essay about your academic goals

Have you ever opened up a scholarship application only to find that you have to write yet ANOTHER scholarship essay, this time about your academic goals? We get it. There’s a lot of writing involved when you’re applying! Well, we’re here to guide you through your academic goals essay, with scholarship essay tips and a template. We’ve even got a surprise for you at the end that will save you time on your scholarship applications.

Student writing academic goals essay

6 tips for scholarship essay success

1) Start brainstorming and writing as early as possible.

Writing any scholarship essay takes time, thought, and energy. The earlier you start, the better!

2) Understand your current goals of where you are now, and your future goals of where you want to be.

Your goals today may change tomorrow. Think about where you are now in your high school career – what are you studying that you love? What would you like to change? What do you aim to accomplish in college? Ask yourself these questions and write down those goals.

3) Stay positive.

No one is perfect – we all have our hardships and our downfalls. But think positively when it comes to your academic goals. If you didn’t do so hot in one subject, try not to include that exact phrasing in the essay, but think about how you can turn that around into a positive.

4) Keep it personal.

Similar to personal statements, share your story – a moment that brought you to where you are today. Especially for local scholarships, the providers want to feel like they’re supporting real people to achieve their academic dreams. So make sure you share enough personal details about where you are and where you want to be.

5) Spell check.

Using a tool like Grammarly helps check your spelling and grammar as you’re writing. Ask a friend, family member, or expert to review your academic goals essay before you submit it with your scholarship application. This will help your writing for college appear polished and professional.

6) Be proud of your academic goals essay.

You did it! You wrote it! That’s your work, and now it’s up to the scholarship providers to review and accept your application.

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Student writing academic goals essay with Going Merry

Points to consider while writing your academic goals scholarship essay:

What are you studying right now?

Think about your current studies in high school. If you’re a high school junior, think about what classes you’re currently taking, and what you plan to take next year as a senior. If you’re a high school senior, reflect on your last two semesters of classes. What’s your curriculum look like? You might be taking an English class, Math, a focused class, such as Sociology, maybe a World Religions course, Geography, Government and an elective such as music, art, or physical education.

High school student study books

What do you enjoy?

We all know a high school teacher who made going to class enjoyable because of their personality – OR – we just really loved the subject (No one? Just us? Okay…it was Mr. Nixon’s Law class that made research and debating against classmates fun for us).

Capitalize on the enjoyable aspects of that class in your academic goals essay. Explain how your teacher made the class engaging in a way that helped you retain information while also enjoying the class. Consider what the ideal academic class would look like in college. Would you aim to take a similar course in college where the professor promotes engaged learning? Or would you prefer to sit in a lecture hall where you can listen, digest detailed information, write down notes, and ask questions as needed? Think about your learning style as you organize your academic goals essay.

What are you not-so-crazy about in your current studies?

Going back to the point of staying positive, think through a subject that you’re currently not too thrilled about, and get creative with how you can turn that into an academic goal.

Ex: Statistics was one of the most challenging subjects of my junior year curriculum. However, I know I’ll need to have sufficient knowledge of the subject to major in Psychology in college. My goal is to find a study buddy – a colleague, a tutor, someone skilled in the subject, to improve my understanding of the subject so I can later help patients understand research study statistics in the future.

What do you want to achieve in college?

It might be a 3.5 GPA. Or you might want to walk across the stage on graduation day with summa cum laude cords. Maybe you want to become president of the student government association on campus.

What things outside of pure academics, might complement your academic goals?

The great thing about college is that you’re furthering your education, and you’re growing as a person! You’re learning about yourself, how you work, how you interact, and there are so many opportunities to get involved on campus. Think about how these fits in with your academic goals by naming any organizations, department clubs, and honor societies that catch your eye.

How will your academic goals help you achieve other goals?

How might your near-term academic goals help you in your future (e.g. career after college)–or how might they help others (e.g. your friends, family, future customers/patients)? Think long-term: what will your current academic goals help you achieve further down the line? Whom might that impact?

Ex: Taking 18 credits helped us knock out our required wellness course during the second semester of our freshman year of college. By sophomore year, we could focus on classes related to our major and enjoy time after class. We later graduated a semester early thanks to study habits and credits. We spent time at the on-campus career center, working through mock interviews. Then, we later landed a job soon after graduation, working for a company and helping them bring on new customers.

All of this happened as a result of creating academic goals to plan classes early and work through those credits.

What has inspired these goals?

Everyone finds inspiration from different outlets. Whether it’s your parents, a teacher, your guidance counselor, classmates, siblings, or even an athlete, briefly describe who inspired these goals. Heck, you might have inspired yourself to make these goals! If it wasn’t someone who inspired you, discuss what inspired you to set these goals in your academic goals essay.

How will you hold yourself accountable with your academic goals?

Writing down goals for ourselves is great. It makes our goals seem more concrete once we talk or write about them. Now, it’s time to make those goals happen! Toward the end of your academic goals essay, you might want to explicitly state your plan for holding yourself accountable to these goals — this will seem impressive to a scholarship provider who wants to make sure their award money is going to someone who’s serious about their future.

How might you stay accountable? Maybe your best friend can text you every Wednesday to check in with you mid-week on your progress. Or maybe that’s too much, and you’ll just set a reminder on your phone to check in with yourself once a week. Or maybe you’re a real planner– and you’ve created clear milestones for the next couple years, and you’ll check in regularly to make sure you’re hitting them. Whatever it is, bringing your lofty academic goal down to concrete steps is likely to make your academic goals essay stronger. 

Student writing academic goals essay with Going Merry

BONUS: Let your academic goals influence your college class planning!

Don’t just think of your scholarship essay on academic goals as a chore that you complete and then never look at again. Once you’ve written it, let it help serve as your beacon as you decide what majors or classes to take, or what student organizations to join.

Then you can plan your semesters accordingly. For example:

  • Jot down your goals for your class schedule, what you plan to do with your time before, after, and in between classes.
  • Consider what time of day you would be most effective in taking the classes necessary to meet your academic goals. Are you a night owl or a morning person? Do you need lots of time between classes to really digest the material?
  • How many classes (or credits) do you plan to take? You can take a full load of classes, usually up to 18 credits per semester depending on the school, without going over your tuition limit, to help give you a lighter load your junior and senior years. Or, you can take the standard 12 – 16 credits per semester to avoid overloading your schedule and leaving room for socializing and other activities. This may also affect your graduation year. So if part of your academic goals (or your plan for reducing tuition) requires you to graduate early — you’ll also want to plan this out!

It’s here! Your academic goals essay brainstorm template

Ready to start brainstorming to write your essay?

Print this sheet – OR – if you want to fill out this sheet digitally, make a copy to save and edit on your device by going to File > Download > Microsoft Word, OpenDocument Format, etc.

Also, check out this helpful list of the 10 most common scholarship essay topics!

Top 10 Most Common Scholarship Essay Prompts Graphic

Extra bonus: Apply for scholarships more easily, with Going Merry! 

Feeling more confident about your academic goals scholarship essay? Great! 

Streamline submitting your scholarship essays with Going Merry. You’ll only need to enter your information once, and we auto-fill it to all your applications. You can even save your academic goals essay to your account, so that you can easily reuse it. How convenient is that?

Sign up for a free profile today and get matched with thousands of scholarships. We’re your one-stop shop for all things scholarships and federal student aid!

Kelly Lamano

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