Writing a grant essay can feel like a huge task if you’ve never written one before. In addition to the pressure of writing a good essay, you may feel as if your entire future is on the line. How do you go about putting your entire life experience into 500 words? What if you don’t have any life experience? By following a few basic rules, though, you will be writing quality grant essays in no time.
- Determine the exact nature of the essay question. Believe it or not, many people don’t get the grant because they failed to answer the question asked. Read the essay prompt carefully, underline important key words and try to understand the fundamental interest of the grant-giving entity. The Writing Center at the Owens Group recommends researching the organization giving the grant to more fully understand their reason for asking this particular question.
- Take your time to consider the question from as many perspectives as you can conceive. Most grant essays focus on revealing your fundamental character. This might be done by asking you to respond to a greater issue based on research or it may be accomplished by asking you to reflect on important lessons learned through personal experience. If the question asks about personal experience, reflect on those areas of your life that have bearing on the question. Find a story that meets the question’s intention. If the question is more generally applicable, think of real-world issues that have relevance to your interests and research it well.
- Brainstorm your ideas by writing down the core concept and jotting additional related ideas around it. You can do this in a number of ways: by listing the ideas in columns, composing a bubble diagram or drawing symbols representing your thoughts. When you have run out of ideas, use this list, diagram or drawing to determine which idea most fully addresses the actual essay question and its intentions. Organize the supporting thoughts into an outline with a logical flow of ideas.
- Develop your outline with more detail. A more effective essay will include concrete examples, a compelling introduction, solid logical progression and a strong conclusion. The Owens Center also recommends using active, present-tense verbs and precise nouns.
- Research any uncertain points. This is, of course, essential if the essay question is a research-based question, but even personal essays can be enriched by a bit of research. A famous quote, a startling statistic or any other kind of real-world connection to the greater human experience might be just the hook you need for that compelling introduction.
- Flesh out your essay by stringing your outline notes into full sentences, adding transitional phrases between thoughts (paragraphs) and adding detail as necessary. At this point, much of the hard work is already finished in the development of your outline, so this is where you can get a bit creative in adding in your unique voice. Remember to keep the writing formal, though.
- Set your essay aside for a few days. Come back to it with a fresh mind and re-read the essay question. Then read through your essay. Does it answer the question as you understand it? Have you made a strong point or realization? Is your introduction compelling and your conclusion strong? Concentrate on the content of your paper at this point and make sure it says everything you want it to say in response to the question asked.
- Revise again, this time looking for structure. Are the paragraphs in some sort of logical sequence? Does each paragraph deal with a single main idea and remain focused on that idea? Are there appropriate transitions between paragraphs? Have you put the paper into the appropriate format including citations and reference list? All of these elements can be easily overlooked by the student, but can be quite significant to the grant-giving authority. Once you are satisfied, set the essay aside one more time.
- Check your completed essay a third time looking for typos, punctuation errors, grammar mistakes or other mechanical issues. Be especially careful about misspelled words. Although spellcheck works well to catch glaring errors, autocorrect does not always choose the correct substitute and there is enormous potential to use an incorrect word with the simple replacement of a single letter, for example, hats and mats.
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