How to write a scholarship essay or statement about your financial need (with examples!)

Writing a financial need scholarship essay might seem like a giant task to tackle. But with the right resources, you can pen an awesome financial need scholarship essay to submit in your application.

Writing a financial need scholarship essay

Many scholarships and college financial aid awards are “need-based,” awarded 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 what your family income is, if you have a job, and how much money you need to attend your target colleges. 

However, note that 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. 

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 word count to tell anecdotes, you’ll likely need to get right to the point with this one. 

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 you’re grown as a person, what previous experiences taught you, and where you’re going from here.

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 had enough by pooling our efforts together. 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. COVID-19 changed all that.” 

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 became disabled) 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 unfortunately I’ve always known they could not help me pay for college. 

So since age 11, I’ve worked odd jobs (like mowing my neighbors’ lawns) to earn my own spending money. At age 16, I started working a sales job 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 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: 

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, to request an aid package. 

If that’s true, you’ll likely receive a financial aid award letter from the college detailing their offer. But what if that aid package isn’t enough to cover your actual financial need? Or what if your financial need has changed, since you originally wrote your statement? In that case, you can ask for more financial aid by writing an appeal letter.

The last step: Apply for more need-based scholarships!

You’ve got this! Now that you have a better handle on how to write your financial need scholarship essay, start applying for scholarships and submit that essay! 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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