How to write a financial need statement for your scholarship application (with examples!)

So you’re applying for a scholarship that asks you about your financial need. What do you say? How honest or specific should you be? What is TMI? In this article, we break down how to pen an awesome financial need scholarship essay or statement.

Writing a financial need scholarship essay

Many scholarships and college financial aid awards are “need-based,” given to students whose financial situation requires additional support. That’s why one of the most common college scholarship essays is a statement of financial need. This might be very explicit (“Explain your financial need”), somewhat explicit (“Describe your financial situation”), or quite open-ended (“Explain why you need this scholarship”).

In all cases, scholarship providers want to get a sense of your family’s financial picture: what your family income is, if you personally contribute to it (do you have a job?), and how much additional money you need to attend your target college (your “financial gap”).

If the essay prompt is a bit more open-ended (“Explain how this scholarship would help you”), your essay should probably be a combination of a financial need statement and a career goals/academic goals essay.  That’s because you want to show how the award will help you financially and in your academic or career goals.

What to include in a financial need scholarship essay

Usually this statement of financial need is a pretty short scholarship essay (150-300 words), so unlike a college essay or personal statement where you have ample word count to tell anecdotes, you’ll likely need to get right to the point. 

Be sure to include: 

  • If you are an underrepresented group at college, for instance, part of an ethnic minority or the first in your family to go to college
  • Any relevant family circumstances, like if your parents are immigrants or refugees, as well as your parents’ occupation and how many children/family members they support financially
  • How you are currently paying for college, including what you personally are doing to contribute financially (like working student jobs)
  • What financial challenges/difficulties your family is facing, for instance, if a parent recently lost their job
  • How you would benefit from the scholarship–including your academic and career goals (if word count allows)

Also remember to write in an optimistic tone. Writing about your financial situation or hardships might not be the most positive thing to share. But you can turn it around with an optimistic tone by writing about how these challenges have taught you resiliency and grit.

Student writing a financial need scholarship essay

Template to structure your financial need scholarship essay

Introduction: Your basic profile

Give a short introduction to who you are, highlighting any family characteristics that might make you part of an underrepresented group at college. 

Example 1:

“I am a first-generation American and the first in my family to go to college. My family moved from El Salvador to New York when I was seven years old, to escape the violence there.”

Example 2: 

“I am from a working-class family in Minnesota. My family never had a lot, but we pooled our efforts together to make ends meet. My parents both worked full-time (my father as a mechanic, my mother as a receptionist at the local gym), while my siblings and I all worked weekend jobs to contribute to the family income.”

Body: Your financial situation and hardships

Dive into the details. How are you currently planning to pay for college? The idea here is to show that you and your family have made a good-faith effort to earn enough money to pay your tuition, but that it has simply not been enough. 

Make sure you describe your parents’ occupation, any savings (like a 529 College Savings Account), and any student jobs. You might also discuss any sudden changes in fortune (e.g. parent fell ill or lost their job) that have ruined your original financial plans. 

Example 

As immigrants with limited English, my parents have had to accept low-paying jobs. My father is an Uber driver, and my mother is a housekeeper. They earn just enough to pay our rent and put food on the table, so I’ve always known they could not help me pay for college. 

So I’ve been proactive about earning and saving my own money. Since age 11, I’ve worked odd jobs (like mowing my neighbors’ lawns). At age 16, I started working at the mall after school and on weekends. Through all these jobs, I’ve saved about $3000. But even with my financial aid grants, I need to pay $8000 more per year to go to college. 

Conclusion: How you would benefit from this scholarship

Bring it home by wrapping up your story.  Explain how you plan to use the financial aid if you’re awarded this scholarship. How will you benefit from this award? What will you put the money toward, and how will it help you achieve your academic and/or career goals?

Scholarship review boards want to know that their money will be put to good use, supporting a student who has clear plans for the future, and the motivation and determination to make those plans a reality. This is like a shortened, one-paragraph version of the “Why do you deserve this scholarship?” essay

Example 1:

Winning $5000 would help me close the financial gap and take less in student loans. This is particularly important for me because I plan to study social work and eventually work in a role to support my community. However, since these jobs are not well paid, repaying significant student loans would be difficult. Your scholarship would allow me to continue down this path, to eventually support my community, without incurring debt I can’t afford.

Example 2: 

My plan is to study human biology at UC San Diego, where I have been admitted, and eventually pursue a career as a Nurse-Practitioner. I know that being pre-med will be a real academic challenge, and this scholarship would help me focus on those tough classes, rather than worrying about how to pay for them. The $2000 award would be equivalent to about 150 hours of working at a student job. That’s 150 hours I can instead focus on studying, graduating, and achieving my goals. 

Was this financial need essay for a college financial aid application? 

Sometimes this financial need statement isn’t for an external scholarship. Instead, it’s for your college financial aid office.

In that case, you’re usually writing this statement for one of two reasons:

  1. You’re writing an appeal letter, to request additional financial aid, after your original financial aid offer wasn’t enough. In this case, you’ll want to make sure you’re being extra specific about your finances.
  2. You’re applying for a specific endowed scholarship that considers financial need. In this case, your financial need essay can be quite similar to what we’ve outlined above.

Now, reuse that same essay to apply for more scholarships!

Now that you’ve written a killer financial need scholarship essay, you have one of the most common scholarship essays ready on hand, to submit to other scholarships too.

You can sign up for a free Going Merry account today to get a personalized list of hundreds of scholarships matched to your profile. You can even save essays (like this one!) to reuse in more than one application.  

Writing a financial need scholarship essay

Additional resources to help you write your financial need scholarship essay

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