How to answer “Why do you deserve this scholarship?” essay prompt (with examples!)

When you’re applying for scholarships, you’ll see tons of different essay prompts. Two of the most common are “Why do you deserve this scholarship?” or its variant “Why are you applying for this scholarship?” While these might seem like intimidating questions, don’t overthink them! These are straightforward questions that you can easily answer. Here’s how.

Student answering why you deserve this scholarship essay

What’s the scholarship committee looking for?

Scholarship providers want to give the award to the most deserving student. So by including these prompts, they’re basically asking: Why should it be you?

In particular, they want to know:

  • What makes you unique? What are your particular interests and motivations?
  • How do your strengths and goals fit in with this particular scholarship? For instance, why you might deserve an athletic scholarship might be different from why you deserve a financial need scholarship
  • How will you make use of the scholarship funds? Scholarship providers want to know their awards will make a difference. Show them how this money would really help advance your goals.

Tips to Consider

One of the first things to consider is to express who you are in your writing. Show scholarship providers why you deserve this scholarship by painting them a picture of who you are and what drives you. But remember to keep it related to the scholarship. For example:

  • If you’re applying for a journalism-related scholarship, explain how you became interested in journalism, and what kind of journalism you hope to pursue.
  • If you’re applying to a community service scholarship, explain what kind of community service you do and why you’re committed to it.
Student pointing to computer screen

Show your grit

This is where your scholarship essay might get personal. You might deserve this scholarship because you have persevered through some personal struggles. Those struggles might be more serious–for example, related to family income (growing up poor) or physical obstacles (a disability or injury). Or it might be a more fleeting personal circumstance (like not getting that student organization position you were vying for).

In any case, focus on how you overcame these difficulties–and how the experiences have shaped who you are today. Also remember to focus it back on the scholarship topic at hand.

For example, if you’re applying to an arts scholarship, you might say:

Although I always loved art, growing up poor in a rural area made it difficult to have access to the fine arts museums (far away) or materials (too expensive). So I made do in other ways. I borrowed art books from the library and did virtual tours of the Met and the MOMA from my home computer. And since I couldn’t afford a fancy SLDR camera, I learned all the iPhone photography tricks I could, and used open-source software to do post-production on my photos.

This kind of statement shows how much the student loves art and the lengths the’ve gone to, in order to explore the medium, despite obstacles. A scholarship committee might read this and think: “This student is particularly deserving of our scholarship.

Share what you plan to do with the scholarship award

Why you are deserving doesn’t just have to do with your past achievements; it also has to do with your future plans and goals. Scholarship providers want to fund students who will go on to achieve great things or who wish to give back to their communities.

For instance, in scholarship winner Michelle Marie Charles’ essay, she explains how the award money will be put to good use:

My wish is to help guide undocumented people to obtain a job in a foreign country, and to fight for them to stay in the country. […] Once I am an attorney, I will seek new opportunities to expand the help provided to immigrants. I will create programs that specifically target undocumented people to know their own voice and to educated themselves about the law.

[…] I know the long journey that lays ahead of them and know how difficult the process of transferring to undocumented to citizen is, but I want to be there so they know that they still have a choice.

Examples of “Why I Deserve It” scholarship essays

In general, there are three ways we’ve seen Going Merry students successfully tackle this essay. 

1. Treat it like a résumé, in paragraph form.

Since it’s asking you to brag about your strengths, some essay answers simply describe the applicant’s multiple accomplishments (either in chronological order, or grouped by interest/category – like academics, sports, research, student clubs). This is a particularly good strategy if the scholarship application doesn’t ask for a résumé or list of extracurricular activities. In that case, this essay is your opportunity to discuss those.

An example version of this might read like this:

“I [have been committed] to programs that would further develop my view of the world. I have been involved in Choir and Music Club. I have also been a member of the Red Crescent club for 3 years, which has expanded my exposures to other cultures by learning another language and studying multiple customs. I have been the captain of both the varsity golf and softball teams for two years, developing my leadership skills. My involvement in both my school and community prove that I am a student committed to developing a promising future.”

2. Treat it like a personal statement. 

Maybe you deserve the scholarship because of the type of person you are: someone who has overcome adversity, thinks deeply, is passionate about a specific subject, or wants to contribute to their community. In that case, you might simply be able to reuse your personal statement, tweaking it slightly to be able to explain how your personal characteristics or narrative make you a deserving scholarship recipient. 

One example of this is Going Merry winner Jesús Adrian Arroyo-Ramirez’s essay, which discusses how he overcame the obstacle of his immigration status. He writes:

I was illegally brought to this country when I was just six years old. At the time I had no clue that I was breaking any laws, and I did not realize the fact that my life was going to change forever. Growing up with a different citizenship situation than my peers was and still is the biggest challenge I have to face in my life.

Looking back there is not a single thing that I would change. Knowing that I had to work harder than everyone else led me to be the person that I am today. I took that fire inside of me, pushed myself, graduated first in my class with a cumulative 4.0 GPA, became a Kansas Scholar, and graduated High School with a semester’s worth of college credit. In November of 2016, everything began to look up for me. I received a work permit and a social security card all thanks to the DACA program. I was finally able to get my license, get a job, and most importantly attend college.

I plan to continue my success in the classroom and do everything to the best of my ability as I know that under my current circumstances it can all be ripped away from me at any moment. Growing up with my situation has taught me to not take advantage of a single opportunity. 

3. Treat it like a career and/or academic goals essay. 

You’re likely using your scholarship money to attend college or grad school, so that you can pursue certain academic or career interests. You can discuss those, and then explain how scholarship funding would allow you to continue down that intended path, just like this short essay did

“The scholarship award will only push me further towards my Accounting degree and my dreams of one day having a successful career as an Accountant. […] Five years from now I see myself employed at a large local firm, crunching numbers, evaluating,and solving certain financial matters. I just feel blessed that I am given the opportunity to be awarded a scholarship to help fulfill my dream and I will prove that I do have what it takes to not only be a successful student, but an outstanding accountant.”

Here’s a guide on writing a career goals essay, and another guide for writing an essay on your academic goals

Student on computer outdoors

Variant: “Why are you applying for this scholarship?”

Is this the same question as “Why do you deserve this scholarship?” Yes and no. Both questions get at the same core idea (why are you relevant and deserving of the scholarship money), so for both essay prompts, your essay should describe your strengths and future plans. 

However, to properly answer this “why are you applying” question, you’ll need to more explicitly address your interest in the scholarship topic (e.g. if it’s a scholarship for nursing, why are you interested in nursing), as well as information about your financial situation (you are likely applying because you have need for the money, to pay for college or grad school). 

Variant: “Why do you need this scholarship?”

What about this one? Is this the same question?

Nope! This is a question about financial need. Although it may be uncomfortable to discuss, this prompt is asking you directly about your financial situation and why additional funding is necessary for you to pursue your academic or career plans. Here’s more information about how to write a statement of financial need.

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

Top 10 Most Common Scholarship Essay Prompts Graphic

Ready to Start Answering an Essay Prompt Like This?

Now that you’ve got a better grasp on how to answer a prompt like, “Explain why you deserve this scholarship,” we think you’re ready to start writing and applying to scholarships! Get started by signing up for a free profile with Going Merry. You can write your essay and apply to thousands of scholarships. Just think of us as your one-stop shop for all things scholarships, including essay writing resources.

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