Help With Writing Letters for Needs-Based Scholarships

Lack of funds shouldn't keep you from pursuing your college dream.

Many scholarship awards are based on academic achievements, athletic proficiency or outstanding community service. Although a needs-based scholarship takes these elements into consideration, its primary objective is to provide financial assistance for college tuition, books and campus housing that an applicant might not otherwise be able to afford due to limited resources. As with any professional business correspondence, a letter for a needs-based scholarship must be neatly typed, addressed to the appropriate review committee personnel and confined to one page in length.



The most important component of a letter for a needs-based scholarship is to establish your eligibility for available funds. State in your opening paragraph that you are a qualified applicant based on the income and financial-hardship definitions as set forth by the governing board. Reference that you are attaching a copy of correspondence related to your Federal Student Aid application as well as copies of your most recent tax returns. If there are multiple scholarships offered by the same institution, specify which one applies to your situation.


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Career Goals

Explain how you plan to apply your college education to your current or future career. Competition is high for classroom slots in today's public and private institutions, and awarding committees want the assurance that their money will be well spent by students who are serious about their education. Demonstrate your knowledge of the school's reputation and faculty by referencing the coursework and degree(s) you plan to pursue as well as internship/externship opportunities. Identify relevant job experiences, independent study and volunteer activities that have prepared you for this next step in your educational development. It's also helpful to mention individuals who have had a major influence on your career choices.



Reference your GPA in your letter and attach copies of your transcripts. While extracurricular activities and demonstrated leadership skills can sometimes compensate for a GPA that is less than stellar, many scholarships require at least a 2.5 for consideration. If you are taking remedial courses or working with a tutor to address study-habit deficiencies, mentioning this will show that you are serious about becoming a more disciplined student.


Extenuating Circumstances

If you have experienced unsettling events that either adversely impacted your grades or forced you to take a break from your educational pursuits, your letter is an opportunity to explain these circumstances to the review committee. Examples of this include a debilitating illness, rehabilitation following an accident, caring for a family member or becoming unemployed. Avoid excessive detail, maudlin anecdotes, self-pity or blaming others for your misfortune. Maintain an upbeat tone about making up for lost time, moving forward and making a positive contribution to your community.