Guide to Preparing for Essay Contests

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Following the recent update about the KPMG Undergraduate scholarship application, we were notified that candidates were required to submit an essay. Thus, this post is prepared to equip you with the tools required in an scholarship essay contest.

Essays are very complicating things especially to science and engineering students as they believe there is no fomular, you cannot even say if you are right or wrong. However, these are just mere thoughts brought about by years of studying equations and getting definite answers. There is a pattern and a “fomular” in getting an essay on point. That pattern necessary in writing a winning essay is what will be revealed in this article.

How to Write a winning Essay

1 Understand what the Essay is all about

The first thing to do when writing an essay contest is to first understand what the essay is all about. This also entails knowing the nature of the essay you are about to write. Is it argumentative, Descriptive, Narrative?… Your understanding of the nature of essay will give you a firm grip on the strategy to use while writing.

This also includes reading all the rules thoroughly by simply overlooking one small detail could lead to a sure disqualification. Some of the rules you should look out for includes:

  • Date of submission
  • Number of words
  • Demography of concept
  • Font
  • Line spacing etc

2. Know your audience

It is very necessary that you realize who your essay is meant for, that is the audience of the essay. Of course, you may be writing an essay to a body of scholars or to a scholarship organization, if the essay title is like “The role of investment education in adolescents” then you should first realize that you are talking about investment and thus investment terms, market, stock exchange and other jagons in the investment hemisphere should not be lacking in your write up. Your knowledge of the audience transcedes you being able to know who you are writing to, it includes who you are writing for? What they know already, and how you can use conventional landmarks already existing in their sphere of knowledge to drive your point home.

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3. Make an Outline of requirements

It is often helping to create a checklist of what is required. What should these essay achieve. What questions, propositions should be answered at the end of writing the essay. This will help you in proof reading later on. It is recommended that you make an outline of key areas headings that your essay should address. Note this outline is for your use and should not appear in the essay.

4. Brainstorm and Research for ideas

To do this, you must make sure you have taken bullet #1 very seriously, if not you may drift to bringing up ideas that are grossly or slightly irrelevant to the scope of the essay. When doing this, think about the topic, this is necessary because it helps you in narrowing down your points, jot down anything that comes into your mind, you could also perform some research to get a wider scope, facts and figures about the subject.

5. Draft your points

This is just a random scrambling of all the points you raised in the previous process.

6. Start Writing Already

There’s nothing that reduces your chances of winning an essay more than submitting a rushed, poorly-edited entry. When you wait till the last day for submission to begin writing your essay contest entry, you’ll have less time to conduct research and put your thoughts together before writing it, and you might have to submit without thoroughly editing it for grammatical and structural errors. A rushed essay is easy to spot, and the judges will take you much less seriously if they spot a few errors within the first few minutes of reading your work, regardless of how brilliant your ideas are.

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To prevent this, use whatever planning tool (your diary, to-do-list app or sticky notes on your desktop) to keep track of which contests you want to enter and when the closing dates for submissions are. If you won’t be able to get through it in a single day, break it up into different tasks (outline, writing and review, for instance) and set reminders for each one.

You’ll find that writing without the pressure of an impending deadline will be much more convenient, plus your work will be significantly better since you’ll be able to spend more time thinking through things and doing a thorough job in the editing phase.

7. Look up past winning essays for such contests

For most organizations, they usually release some past essays that won the competition, for others, you might have to contact the winners on social media to ask them, but most people will happily oblige you. Just remember to ask nicely and then add a compliment or two when you’re thanking them afterward. So review these essays, this will provide you with insight and tips on how to appropriately craft your content to meet the demands of victory.

Going through winning entries can help you understand the style to use and whether it’s advisable to include other elements like graphics, graphs etc. This works because many contests use the same judges from year to year, and even when they change them, they likely give them the same guidelines to evaluate entries with. Go back as far as possible so you’ll have a better chance of spotting patterns.

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8. Be Unique

This explains itself, the best way to fail in an essay contest is to copy someone elses content. Be unique, be unique in your approach, points and procedures

9. Review, Proofread and Edit

You are a human, so it is probable that errors are resident in your “so perfect essay”.  It is first recommended that after you have gone through your article, you send it to other editors who are better than you, they can be fellow students, lecturers etc who would help you fish out errors, poor use of tenses, incorrect statements and mistakes that might have skipped your notice.

Grammarly is an app that could help you correct and fish out some of these mistakes. It is heavily recommended that you use such softwares when preparing your essay content.

The first reason why you need an essay reviewer is that the person will be able to approach the editing with a dispassionate objectivity that you simply won’t be able to do for yourself. Since the person has no emotional investment in what you’ve written, they’ll be able to critique it as thoroughly as necessary.

The good thing is that you don’t necessarily need to find an expert editor for this. Since the essay judges are unlikely to be professional editors themselves, your essay is unlikely to be judged based on whether you placed your semicolon correctly or not. What you need is the natural flow and engagement that would appeal to intellectuals who may be experts on the subject matter.

On the whole, writing and winning essay contests may not be an exact science, but the tips above will definitely improve your chances in any competition in which you apply them.


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