Student Life

How to Reuse College and Scholarship Essays Effectively

We’d all like to make our own lives a little simpler - but is it a good idea?

Student Contributor, Piper Megellas

September 14, 2023

How to Reuse College and Scholarship Essays Effectively
If you’re considering reusing essays but aren’t sure how to navigate the process, this article is for you!
It only makes sense that you’d consider reusing essays. After all, with the slew of requirements for applications, they can be a heavy task. So, can you reuse essays for college applications? Reusing the essays you write can be one way to simplify this process, but be careful in how you do this! Essays are not one size fits all writing, and reusing the wrong essay at the wrong time could make or break your application!

When is it Not Okay to Reuse an Essay?

When considering reusing an essay, whether it be for a scholarship application or a college application, the most important thing is to identify when it is not appropriate or wise to reuse an essay. There are certain types of essays that should never be reused. The most notable is the “Why us?” essay. This essay needs to be tailored specifically to the school you are applying to, and as such, it is generally inappropriate to reuse it. In fact, if your “Why us?” essay is reusable, you might need to strengthen it overall. Additionally, avoid reusing essays that were written to fill niche prompts. There are a lot of odd or off-beat scholarships out there, and many of them require the applicant to write essays pertaining to a very specific topic, from antique dolls to Minecraft. You should avoid trying to rework these particular essays, as the topic will not generally be applicable elsewhere.

When is it Okay to Reuse an Essay?

There may be some situations where it is unwise to reuse an essay, but there are others when it isn’t such a bad idea. It is especially easy to reuse essays for scholarship applications. Throughout your scholarship application process, you may begin to notice that several scholarships share the same essay prompts. Some of the most common essay prompts include: “What’s the greatest challenge you have overcome?”, “How will this scholarship help you further your academic and personal goals?”, and “Who is someone who has made a positive impact in your life?”
These also have overlap with some of the Common Application essay prompts. For these kinds of questions, you might consider having a stock essay option. However, it is important to remember to adjust this stock essay when applying to specific scholarships or colleges. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when adjusting a stock essay:

Make Sure Your Essay Fits the Requirements

When reusing a scholarship essay, it can be easy to just copy and paste without looking deeper into what changes may need to be made. This common mistake is potentially the biggest downside to reusing essays, but its negative effects can be thwarted as long as the applicant remembers to read through the requirements for the particular scholarship to which they are applying. By doing this, you will be able to make sure that your essay answers the question posed in a direct and straightforward manner. Additionally, you will need to ensure that your essay falls within the stated word count. It is also important to make sure that there is not a clause against recycling material. Although it is generally an acceptable practice, some scholarships specifically ban the practice!

Research the Values of the Organization or Individual Sponsoring the Scholarship

This is the key to winning as many scholarships as possible. Most organizations have specific values that they look for in their scholarship applicants. By comparing the values portrayed in your essay against the values of the organization sponsoring the scholarship, you can determine whether or not it is a good match. In some cases, it is easier to write a new essay rather than tweak bits of it to match new values. In other cases, it is possible to add or remove some lines to change the overall impact of the essay - just be careful that these changes do not disrupt the flow of the piece overall.

Review, Review, Review!

Just because an essay has worked in the past doesn’t mean it will this time. To give yourself the best chances of success, it is vital that you review your essay several times after you complete any edits. While editing an essay, it is easy to accidentally include information that may read as non-compatible or just “off”. If you have access to someone who can proofread for you, consider asking their opinion before you hit that submit button. By following these steps, you should be set up to save yourself time while still making a strong case for yourself as an applicant. Just make sure to ask yourself if the scholarship or college you are applying for is truly a candidate for recycling a scholarship - you don’t want to sell yourself short!

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