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How to Write an Extended Response Essay for a Scholarship

An extended response essay sometimes referred to as an essay with an argument, asks the writer to make an argument about something rather than merely describe it.

Since this type of essay tends to be more complex and requires more research, you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to work on it so that you can do a good job and impress the scholarship panel.

If you get short notice or no notice at all, don’t panic. You can still write a good extended response essay by following these simple steps.

Get all the details

Getting all of your information, from defining your topic to citing sources, can be intimidating. However, once you’ve got all of your information in front of you, it’s just a matter of breaking it down into manageable pieces.

Take some time and really think about what all will go into completing your extended response essay before diving in and actually writing. You’ll feel much more confident when it comes time to complete your piece.

And always remember: Asking questions is never discouraged! The hardest part about writing is often simply getting started, so don’t be afraid to ask someone for help if you find yourself lost. We’re here for you every step of the way.

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Start your research early

Set aside time to do your research and ensure you have enough time to write your essay. The best way to start is by spending some quality time in your school library. It may be tempting, but try not to jump on Google or Wikipedia when researching a topic; if you do, then you run the risk of plagiarizing what others say about it instead of finding out the information yourself.

Your goal should be to get as much of your scholarship essay right as possible before handing it in, so use whatever means necessary (including buying additional books) so that you can write fewer drafts later on.

Focus on quality over quantity

Most extended response prompts tend to be vague, so do your own research for them. When an essay prompt is phrased as What’s your favorite color? the best way to approach it is by asking yourself a question like How did you know you liked that color in the first place?

The best thing you can do is to demonstrate your ability to connect the material that you learned with the topics you care about the most, such as when applying for financial aid. If you want to get a scholarship, for example, think about the contributions you want to make rather than simply bragging about how many A’s you received.

Please make sure to include all aspects of the question, including where it does not apply to you. For example, if you answer N/A or none for that question, simply write N/A or none as applicable.

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Understand different types of scholarships

There are all kinds of scholarships and other educational resources out there, but it’s important to know that not all scholarships are created equal. For instance, some may be merit-based (meaning you can only get them if you do well in school) while others are need-based (meaning you can get them even if your grades aren’t so hot).

If you want information on different types of scholarships and how to pursue them, visit sites like your state’s department of education or ask your guidance counselor. They’ll be able to steer you toward scholarship opportunities specific to your area or major.

Design your dream school application

When it comes time to write about yourself, you want your essay to reflect your true personality. Don’t just regurgitate facts from your resume. Use your essay as an opportunity to show admissions officers who you really are and why you think their school is perfect for you.

For example, maybe they have a specific major that you’re interested in or some particular activities they offer that you think will really excite you. Whatever it is, be sure that one of these things helps frame your application narrative around how interested you are in attending their school and getting involved with what interests them specifically.

Or be honest about why other schools weren’t right for them but why there is something about their school that attracts him or them so much.

Tip 1: Stay Updated with Application Deadlines and Events

To prevent confusion and meet deadlines, it’s important to stay up-to-date with application due dates. Your school’s admissions office will likely release information about these deadlines (along with any scholarship opportunities they are aware of), so pay close attention and make sure you file on time.

Keep in mind that some applications require essays, so keep your writing skills fresh. As far as events go, consider attending local workshops or seminars about winning scholarships, you’ll be better prepared and know how much time you should dedicate to writing your essay(s). In general, ask yourself: How can I prepare today in order to win tomorrow?

Tip 2: Prepare Promptly

The length of time you get to write your essay matters, so start early. An extended response prompt requires you not only to gather research and make notes but also to think critically about your topic.

The more time you have, the better! Having ample time before writing means that come test day, you’ll be prepared and know what points need to be emphasized in your essay. Remember: it isn’t just about writing quickly, you want to write well too! Planning ahead can ensure that happens.

So if a scholarship is worth your attention, pay special attention and focus on doing well on it. Also, If there’s something specific about how they want your essay written (examples/ rubrics), follow those instructions carefully as well.

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How to Write an Extended Response Essay for a Scholarship

Tip 3: Follow up on application status

Many students forget to follow up with their applications and scholarships, but it’s incredibly important. How are you supposed to get updates on your application or hear whether you’re one of two finalists when they never tell you how they’re doing?

The best way is by emailing your scholarship contact once every two weeks until school starts, then once every week after that. If your first reminder doesn’t garner any response, move on. Don’t follow up more than twice or else it could make you look desperate.

Also be sure that each time you email them (after following up twice), you have added some additional details about yourself or something new going on in your life. Be creative!


This is where you need to restate your thesis and add a strong concluding statement. It’s important that you do not simply restate what you’ve already said.

Even if you have other points that you could make, it is best to keep them out of your conclusion paragraph; instead, save them for any additional comments section at the end of your essay.

For example, if your thesis was about female empowerment in literature (feminism), one of your supporting points might be about authors like J.K. Rowling who empower girls and women through their writing.