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The essay is the star of the show unless you are required to do a media submission in lieu of an essay (refer to the Media Submission subsection).

Common errors:

  1. Not knowing your audience.
  2. Not answering the required questions.
  3. Not following directions.
  4. Boring content.
  5. Negativity.
  6. Grammatical or punctuation errors.
  7. Essay Length.


  1. During your search for scholarships, be sure to do your research! Know about the organization, individual, or company that is offering the scholarship. Read the “About” section on the website, and familiarize yourself with the backstory, values, and goals of the organization, individual, or company. Use this information to strengthen your scholarship submission.
  2. The scholarship requirements will outline questions and a theme that needs to be answered in your application. Make sure you address and answer each question while telling your story in accordance with requirements. Again, attention to detail and following directions are essential for success. Be yourself. Tell an authentic story. Don’t exaggerate or make something up.
  3. In such a competitive environment with so many applicants, a submission that fails to follow directions is usually tossed before it is even read.
  4. The scholarship committee is reading anywhere from tens to hundreds of submissions. So make sure your submission stands out. Get creative. Be entertaining. Have fun. Use imagery and creative writing. Let your personality shine! Avoid clichés. You want the reader to be on your team and wishing to get to know you more instead of thinking, “When will this end?”
  5. Use a positive voice. Even if you are telling a story about hardships or setbacks in life, it is important to remain positive and hopeful. Using overly-negative words can paint a bitter image in the minds of the committee members. Avoid this by using positivity. You can tell the same story but in a positive voice. For example: negative voice – “I work hard because I never had anything growing up because my family was poor.” vs. positive voice – “Watching my family struggle financially taught me the importance of hard work.”
  6. Grammatical and punctuation errors.
    1. Use spellcheck.
    2. Never use contractions such as don’t, isn’t, etc.
    3. Spell out numbers. For example: “I have flown for twelve years.” Instead of, “I have flown for 12 years.”
    4. If you use an acronym, make sure to spell out what it means the first time you use it. After that, you can use the acronym freely without spelling out what it means each time. Example: “My goal is to join the United States Air Force Reserve, USAFR, as a pilot. I will be a great addition to the USAFR because…”
    5. Also, have friends read your essay and give their honest opinion. If you have a mentor or friend who is a good writer or grammar teacher, reach out to them for assistance with proofreading your essay.
  7. Again, follow directions. If the application says 1000 words (or something similar) then do your absolute best to make it exact. You can go slightly under, but never over. Be concise and use creative writing to help shorten sentences. When in doubt, use a thesaurus to find words that get your point across in a more succinct manner. For example: instead of saying, “use less words to get your point across” you can say, “be concise and thorough.” In that example, you use four words instead of eight.

Here is a PDF example of the essay that I submitted when I won the A320 Type-Rating Scholarship from Women in Aviation International, WAI and the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, ISA+21.