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Writing a Cover Letter for Scholarship Applications

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Each year, millions of ambitious high schoolers send applications in hopes of landing a full-ride scholarship.

Some of those include a cover letter, while others settle for a resume, transcripts, and an essay.

This poses the question: do you even need a cover letter for scholarship applications?

Well, not all programs require it, but if the scholarship provider asks you to submit one, you might as well hit the nail on the head!

Why Write a Scholarship Cover Letter?

No one enjoys writing cover letters—certainly not high school students with zero work experience. Yet, it can go a long way if you’re aiming to get that acceptance letter.

Here’s why writing a scholarship letter is worth the hours you’ll spend on your drafts:

Make Your Application Stand Out

Regardless of the program type, odds are, thousands of students will apply. Most have excellent SAT scores and high hopes, too.

Out of all those applicants, only 7% will receive a scholarship.

If you want to be among the accepted few, your application needs to knock out the competition. One way to do that is to include a stellar cover letter that makes the review board want to meet you.

Explain Your Motivations and Challenges

A typical scholarship application form includes academic transcripts, resumes, and test scores. These show the board your qualifications and skills but don’t provide insights into your personality.

The cover letter is the document that will reflect your motivation for the program. It’s the perfect place to merge the facts from your resume with the emotional side of your scholarship essay.

Highlight Your Dedication, Goals, and Passion

The cover letter can highlight your personality over other issues in the application.

For instance, you can use it to shift the board member’s attention from any gaps in your educational journey.

What Is the Difference Between a Cover Letter and a Cover Letter for a Scholarship?

Scholarship letters are technically a type of cover letter, but there are some differences.


A regular cover letter is a document that a job seeker drafts and sends to a hiring manager. The purpose here is to add context to the resume or CV and boost the candidate’s chances of landing an interview.

Meanwhile, a student addresses a scholarship letter to a committee to receive financial aid.

Focus of Content

A traditional cover letter focuses on why someone is a good fit for the job. That’s why candidates tie examples from previous work experience to the required skills for the job.

The scholarship letter is all about painting a picture of a student with academic excellence and potential. Usually, work experience and technical skill sets aren’t relevant.

That said, some general tips for writing a great cover letter can still help students polish their content.

Mission Statement

Since the letters have different purposes, each opening paragraph should echo a distinct personal mission statement, but that’s not all.

Some job seekers tie to the company’s mission statement to show that they align with their beliefs.

In a scholarship letter, that would mean explaining how giving this particular candidate the grant fits the school’s mission. The typical scholarship program’s mission is to empower bright students to act as catalysts for a better future.

This would require the applicant to mention future goals after completing the program. Meanwhile, job seekers never mention what they plan to do after leaving the company!

What to Include in Your Cover Letter for Scholarship

Much like a job application cover letter, a scholarship letter has three key segments. You’ll know these as the opening, middle section, and closing.

Here are the two aspects you need to cover in the middle section:

Why You Deserve the Scholarship

After reading your cover letter, the scholarship committee should have a solid reason to pick you for the grant.

To do that, you need to:

  • Reflect your passion for the program.
  • Show why you need financial assistance in the first place.
  • Explain how you plan to put this degree to good use by pursuing your dream job.

Don’t be overly emotional; keep it brief and factual, with a hint of personality.

Why do you deserve a Scholarship?

Education and Achievements

Scholarship applications, unlike job applications, don’t have much to do with work experience. To compensate for this, you need to dive into your educational years to find notable achievements worth mentioning in the cover letter.

Extracurricular activities are a go-to since they’re common in high school and are easy to quantify. For instance, you can talk about volunteering hours or awards from competitions.

It’s also possible to highlight your academic performance as long as you don’t recap every test score and class you took. Chronological lists are one of the basics of CVs, but they don’t work for cover letters.

How Long Should a Cover Letter Be for a Scholarship?

Sometimes, the scholarship committee sets a word count limit for the cover letter. This should take the guesswork out of the equation.

If you can’t find any length specifics in the scholarship requirements, keep the letter under a page long.

The best cover letter length is around 200-400 words. This word count should help you stay around half a page if you follow the proper cover letter format.

How to Write a Cover Letter for Scholarship

Think of the middle section as the letter’s focal point. To make it shine, you need to pair it with a catchy opening and a strong closing.

How to Start Your Cover Letter for Scholarship

One way to craft a unique cover letter is to start with a brief story. An anecdote will do the trick as long as you can tie it back to the program.

For instance, if you’re applying to study architecture, reflect on a moment in your childhood when a design caught your eye.


The goal is to hook the committee and show them who you are from the first sentence.

How to Close a Cover Letter for Scholarship

The key to a strong closing paragraph is a compelling call to action.

You don’t want to come off as an entitled teenager. Instead, you need to show eagerness and urge the committee to at least get in touch with you for more details.

To do this, express in one sentence why you’d be grateful for financial assistance. Then, tie back to your contact info and say that you’d love the chance to interview for the scholarship.

Use a cover letter creator to help you out if arranging these sections in a neat layout sounds overwhelming.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Scholarships Cover All Four Years?

Not all scholarships cover four-year courses. Some scholarship providers offer grants to cover only a part of the student’s expenses.

There are multi-year scholarships, but the year-by-year renewal is usually contingent on academic performance.

Do Cover Letters Increase the Chances of Getting a Scholarship?

While there are no guarantees that the review committee will even read the cover letter, it’s still worth the shot.

Merely customizing a cover letter and including it in the application shows the committee that you’re willing to put in the effort.

Wrapping Up

Although it’s only one page long, the scholarship cover letter isn’t a document you want to write in a rush.

Take your time crafting a hook and leading into the reasons that make you an ideal candidate for the program. Motivation, academic excellence, and ambition are the key aspects that the committee members want to see!

If you have questions about writing a flawless cover letter for your scholarship application, let us know in the comments below.

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